Thursday, October 23, 2008

The End of Expertise

I had this reading sequence a month ago or so where I read a book on the Great Depression, which led me to a book on Ida Tarbell (one of the greatest muckrakers in history--"The History of the Standard Oil Company" is a legendary piece of investigative journalism), which then led me to a history of the oil industry called "The Prize."

When I was a kid, back in the dark ages of the late 1960's, if I had read those books, I would have felt like an expert on all three subjects. The "big city" library (Corpus Christi, population 200,000) would have had a few more books on the subject, but any of these books are probably as good or better than the sum of what existed when I was a kid. I remember reading through everything the library had on multiple subjects when I was growing up.

It is so different now, and it's not because I'm so much older. Libraries are a grain of sand today in terms of where knowledge is stored. If I really wanted to explore the history of the oil industry, I'm sure that 50,000 pages of reading would have only scratched the surface of what's available, be it via Amazon or some online source. The Great Depression? Several hundred thousand pages, probably.

The upshot of all this, for me, is that even though I read at what is almost a desperate pace, I never feel like I'm an expert at anything, just a generalist sinking further and further below the surface. This is probably the first time I've had one of those "Where the hell did all this INFORMATION come from?"

It's not just information, either. I have an EIGHT game rotation right now. Again, back in the dark ages of gaming (the 1980's), I remember playing one game for a hundred hours over the course of a month, with nothing else good to play. Now, I've got enough games with enough content to easily last me for the next four or five months, and when Fallout 3 comes out next week (which I am 100% certain will be totally fantastic), add another month. At least.

It's a good problem to have, but it also makes me wish that I only needed two hours of sleep a night.

Site Meter