Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What you don’t know

I’ve written before, probably a few times, about how much I enjoy reading about baseball, especially things written from the new-think, stats-oriented world. It’s not just that I find this kind of analysis interesting (I do, but that’s my problem), it’s also that I find there to be some really thoughtful people involved with it. Basically, these are people who are dedicated to challenging old orthodoxies and assumptions, and to finding new ways to think. Even though the topic may be, to some, trivial, the approach is fascinating, and the “battle” between old-school and new-school writers is a nearly perfect parallel to the battles that go on, for example, in religious circles*.

* this shouldn’t be the least bit surprising. Baseball is, after all, a religion.

Bill James is the Godfather of this kind of baseball thinking and writing, and I recently came across a quote from him which I love:

You don’t learn by studying the stuff you know. You learn by studying the stuff that you don’t know. So, if you divide the world into (stuff) that you know and (stuff) that you don’t know, and you study the stuff that you know, then you’re not going to learn very much. All of the progress comes from studying the stuff that you don’t know. So, that’s really what’s interesting. And that’s where most of your focus should be. Studying stuff that you can’t agree about.

Speaking as someone who, like most of us, often reads things which serve mainly to confirm what I already know and believe, I have to admit that this wouldn’t be a bad definition of learning, would it? Studying stuff that you don’t know.

So – what don’t you know, that you’d like to know?

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