Knowledge Work Should Accrete

After Andy Matuschak

  • having a long-term interest vectors, or a set of open problems helps with guiding the "molding" of current projects so they fit into (and help build up) long-term goals
  • one example is agreeing to give a talk on topic in which you are interested in, but not intimately familiar with yet, so the process of preparing the talk also helps build up understanding
  • another example would be building small experiments testing small hypotheses orbiting around a bigger theme - of course balance is important here, so when you're using a project to learn new technology, you probably shouldn't also try to do something "wild"

You should do your job in such a fashion that others can build on top of it, so they will indeed say, "Yes, I've stood on so and so's shoulders and I saw further." The essence of science is cumulative. By changing a problem slightly you can often do great work rather than merely good work. Instead of attacking isolated problems, I made the resolution that I would never again solve an isolated problem except as characteristic of a class.

— Richard Hamming - You and Your Research

  • they certainly can persist over time, and accrete this way
Szymon Kaliski © 2020