I have three children, ages 8, 5, and 11 months. I am regularly dazed by the amount of information they have access to, literally in the palms of their hands. Gone are the days of going to a library and finding a card catalog, Readers’ Guides to Periodical Literature (I loved those), or an encyclopedia. Information is a search term and keystroke away. There are over 3.5 million Google searches conducted every minute of every day. And the amount of information is growing at an exponential rate. However, over time, much of what we think we know changes and loses its value. Samuel Arbesman states in his book The Half Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date that facts decay over time until they are replaced, disproved, no longer complete, or no longer facts. Any print reference such as an encyclopedia would be incomplete or outdated by the time it reached a library shelf.
In order to avoid relying on old or irrelevant data, we have to recognize there is a changing landscape and we have to continue to learn. It’s not just about constantly learning new facts. Having the resources to understand how those facts will change and be on top of the information needed to function in the world is critical. If you want to get ahead and be competitive and relevant, use the five-hour rule—set aside at least one hour a day for activities that could be classified as deliberate practice or learning. One of my big takeaways from Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is that in order to prepare our children for a world awash in data, children should be taught how to learn, how to think critically to make sense of the information we are swimming in, and then, how to adapt when the facts ultimately change. If this model will help my kids, I’d like to think it will help me. Taking this all to heart, I am currently working through a course on Learning How to Learn. I also set an annual goal of reading a book per week, and just finished Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein.