Wordle And Structured Curiosity

If you are on any social media, in particular Twitter, you would have a lot of messages about the new craze/fad called Wordle. It’s a word game created by a software engineer for his partner. Interestingly, the name of the person is John Wardle – so Wordle is (also) a wordplay on his name. I had earlier thought that it was a combination of word and puzzle.

The rules of the game are very simple.

Wordle – The Daily Word Game – You can play it here. It allows one attempt per day (unless you use a different browser/phone).

I am not a big fan of word puzzles (as much as number puzzles) and I didn’t like the format much. Afterall, it’s always five letter English words; after a while I would run out of my vocabulary of 5-letter words and the esoteric ones would be too difficult/unknown and I wouldn’t want to cheat and use Google.

However, after a lot of resistance I jumped on to the Wordle bandwagon 2-3 days back, mainly for one reason. After you play the game, they show summary of your answer in the below format. Yellow means you got the letter right, but not in the correct place. Green means both place and letter were correct. And grey means the letter is not present in the word. Looking at colour coding and decoding the guess of someone else becomes another interesting puzzle. The cryptic colour coding is what kindled my interest in this. I managed to solve the two puzzles (yesterday and today) so far and I might continue for a few more days till I get bored by this

I have often tried to ponder over things that get me excited, motivated. A lot of things interest me and a lot of things don’t. As I am growing older, I can tell which things don’t (or won’t) interest me. And yet I pursue many things fully knowing that I might not like those eventually. At the same time, I don’t even look at or attempt many things because I know my nature and I can figure out what I wouldn’t like. This happens a lot with food – a new cuisine, new restaurant, new recipe – I am not very keen to experiment. But such things are few and specific. Otherwise I am a very curious person. I want to know more, understand more, learn more…

As a child, my curiosity knew no bounds. The flip side of curiosity is “focus”. More curious means more distractions and less focus. Surprisingly, I could also demonstrate a lot focus in my childhood. Reading is one of my passions. I could read for hours without getting distracted by anything around me. Playing chess is another passion. That too taught me to develop focus, sit at one place. The last passion was mathematics/puzzles/brain teasers etc. – that also required focus; taking a problem or a puzzle and keeping fighting with it for long long time. However, as I have grown up, especially after social media distractions, my curiosity has multiplied, but my focus has gone down significantly. That’s one thing I am working on since last 3-4 years and have achieved only a limited success.

The Social Media monster (and internet/OTT etc) have caused another problem. There are infinite many rabbit holes. Earlier, there was too little information. So once you found something good you could just go on a journey of exploring more and more. Now there is information overload. And the problem has reversed. It’s problem of plenty. It’s about having too much information and applying your own filters to skim through. Curating of goof things has become a bigger pain now than finding good things. And this also leads to losing focus.

As Herbert Simon said: “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention“.

And that’s why I am learning to practise Structured Curiosity. I don’t know if such a phrase exists. A simple Google search suggests that it doesn’t. But let me explain what I mean by it.

My thought process is as follows. If we are curious about isolated things, pursue to some extent and become good at those, it’s one thing. However, if those things add up to something then it’s much better! Whole is more than sum of parts! The principle arises for Systems Thinking. When you put parts together, there are some emergent properties which are absent in isolated elements, but which give rise to something when they come together and interact.

If you learn to sing and swim…both are good in isolation, but there is no synergy. However, if you learn to sing and play guitar or harmonium you have something better together.

So what I call Structured Curiosity is about tempering my curiosity and aligning it for the things which add up to something.

All the aspects may not be clear now. The dots can be connected later. For now it’s about collecting the dots. And more importantly, choosing which (unique/distinct/interesting) dots to collect – that’s the “structured” bit of the Structured Curiosity.

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