Intellectual Obesity

Eating food is good.

Eating a lot of food is good if you’re Michael Phelps and use it all. Or anybody working very hard and using the calories in productive ways to improve the world.

Eating a lot of food and not using it leads to obesity.

Obesity is bad.

Here’s something that’s even more cool: the food that’s stable across the entire domain of food isn’t food: it’s information. It’s information, and we use the same bloody circuits in our brain to forage for information that animals use to forage for food. It’s the same circuit. Why is that? Because we figured out that knowing where the food is is more important than having the food. Knowing where the food is is a form of meta-food—information is a form of meta food, and that’s why we’re information foragers. That idea is embedded into the story of Adam and Eve: whatever it is that they ingest is a form of meta food. It’s information.

Jordan Peterson – Biblical Series IV

Like almost all software developers, especially the self-taught ones, I love learning new things. It’s probably even a coping mechanism for stress… the trick being to at least channel it toward learning useful things.

Throughout life, one of my greatest character struggles has been converting knowledge into productivity. This blog is part of my attempt to burn off the fact-fat into chiseled apps and a more powerful bench(mark).

I am intellectually obese.

Learning new things is good.

Learning new useful things is better.

Learning a lot of new useful things is great, as long as the knowledge gets converted into productive actions.

Learning a lot of new useful things and failing to use any of the knowledge gained leads to intellectual obesity.

Intellectual obesity is bad.

3 thoughts on “Intellectual Obesity

  1. Mike, I wonder if intellectual obesity is a symptom of apathy or cowardice or both. But rather than the malady to be avoided it’s the instead the symptom of a character flaw or flaws that cause the information not to be used. It’s hoarded instead in one’s mind, building not the future of potential but only the hubris of the present in the mind of the afflicted.


    1. This hits home in so many ways…

      I feel cowardly when catching myself putting on extra mind pounds.

      I appease myself with justifications that “it will be useful, I’m building potential!”

      I notice that I was an idiot in the past, no matter where I am currently. But NOW I’ve figured it all out, naturally…

      Realizing my tendency for this last part, actually, has prompted a bit of a return to tradition out of humility. “What do I really know? What makes me so wise now, versus a year ago? Versus my ancestors? What do WE really know? Perhaps I should be a bit more humble and stick to traditions that were hard won over centuries, unless I have a REALLY good justification for breaking from them.”


  2. For the record I didn’t mean to call you a coward! My sincere apologies. I meant rather to argue the point that the accumulation of skills and knowledge isn’t necessarily an invalid pursuit. (Says the academic with a teaching degree, albeit an unused one). The accumulation of knowledge and the increase in breadth of one’s understanding, the broadening of horizons, and the awareness of potential for change are fundamental to progress. The impediments of progress are ignorance (intellectual anorexia) or inertia (the aforementioned intellectual obesity, the failure to act due to some other condition).


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