"What is the most valuable information?" That's a question I love.
Wouldn't it be easy if we could write down the most valuable information in a big list, with the most valuable at the top and conservative politics at the bottom, and all then each be able to gobble as much of it up as we like, learning the best facts in the cosmos with perfectly optimised efficiency.
Too bad it's not that easy.
And why not? Because value is subjective. Therefore it differs from person to person, and for each person it changes from moment to moment. This makes the most valuable information a slippery, wily, moving target.
And that is terrific news.
Because it means sometimes the most valuable information is information we already have. At those times, we use it, and make good things happen for ourselves and others.
And sometimes the most valuable information is information we do not have. This creates for us opportunities to learn stuff we want to know.
At those times, we may have knowledge that's close to the most valuable information. If we do, this easily prompts our curiosity.
If I know this, and I want to know that, and I know this is like that, then I can use the method I learned about this to learn about that. Bingo.
But we sometimes don't know anything even remotely close to the most valuable information, leaving us completely in the dark. That's not an ideal situation, but even this scenario can prompt our curiosity.
I don't know anything about that, but I think I should! Sorry Google, time for some embarrassing questions...
Acting on our curiosity acts like an antibody for our ignorance. Whenever we are compelled to learn something, we benefit, even if what we learn wasn't what we intended to.
But there are some obstacles to that curiosity pay-off which can thwart us in this process.
Diverse interests. Your definition of what is valuable. Whatever you want to achieve, there is information available that will be instrumental in achieving it. The more of it you acquire, the more becomes available to you. If you value many different things, you may encounter the obstacle of your curiosity changing lanes often, broadening your knowledge tremendously across multiple fields of enquiry, at the cost to you of limiting your depth of knowledge in any one particular area. Not being able to "pick a favourite" goal or topic which you give more learning time and effort to than your others can be a major obstacle. It can be done. It's just often difficult.
Distraction. How often do you start off highly motivated to do something, use your curiosity to investigate the required knowledge, and eventually find yourself having gone down an entirely irrelevant rabbit hole entirely? Yep, your curiosity stabbed you in the back with that one.
Apathy. If we feel something is too hard to learn or too complex, we will stop trying. This is the reason experts exist: the people you call expert are simply people who are capable of learning what you yourself are capable of learning with the only difference being that they actually did. Thank goodness they're here! Experts can easily accelerate learning on a topic and many love to share their knowledge, so give them opportunities to do so and reap the rewards.
I'm sure there are other obstacles too. I invite you to let me know.
We kind of have that in bits. When you're following directions and Google Maps interrupts your music to tell you to turn right at the street ahead, that's exactly what's happening. But Google Maps can't tell you that you'll be hungry in 25 minutes. No app can. And if it could, you'd be constantly configuring it to learn what is and isn't important to you in each given moment. Sometimes when you're about to be hungry that very likely would be the most valuable thing to know. And sometimes, when you're about to become hungry but are in the middle of a violin concerto or a board meeting, it doesn't even rate in the top 100 most valuable things to know.
Fortunately we have an even smarter system than any encoded in a mobile device. That system is called our attention. Attention, directed by our curiosity, and held in place by sustained interest is a powerful and valuable resource. Together, I would call them the three most valuable attributes of a mind:
Attention (directs our curiosity)
Interest (holds our attention)
Curiosity (rewards giving attention)
Maybe an even better question than "What is the most valuable information?" is "What is the most valuable action my brain can perform?"
And I think the answer to that question probably doesn't change continuously. I think the answer is simply: Learning.
When used together, these three tools create the phenomenon of learning which, let's face it, ranks highly on anyone's list of most valuable things to do.
On that note, I still intend to write that ordered list of the generally most valuable information (and only by topic... not by datum!). I expect at the top will likely be things relating to that which can kill us quickest, like bleeding and the importance of breathing,. Then it should work through the other physical needs, our emotional & social needs, and the rest of the way through the Maslow hierarchy, to explore anything that improves human life quality like art & chemistry, and then more "value diverse" topics like money & religion. The end of the list will of course wind up in life's bargain bin of low-grade trivia, where it will list the imaginary arguments we sometimes have with ourselves and the utterances of reality television personalities at the very, veeeery end.
Thanks for learning!