Ian Leslie is the author of Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It. From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: You write that "a major concern of this book is that digital technologies are severing the final link between effort and mental exploration." How is that link being severed, and can this be reversed?--Marshal Zeringue
A: The modern web is a wonderful tool for the curious. Google and Wikipedia can launch us on amazing journeys of discovery.
But here's the thing: the web is also great for the incurious, or the plain lazy (and let's face it, most of us, including me, are lazy some of the time).
If you want an instant answer to a question, any question, there is no better way to get it than online. You just bang in a few words to the search box and before you've finished typing, there is your answer.
At which point, your curiosity is quenched before you even had time to feel its itch. When everything is made so easy for us, we can fall out of the habit of the hard thinking that is a crucial part of the curious mind.
So part of the reason I wrote the book is to urge people not to accept those top line answers, to use Wikipedia as a starting point, not a destination, to dig down, to accumulate knowledge - to make an effort.
Q: How is curiosity affected by age?
A: We are born curious. As any parent knows, a young child is a question machine. In fact it's been estimated that between the ages of 3 and 5 a child asks 40,000 questions.
Not just any old questions either, but “explanatory questions” – “why” and “how” questions. We have this innate hunger to learn about the world in which we find ourselves.
But ...[read on]