Quotes from this article

Sean Parrish on “the illusion of knowledge”

“Most of consuming the news is us letting other people think for us,” he says. “Somebody else giving us an opinion that we take as our own. We forget that we get it from somebody else, somebody who's paid to come up with hundreds of opinions a year on a variety of subjects.”


“Then you go talk about this thing, but you really have no idea what you're talking about,” says Parrish. “You don't know the nuances of the law. You've never read it. You don't know the second- and third-order impact. You know what this person in this newspaper or mainstream media wrote about it. That's the extent of your knowledge. That is the illusion of knowledge.”

Revisiting notes

But, really, it doesn’t matter how your [reading/note-taking] system works. It only matters that you have a system. Why? So that you can have a catalog of ideas that you can revisit. Parrish organizes his blank sheets by putting them into topic binders [...], and then sits down to look at his binders about once every two months. Over time, he finds himself remembering things and making connections he may not have otherwise, mastering these various subjects.

“Not only do you understand the book at a different level, but you're writing it down. It's tangible. Instead of rereading all these books, you can just pick up this binder. ‘Oh, this is great. I want to go back to this story. Maybe I missed something [here].’ You're connecting things across different domains or different situations. That's effectively how we improve our thinking.”


Information overload

Yet back [in 2010] the evidence already was strongly suggesting that the internet was a very powerful way to access lots of information very quickly. We were all concentrating on that great new bounty of information: the more information, the better — the faster it comes to me, the better.

What we lost sight of was how we actually take that information into our mind. There’s all sorts of very good evidence that if you’re distracted — if your attention is shifting very quickly — you can gather lots of information in a very swift fashion, but you’re not going to assemble it very well into knowledge. It’s going to just remain bits of information. You’re not going to develop a rich store of personal knowledge, which is all about connections and associations.


Zettelkasten for notes

In regular note-taking, connections between ideas are not made by default. When reviewing a note, other relevant notes (i.e., ideas) don’t present themselves.


The key is to make connections between ideas during note-taking, way before you need to review them for your work. This forces you to actively connect the dots (during note-taking) and lets you find relevant ideas with ease in future.


Farnham Street Note-taking tips

At the end of each chapter write a few bullet points that summarize what you’ve read and make it personal if you can — that is, apply it to something in your life. Also, note any unanswered questions. When you’re done the book, put it down for a week.

Pick up the book again and go through all your notes. Most of these will be garbage but there will be lots you want to remember. Write the good stuff on the inside cover of the book along with a page number.

Copy out the excerpts by hand or take a picture of them to pop into [archive]. Tag accordingly.