In A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes opined that he had no room for useless knowledge (in that particular case, it was the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun). He remarked to Watson:
"You appear to be astonished," he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. "Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it."We're all familiar with information overload (especially these days), but I wonder if this was the hubris of a younger Holmes speaking. Recent research shows that the older brain can actually process information much better than previously thought, and is better at filtering out distractions than a younger brain.
"To forget it!"
"You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it...It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."
From a recent New York Times article:
Such tendencies can yield big advantages in the real world, where it is not always clear what information is important, or will become important. A seemingly irrelevant point or suggestion in a memo can take on new meaning if the original plan changes...
"A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers," Dr. Hasher said. "We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser."
What do you think? Does this match with your experience? Does Holmes's claim seem like juvenile boasting to his easily-astonished new friend? Would the older Holmes agree?