It is hilarious when the ‘nobody knows’ card is played on the TV quiz show QI because it signifies trivia we do know is so obscure and seemingly irrelevant to anything that when the gotcha comes it is just weird.
What ‘Quite Interesting’ does illustrate beautifully, as it takes the piss out of our insatiable desire to know something nobody else does, is that humans are too curious for our own good. We rummage around finding out about the most obscure topics and then we remember large amounts of what we found. Staggeringly large amounts.
If you think about it, that a comic actor should know that ‘the Dyslexia Research Centre is in Reading’ is amazing and bizarre in equal measure. #RespectAllan.
We could dip into some evolutionary biology trivia. This will tell us the ability to seek, find and remember small points of difference in things is a core skill set for our success as a species. It meant we knew where to find food when it mattered, recognise danger from the smallest signs, to retain that information for a long time and to experiment with finding new resources. Add communication along with the division of labour to that mix and we’re off.
So our brains are set up to find and store detail. This is good.
But not everyone does trivia. No two faces are the same and neither are the brains that sit behind them.
Some people are really good at finding information and retain little; others can remember what their daughter was wearing to her friend’s birthday party three years ago. This is good too. It means that we have a range of abilities within the core skill set so that people can specialise in certain tasks. This makes tasks easier to complete if the adept person is the one to do it and provides the raw material for the essential division of labour.
Aggregate this across a modern society and we have any number of skills, trades, and functions performed mostly by the people best suited to them. This makes our systems efficient and also helps explain why humans have taken over the world.
So far this is a euphoric post, a vision of success through an explanation of why we hold on to information and anecdotes with no obvious benefit.
Only some people are not very good at trivia. They may have poor memory or just not inclined to widen their knowledge. They might be in the wrong place where their particular talent or inclination is not needed for any useful tasks or the system can’t match their skill to a need. No matching process can be perfect so we have to accept some errors.
So now, out of the blue, I’m going to suggest another reason. Perhaps some people are lazy.
Yes, it could be that the reason they don’t know is that they just don’t put in the effort. They don’t read, they don’t talk about issues with their friends, they don’t watch the news even though they rarely get off the couch. It is sad but true. Some of us are lazy buggers with no motivation to understand the magnificent world we live in.
Shame on us lazy bastards. Shame on our fat arses.
Get off the couch, go read something with evidence in it and then think about what you have read. Talk to your friends about it and argue with them. Debate the issues of the day and set that immensely powerful brain of yours to work on a challenge.
Please do this. Your life depends on it.