Sunday, May 27, 2012

Active and passible knowledge, the role of curiosity

There is two kinds of knowledge :
  • The one you find, acquire and use consciously , the active knowledge.
  • And the one you acquire  unconsciously from your environment, the passive knowledge

A trainer or a book gives you the first kind of knowledge : you consciously acquire the knowledge the trainer or book is sharing. This is "knowledge peak acquisition" for your brain.
This kind of knowledge is the fastest way to learn about something, but it is the most ephemere form of knowledge. Don't use it, and you will forget very soon.
A common trainer trick is to use and abuse repetition. After each repetition, your brain will remember a little longer.
That works, but as soon as the trainer is not here, you'll start to forget. The only thing the trainer can do is to make the process longer. 

The other kind of knowledge is durable but accumulate slowly, and it is the only difference between the expert and the novice. This is passive knowledge.
At some point, no trainer, mentor or book exist, in other words active knowledge is scarce. 
You can't control passive knowledge, it is entirely defined by your environment.
If you want passive knowledge, shape your environment.
If you want to be great in artificial intelligence, works every day with researchers or students in the field, setup your RSS reader on the best AI blogs, subscribe to newslists, read publications, find a job on AI subjects (even with low remuneration), listen everyday Udacity's course.
At one point, knowledge will flow every day unconsciously, it will be part of your habits, work, and way of life. And even during your bad days, you will not mind reading another article.

Why do I want my students to be curious ? I am a trainer, and I give them the active knowledge.  
Without passive knowledge they will forget and waste my work. 
Once he is curious, he will unconsciously setup his environment around his interests and acquire passive knowledge. He will not forget, and he will become the expert I expect to read soon !

In summary, the difference between active and passive :

  • The first is brutal, conscious, ephemere
  • The other one is incremental, unconscious, durable.

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