It’s the paradox of our times. The internet offers us deeper and quicker access to more knowledge than ever before, but there is more and more evidence that this vast, always-on archive is making us lazier, not smarter. Or, as Ian Leslie argues, less curious to develop fact into understanding. And, in his book’s doomy scenario, if you become incurious, “your life will become drained of colour, interest and pleasure. You will be less likely to achieve your potential at work or in your creative life. While barely noticing it you’ll become a little duller, a little dimmer.”
Even those who while away hours clicking on links from Twitter are given short shrift: such “diversive curiosity” is just an aimless desire for novelty. What Leslie argues in this timely and readable book, as likely to cite Californian sociologists as Alex Ferguson, is that we need to encourage “epistemic curiosity”, which is deeper, focused and more disciplined.
Much of its meat is focused on how harnessing young people’s innate curiosity about the world is key to their whole futures. But if it makes you think twice about why you’re clicking on that cat meme for the 15th time today, then its job will have been done.