"The Collector's Fallacy"


The Collector's Fallacy refers to the fact that collecting materials makes us feel like we learned something when, in fact, we haven't.

Collecting information is easy: all you have to do is one click and then you can save any article, podcast, PDF in your phone or laptop.

Some people buy a lot of books but never actually read them. We do this because collecting materials feels good. It makes us feel we're learning.

But, understanding requires effortful engagement. Without spending time to actually think about the content of the materials and writing about them, you cannot understand them fully.

As Christian Tietze says: "realise that having a text at hand does nothing to increase our knowledge."

This is why it's important to "Create More, Consume Less".

Creating requires effortful engagement!

References - https://zettelkasten.de/posts/collectors-fallacy/

Collecting material feels more useful than it usually is.

Because ‘to know about something’ isn’t the same as ‘knowing something’. Just knowing about a thing is less than superficial since knowing about is merely to be certain of its existence, nothing more. Ultimately, this fake-knowledge is hindering us on our road to true excellence. Until we merge the contents, the information, ideas, and thoughts of other people into our own knowledge, we haven’t really learned a thing. We don’t change ourselves if we don’t learn, so merely filing things away doesn’t lead us anywhere.

Just like photocopying is self-rewarding and addictive, I argue that we fall into the same trap of false comfort when we bookmark web pages and sort the bookmarks into folders or tagged categories. Bookmarking a web page is satisfying because we get rid of the fear of losing access to the information.

This is a first step to conquer Collector’s Fallacy: to realize that having a text at hand does nothing to increase our knowledge. We have to work with it instead. Reading alone won’t suffice: we have to create notes, too, to create real, sustainable knowledge.

Especially when we start to research something new, Eco recommends we read and highlight texts right after we create copies. If we train ourselves to process photocopied texts soon, we get a feeling of how much we can really handle.

Shorter cycles of research, reading, and knowledge assimilation are better than long ones. With every full cycle from research to knowledge assimilation, we learn more about the topic. When we know more, our decisions are more informed, thus our research gets more efficient. If, on the other hand, we take home a big pile of material to read and process, some of it will turn out be useless once we finished parts of the pile.