Faustian theory of aging

AuthorTopic: Faustian theory of aging
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #0
Here is my Faustian theory of aging, which is perhaps not wholly sincere, but which I do fear holds all too much truth.

Middle age is about getting smart. You get smart by coming to take for granted all the things that took you years to figure out at first. Because the trick to being smart is that already knowing is a lot faster than learning. So the trick to being really smart is simply to stop learning and start already knowing. You stop wasting so much time and energy wondering whether you really understand anything, and start assuming that you already know the answer and just have to spit it out. And once you've done enough learning, you can do this. While it works, it works great. For ten years or so, I figure, you can be amazingly smart.

Then all the things you take for granted, and that thereby make you smart, start not being true any more. Now you're Faustus in Act V. Now you no longer know anything, and even though you might not actually be so much worse than a young person at learning things, you're far too used to the speed of already knowing things to go back to the slowness of learning, which was after all so miserably slow that no-one who had ever tasted better could stomach it. So you become a stupid old person.

I'm currently trying to decide whether trying to beat this pattern is worth risking the loss of those ten good years. Because in the end you're going to die, no matter how long you keep learning, and to achieve anything significant, maybe you need those ten years of higher efficiency than learning can ever deliver.

The tragedy isn't that you get seduced away from life-long learning; learning really is horribly slow, and a human lifetime of learning is unlikely to dent the universe. The tragedy is that the time of knowing doesn't last. But it would be worse if it did, because it could only last if the world stood still and no-one ever achieved anything.

It's mortality's first harmonic, the inherently necessary mortality of human competence.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 6785
Profile #1
The trick now that I reached the middle years is to only spend time learning things that will be important later on in life. For everything else use what you already know or delegate the learning process to someone else that can afford to waste the time. I tend to rely on my vast memory of junk that I learned or read over the years and hope to have the specific memory I need triggered by association. This causes mistakes when the link is close to another similar piece of information (like remembering the wrong author with a similar writing style).
Posts: 4643 | Registered: Friday, February 10 2006 08:00
Infiltrator
Member # 2836
Profile #2
quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:


Middle age is about getting smart. You get smart by coming to take for granted all the things that took you years to figure out at first. Because the trick to being smart is that already knowing is a lot faster than learning. So the trick to being really smart is simply to stop learning and start already knowing. You stop wasting so much time and energy wondering whether you really understand anything, and start assuming that you already know the answer and just have to spit it out. And once you've done enough learning, you can do this. While it works, it works great. For ten years or so, I figure, you can be amazingly smart.

So what about when you haven't reached middle age yet, when you're still a teenager?
Posts: 587 | Registered: Tuesday, April 1 2003 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 2984
Profile Homepage #3
Ignorance is momentary bliss. So are recreational drugs.

By that reasoning, I guess I'll pass on the ten "good" years and try to keep learning while my brain still allows me to...

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Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
La Canaliste
Member # 5563
Profile #4
I reckon the trick is never to lose the habit of learning. It's slow, but it has its own delights.
Even daft things like Kakuro, bits of languages, new games are enough to keep the habit alive.
Study something new, and keep agile. Even when you know that stuff, it is already going out of date. Some things now change at a rate that was unimaginable when Marlowe or Goethe or whoever you have in mind wrote Faust!
Oh, I'd love to know what ten years you count as middle age, by the way...

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Posts: 387 | Registered: Tuesday, March 1 2005 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #5
The next ten. From now on.

It may be worth distinguishing serious learning of big things, like becoming fluent in a new language, from just picking up scraps of novelty. Most serious subjects have a learning surface that's pretty gently sloped around the periphery, and you can easily absorb some fun facts. At some point, though, you learn enough to realize that you've been playing on the beach of a continent, and that to explore the interior would take years of hard work. That's the part that is hard.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Guardian
Member # 2476
Profile #6
quote:
and that to explore the interior would take years of hard work. That's the part that is hard.
Depends. If you see life as a fight, you might get weary at some point, but if you see it as an adventure, the challenge of the unknown keeps you rather occupied, and you've no time for weariness because of all the things you still need to find out.

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Posts: 1828 | Registered: Saturday, January 11 2003 08:00
La Canaliste
Member # 5563
Profile #7
*smiles*

We are always playing on the beach of a continent: the exciting day is when you find that all those places you thought were islands are in fact part of the continent.

And you are also quite right when you say we are playing. It is all, in essence, play. There are some rules, but the outcome is uncertain, except that the present game has an end.

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I am a mater of time and how .

Deep down, you know you should have voted for Alcritas!
Posts: 387 | Registered: Tuesday, March 1 2005 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #8
I think it's worth pointing out that as a youngster, defined however you like, you don't know anything so learning is both obligatory and useful. As you get older and know more, you stop learning so you can apply what you know. Unfortunately, as you say, what you know doesn't stay true and accurate, so eventually you have to become obsolete or keeping learning. The more you know, the more you have to keep learning to keep up.

Eventually you end up on a treadmill just trying to stay current without being able to use what you're current in.

—Alorael, who is sure Vingean singularity cannot be far behind.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #9
Or you develop a nice signature, and then you have to change it again.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Agent
Member # 4574
Profile #10
I'm sensing some sort of war of the signatures here. Hmmmm. Has this sort of thing ever happened before?

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Posts: 1186 | Registered: Friday, June 18 2004 07:00
La Canaliste
Member # 5563
Profile #11
I never saw a sigwar, but there was a time when a few of us had interesting chat quotes.

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I am a mater of time and how .

Deep down, you know you should have voted for Alcritas!
Posts: 387 | Registered: Tuesday, March 1 2005 08:00