Learning is Context Dependent

I’ve been sporadically returning to the same book for 10 years now, and every time I read it, I learn something new. Why? Because the context with which I read the book has changed.

If you present a skyscraper to an ape, he will see a big rectangular object. If you present the same skyscraper to a human architect, she will see the steel material choice for structural support, the stresses in each of the joins, the beautiful glass exterior that shrouds the object.

What is the difference between the ape and the architect? They are looking at the skyscraper with different context. Years ago, I read the book and I understood parts of it. I could see the shape of the object. But I was still an ape. Then I went out and saw the world, I gained more context to revisit the object and see it in a new light. Every few years I revisit the book and view it in a new way. With greater context, I can see the nuances of the book. I tend towards the architect. We can never truly become a complete “architect” (this is where the analogy breaks down a bit), because we will forever have wisdom to be added to our context with which we see the world. Still, it’s refreshing to think that we wake up (or live, moment to moment, depending on your increment) each day to view the world in a different way than yesterday.

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