Monday, November 1, 2021

Review of Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It by Ian Leslie

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Decision Making

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Elaborate Review
Curiosity is curiously pleased with never being satisfied.  Curiosity can be very dangerous given its impulsiveness and unruliness.  Cultures that value order suppress curiosity, as questions can be disruptive.  Cultures that inspire curiosity, allow individuals to exceed their elder’s ideas.  Cultures pass on knowledge that can then be further pursued, and teaches skills needed to ask the questions that lead to more questions.  Curiosity makes overt the gaps in information, but to know that there is a gap requires a bit of knowledge.  Diverse curiosity is the beginning desire to know more.  For diverse curiosity to become useful, it needs to be transformed into epistemic curiosity which is directed and sustained effort to deepen knowledge and understanding.

A reason individuals become curious is because of an information gap.  A gap between what is known and what is not known.  Creating a desire to know.  Complete ignorance about a topic does not create curiosity about it.  Some knowledge is required to stimulate curiosity.  The bigger the knowledge base, the more curious a person becomes.  To be curious requires awareness of the gap in knowledge, while many people are overconfident about what they think they know.  

Culture allows individuals to learn from others.  Facilitating imitation, sharing, and improving.  Identity is built from the cultural knowledge learned.  Humans take a long time to grow up, but that also buys a lot of time to explore various courses of action without needing to commit.  To build various emotional capacities.  Children become curious about what others think after they realize that everyone does not think the same things.  As people age, there are more default decisions than there are questions about the decisions to be made.

Curiosity is unconsciously learned though culture.  Within cultures that require obedience and respect with the communication being functional, it reduces the ability of the individuals to ask questions for fear of being punished.  Cultures more secure in their basic needs have more time for questions, as they have resources for curiosity.

There are many claims for not forcing students to memorize facts, as students need to learn thinking skills.  The problem with those claims is that without guides to knowledge, children do not get far with their own curiosity. Difficult topics without instruction can be discouraging to learn.  Knowledge prepares the individual to learn.  Facts join other facts to make a network of understanding.  Direction facilitates understanding of the gaps in information.  Creativity via innovation and art occurs when the individuals have already applied effort to obtain a lot of vast knowledge base, which can then be used to when needed.  Innovation is a byproduct of unexpected collisions between knowledge and ideas.  

There are situations in which cultivating ignorance is more beneficial to cultivating knowledge.  Prejudice and discrimination can be reinforced by strategic ignorance.  Successful companies tend not to ask questions, because they are delivering what is working.  But their ignorance allows small companies to innovate by asking questions of what works, and provide alternatives. 

Curious individuals are more likely to apply effort to obtain experience, information, and challenge assumptions.  Not curious individuals tend to rely on others for explanations.  For collaborative projects, it is the curious who are more than happy to take on challenging tasks as they derive pleasure from their efforts.  Less curious individuals will slack their involvement and rely on others.  

What Technology Offers and Takes Away:
Computers know a lot of information, but are not themselves curious.  As curiosity requires effort, technology that eliminates effort can eliminate the curiosity that comes with it.  Easy access to information prevents deeper inquiry.  Patience and focused application are needed for deeper understanding, and is becoming more difficult with ready made answers from search engines.  Believing that everything can be found using technology, prevents learning the questions about the answers that are found.  The ready made answers allow people to accept happiness in not knowing. 

When information was scarce it threated curiosity because of a lack of information to be curious about.  But now curiosity is threatened by abundance of information.  Exploiting what has become known rather than exploring the unknown.  It is difficult to ask a search engine what the individual wants to learn.  Searching used to imply more questions after the initial question.  With technology, the questions end after entering the question into a search engine.  Without a need to remember something, it makes it harder to have collisions between ideas.  

Search engines point to most popular books and papers, which reduces the diversity of scholarship outcomes.  They are able to bypass other works using the hyperlinks.  Search engines efficiency in research has shrunk the scope for investigation.  Innovation is more difficult when everyone is relying on the same information using the same methods.  Connections becomes less original.  

The book is easy to read.  The problem is that many of the concepts will be trivial to the already curious.  The already curious would have intuitively picked up on many of the key lessons.  What this book does is to make those informal lessons systematic.  Which does make curiosity easier to manage.  

Human ego gets in the way of understanding some topics.  There are many comparisons of the superiority of humans over animals in this book.  Comparisons that are factually wrong and take away from the general understanding.  Animals have culture and their own ways of handling their environment.  Their different ways appear to humans as inefficient, and maybe they are, but often times it is actually the best way the animal interacts with the world givens its capabilities.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What does it mean to be curious? 
•Why is knowledge required to be curious? 
•Why is there an information gap?
•What is the difference between diverse and epistemic curiosity? 
•What is the difference between puzzles and mysteries? 
•How do cultures influence curiosity? 
•How to build curiosity? 
•What do schools have to do with curiosity? 
•What does technology provide and take away?
•How does curiosity change with age? 
•Why become ignorant?  How is strategic ignorance used? 
•What are some differences between individuals who are curious, and individuals who are not curious? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780465056941
Pages to read:   185
Publication:     2014
1st Edition:      2014
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5