How do you learn something new? How do you get good at a skill? I would say the answer is simple but arduous.
- Find good teachers or other sources of knowledge. They can be anywhere — often somewhere on the internet. But take care to filter out the bad ones.
- Experiment. Try to make something. Try to use the new skill. Apply the newfound knowledge. Fail. Get feedback. Improve. Succeed.
- Persist. Only starting is not enough.
Which of these steps requires the institutions we built for learning? Why do I need a school or university, when a better source of the same knowledge (often) can be found online? Are my local teachers good enough? Do they know what’s most important?
If I want to learn anything really well, I need to take responsibility. I need to become an autodidact. My teachers need to be my own, careful choice. My experiments need to be motivated from within me, only then can I be relentless enough to persist in the effort.
Knowledge is everywhere, the challenge is to distinguish it from the crap that’s also everywhere. As a learner, it is my task to skeptically examine possible sources of knowledge. But when I find the sound ones, I learn much more that everyone who’s learning from the crappy ones.
Therefore, only as an autodidact — a skeptical connoisseur of knowledge — can I be free in my learning and not dependent on bad science.