Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists. Your mind is like a compiled program you’ve lost the source of. It works, but you don’t know why.
That’s Paul Graham.
This is an idea that I’ve been thinking about for some time. As my wife likes to point out to me, I don’t remember much detail about a lot of things, particularly my own earlier self! Sometimes I feed like I have a finite space in my head and every new thing pushes an old memory out.
What’s more, around about 2008 I discovered blogs and podcasts and my rate of focused leaning stepped up dramatically. Then the Actuarial exams started.
The point is that I’ve been absolutely stuffing my head and I couldn’t possibly remember much of it at any given moment. Instead I have a mental model of the world, of why things happen, and also a value system that ranks things and acts and people.
In some domains I’m an expert and can make judgements on complicated things with very little effort. For another whole range of subject I have developed a light ‘feel’ of familiarity. The breadth of experience helps with creativity, they say, and I agree even though I don’t know why. I do it because I’m curious. And I like to push myself a bit sometimes.
I do feel sad sometimes at the functional loss of my earlier life. But those pathways only shut down because they weren’t used, I never spent any time thinking about it.
Someone once said you are what you do all day. Even, it seems, if you don’t remember it.