> It’s no surprise that dull people don’t get that much out of reading a lot.

Imagine taking this line of thought into the Midwit concept, then:

1. We would see that about 80% of people can't really engage with books, and that they are better off re-reading one single "rule book", religious or otherwise repeatedly (hence the "Harry Potter" phenomenon).

2. That the middle 15% read books differently than the top 5%. Call them midwit, idealist, clueless, or gentry, but there should be signs that they have unique attention spans, breadth of knowledge and sense of detail. See also https://alima.substack.com/p/midwits-and-the-office and https://www.mightyknowledge.com/use-the-barbell-strategy-for-risk-taking-in-your-life/

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I liked the post enough that I wrote about it in the intro of this:


I've also been enjoying your pod with Marc Andreessen.

Keep up the good work 💚 🥃

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Very thought provoking, loved it. Thank you for writing it 💚 🥃

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Apr 21, 2022Liked by Dwarkesh Patel

Great post. Thank you Dwarkesh. This really appeals to me, and I wonder where it does and doesn't apply. It seems most success in a field comes from someone working really hard on one thing for a very sustained period of time (as per your starting quote) and that anything else, including reading, might be a distraction from actually doing the thing.

How do you think of the laffer curve of reading when the opportunity cost is doing the thing?

And do you have any view on Anki for knowledge retention?

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Amazing post!

Where would you suggest I look for "the reading list to become well read"? I would love any guidance you have. I know there are a lot of resources out there, but getting the reading list right seems very important, and the ways you describe it make me really want to know how you'd construct the list or where you'd look to pull it together.

I love these points:

"It actually is possible for a single person to understand most things... in the sense of appreciating the main explanatory theories in each field."

"A dozen or so textbooks even from a few decades ago contain about 80% of legible scientific knowledge."

"The goal is...to consume the best that has been thought..."

"Such a lofty quest leaves no time to spare for the mediocre."

All great points! I am ready to take on the challenge! Do you have any advice on how to compose reading lists?

Thank you!

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I loved this article, Dwarkesh! I’ve always been a voracious reader across a wide set of topics, with the spirit you outline at the end of your post. Re: the practical value of this broad reading: have you read “Range: Why Generalists Dominate in a Specialized World”? A trusted friend who is a voracious reader like you described recommended it, and I just now put it back on my reading list after reading your post, because I’m now even more curious about how your perspective of a well-read mind translates into practical value. (My hunch is that it has in part to do with making broad integrations, not necessarily with the specific know-how of a given book, but by setting up your mind to constantly look for these connections that go beyond the immediate and obvious.)

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