I have a confession to make: I want to know everything. I didn’t realize this until a few weeks ago. Throughout my entire life, I’ve assumed that I could and would learn everything that there is to know. It’s quite clear that this isn’t going to happen by any stretch of the imagination, but I still figure that I can take a good chunk of out Everything and call it my own.

It must be some sort of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I don’t honestly know. For years, I assumed that I was the only person in the world like me, but I found a few years back that there are others. Of course, I didn’t know what “like me” meant, but I do now. I guess it could be called "the hacker mentality," or "bookwormish," or "geeky." Any of the above. All of the above.

As long as I can remember, I’ve thought of books as being plug-and-play brain expansion. When I first saw "The Matrix," I forgot to be impressed by the concept of uploading information directly into the brain. Isn’t that what books do? It might take a bit longer, but, really, what’s the difference?

What made me really different, I think, was that I didn’t just accept the premise that I could learn things from books. I actually did so. When I was about 11, I read the encyclopedia through S, skimming some of the more boring entries. (I don’t recall why I stopped. I believe I got bored. All the good stuff was in S, I noticed, so it would only be anticlimactic from there.) I read the Bible a couple of times. When I had nothing else to do in elementary school, I’d read the dictionary. I earned the nickname “Encyclopedia” in 4th grade. (That was, for the record, not meant in a complimentary fashion.) This was not a popular behavior, nor the kind of thing that gathered me much in the way of friends. It was just what I did.

But here’s the sick thing: I have an awful memory. My retention rate is really low. It doesn’t really matter how closely that I study. If I don’t promptly apply what I’ve learned, it’s gone. I can sometimes recall a good chunk of the information, hazily, but I feel like I’m making it up.

It’s just a guess, but I think that all of this comes from the concept that I’m nothing but a vessel for information and experience. The only thing that makes me much different from the next guy is what’s in my head. The rest is pretty much irrelevant, in the larger scheme. So every bit of knowledge that I consume makes me a better human being? I don’t really know…maybe that’s what’s going on in my head.

Anyhow, that’s my confession. I’m a data-freak.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »