A Need to Know Basis

I was reading a journal article. Well, actually I was skimming it. I now skim articles because there is a lot I don’t need to know. I only know this because Tyler Cowen told me so.

When Cowen was asked how he can read so much he said something like, read for forty years. The gist is that if you’ve read a lot about one subject area you get it. For example, research on personal finance often addresses the three big questions.

In addition to the literature review is the math. Often it’s the sigma of some Greek letters which I’ve long forgotten. It’s the chef sharing her recipe for the other chefs. I’m a diner and so I skip it.

What does someone need to know, has been top-of-mind as we continue our quarantine education. Or, how fast can someone learn to fly a helicopter?

A friend is moving to South Korea and she’s been learning the language. It’s difficult but she’s persistent. However, it’s not necessary. Augmented reality, the universality of English, and western culture mean that navigating a foreign country is easier. Speaking Korean has moved from the need/don’t-know box to the don’t-need/don’t-know box.

Another way to frame the question is to ask, what is just-in-time knowledge and what is warehouse knowledge?


The internet allows an infinite JIT system to be a few keystrokes away. Repetition moves tasks from left to right, neglect moves tasks from right to left.

I asked my twelve-year-old daughter what she thought sixth grade should teach: “How to read, not world history, and whatever your job requires.” My own world history is JIT knowledge.

Want the best paying jobs? Warehouse your science knowledge.

James Holzhauer said he read children’s books to compete on Jeopardy. If knowledge is Pareto, does that mean we can follow his lead?

We’ve settled on the mantra to learn facts, make things.

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