Hunting has two main modes: searching and chasing. With searching you look for something to chase. With chasing, in contrast, you have a focus of attention that drives your actions. You may find something else worth chasing along the way, and then switch your focus to a new chase, but you’ll still maintain a focus.
I really like your idea of chasing, but I find the example of reading a fiction book with a question in mind kind of limiting. I understand what you are trying to say but how would I avoid being stuck in one aspect of the book by just focusing on the one question? My fear would be if I only chase after one question, I might lose sight of the big picture or all other things author tried to depict in that book. I am interested in hearing your response.
I do the same in my work and I agree with your point that chasing is more taxing and less enjoyable than searching. However, as a consequence, I think what pleasure is lost in chasing, is balanced by a gain in efficiency. Further, I always find some satisfaction in a logical narrative and chasing seems to better facilitate this.
It was a new perspective that this article provided. However, I will beg to point a few things out:
1. The very first thing, that is, comparing the activities of Reading and Hunting - gives me an uncomfortable feeling. In my childhood, (and thankfully, still now) I sometimes read purely for the Pleasure of Reading, in neither "Search" nor "Chase" mode. If you know what I mean, you also must have had this feeling sometime in your life, specially if you are a book-bug. Those lazy library afternoons, or those winter evenings inside your blanket, with you favorite book in hand. I go to the book-almirah, pick up a book completely at random, and start reading. If I find it to be a mystery novel, I mould my mood into it. If it is a popular science book, nothing better. If it is a fairy tales, I go back to my childhood. If it is a lecture by Feinman, I adjust my specs and start my Physics class.So, initially, I am not starting to read with the one-and-only perceived aim of "knowledge"... May be I will forget what I read today, and later on whether or not it will 'become' knowledge depends on the subject, the topic, my memory, and many such factors. Whereas, in Hunting, so to speak, the sole aim is the 'prey', whatever mode the predator may be in.
2. Other that this one thing, this article is really very good. "Search", as in reading sundry magazine articles, and "Chase", as in Googling. :)
Searching allows you to create the boxes that chasing can fill in the first place.
I think we can distinguish three types of learning that are relevant here.
One is learning factual material, chasing down facts and memorizing them. That is one benefit of chase mode.
The second is similar but deeper, chasing not facts but understanding of an issue. The third type of learning would be taking the perspective of the author and seeing the world as he does.
This third type of learning I believe would be impaired by the chase-mode approach. As you say, it is more critical and thus perhaps more close-minded, less willing to accept the author's viewpoint. Being critical is good, but being close-minded is not. This could lead to less learning rather than more.
I am in agreement that nonfiction should use many more concept-mapping tools such as bulleted lists, hyperlinks, indexes, formal line-by-line arguments, modular construction, etc. Too often prose is used to obscure poor argument structure. It also leads to a lot of repetition.
So if you read to be intellectually productive, rather than just to fill your time
Good lord, are these my only two choices?
At least over short periods, chase-mode seems more enjoyable, too, probably for biological reasons behind the analogy. This reminds me of Cowen's advise for enjoying a museum visit -- look for a painting you would like to steal -- and explains why it works.
Seth Roberts would say Steve should try more appreciative thinking.
This is an interesting topic, and one that has several sub-topics embedded.
What is the best way of learning?
What is the best way of finding an answer?
What is the most pleasurable way of reading?
And these are all subjective values. The best way of learning or reading will not be the same for every person, and the questions themselves are then not nearly as relevant as initially believed. The optimal value is gained when those question become introspective and one ask oneself - What is my best way of learning etc.
Personally i learn little from chasing. This is because of a lifelong philosophy of mine that my mind should be spent remembering information i can easily attain. If the hunt for an answer is relatively short, and it is not an answer i use often, i simply forget it on purpose.
Also, when chasing something you will discard mountains of informations - because those informations does not meed the specified end-goal of your search. This does lead to you learning what has started the chase, but only that.
Reading something while searching on the other hand - your mind does not have an end goal and thud no reference by which to discard information. As a result much more is retained at the expense of speed.
Personally i have learned a lot from Stumbling (www.stumbleupon.com) and have read some of the most interesting things in that way like the fact that children at the age of 6 months have a natural moral and understanding of right/wrong.
I think one downside to chase style reading is that it's less good at taking in a broad picture at once. While you search out one answer you page past a lot of information - which is usually fine, but if it's actually a good book at some point you will want to look for every other sentence in it, so you may as well do so in the given order, at the mercy of the author.
Farming is hard f***ing work. The best equivalent is studying - concentrated work on memorization and working through exercises.
"Hunting has two main modes: searching and chasing."
Personally, I often read in Search and Destroy mode.
As a graduate student, 50 percent of my time should really be searching. Then every so often I sit down and try to write a paper and collect my thoughts on a topic.
Russ Roberts had Ed Leamer on a few weeks back and he said something that really hit home with me. Leamer said that convincing people with your research is somewhat pointless. Really your research is a personal understanding path. That each thing that your research adds to your own understanding but is unlikely to make a significant influence on others. It rings true to me but then I always come back to Hanson's point that if we all shared the same priors we should reason to the same conclusions, save for our biases.
Great metaphor, really. To stretch it, what then, is farming? After all, organized agriculture is really necessary to generate sufficient capital and productivity to allow for the division of labor and productivity growth. So, farming would be like working within a coalitions, depending on the rate of exchange of your specialized output with the outside world, subject to the vagaries of the intellectual or industrial climate?
Good blog post.I think it could usefully be applied to other nonfiction media, such as lectures. It would be fun to go deeper into the chase/search neuroscience (such as experimental psych, brain imaging, etc.).
I "chase" from time to time as a result of needing an answer for my work.
My observation is that chasing is both more taxing and less enjoyable than searching, which explains why I don't do it more often, except for short and relatively simple questions.