Ad verba per numeros

Monday, October 17, 2011, 10:26 AM
I always have found the serenity prayer powerfully inspiring. In case you don't know it, it's the one usually assoaciated with AA meetings in movies:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

It's the wisdom part that appeals me the most and, in fact, I've been struggling with something somewhat related since yesterday morning.

I was talking to a few students about the positive aspects of autodidacticism and pursuing "tangential knowledge", in contrast to merely adhering to the prestablished curriculum.

In the midst of that digression I warned them against "yak shaving" and since that moment I've been mulling it over:

  • How can we know the difference?
  • How can we distinguish between pursuing knowledge that can only be useful in the long time and yak shaving?
  • Is there a threshold or, much likely, a continuum between valid (but of little use just now) interests and yak shaving?
Do you have any tip, trick, advise or heuristic to tell them apart? If you have it, please, tweet me.

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