Recently, I started building a habit of reading at least one Wikipedia page a day. It’s been a great way to learn about many random things — from bodegas, to Visa, to Wimbledon, to Dunkin Donuts, to where the term “chair” comes from, and much much more.
At first, it was a somewhat difficult habit to adopt. I’d ask myself “what should I wiki today?”, which felt forced and wasn’t the intent. But gradually it came more naturally. Walking down the street, I’d see something and wonder “can I wiki this?” Could be the subway, a storefront, a restaurant, anything really. If I didn’t know the history it was worth a quick wiki search.
I have a few friends at hedge funds who, through their work, have been trained to ask “is this public?” whenever they see a bustling restaurant or store. “Can I wiki this?” is my version of that — but instead of looking for an explicit financial opportunity, I’m trying to train my curiosity.
It’s worked surprisingly well. I’ve only been (actively) reading wiki pages for a few weeks, but I already feel more naturally curious. Not only have I learned a couple dozen new things — one wiki page a day for 3 weeks is 21 new topics! — but the habit has also trained me to constantly wonder what else might be worth knowing about a subject. Even now, looking around at my surroundings as I write this, some of the questions that come to mind are:
When was the first backpack created?
Why are QWERTY keyboards a thing?
How many types of coffee are there? And when was Folgers instant coffee first established?
How were zippers created?
How were headphone jacks invented? Was there a process for standardizing it across so many different types of devices? What drove that standard?
What makes reflective surfaces so reflective?
How were Command Strips invented? How long did it take for them to gain popularity?
I was planning to write more about how the world is really large, why natural and spontaneous curiosity is important in an age of information trained by algorithms, and how learning about many random things can help inspire and uncover interesting patterns. But writing the list above piqued my interest, so I think I might just go wiki some of those right now instead.