Chapter 3

Information Processing

In the so-called Information Age, information is abundant and cheap, but time and attention are scarce and valuable. This chapter demonstrates a number of strategies for managing both abundant information and scarce attention, including how to choose among a number of attractive options (Hack 15, “Sift Your Ideas”), how to fish out the choicest ideas from the Internet (Hack 16, “Ask the Hive Mind,” and Hack 14, “Integrate Your Interests”), and how to record ideas and what you think about them once you've caught them (Hack 17, “Write Magnificent Notes”).

Attention works best when it's under conscious control. Without control and discernment, you're left grasping at anything shiny that happens to catch your eye as a river of valuable information flows by. Learning to discern what information deserves your attention and what doesn't is surely a skill that deserves your attention.

Hack 13: Polyspecialize

Instead of knowing a lot about one thing or a little about many things, why not become adept at several mutually reinforcing skills that don't usually go together?

The ancient Greek poet Archilocus said, “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.” This saying is one of the few surviving fragments of his works, and Isaiah Berlin pointed out that “these dark words … may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog's one defence,” or that we might see the hedgehog as an idealist who guides all her actions ...

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