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Are polymaths neophiliacs?

Updated: Aug 20, 2022

A brief glance at the biographies of great polymaths, past and present, tells us that curiosity is a trait of versatile personalities, characterized by a lifelong interest in learning, often simply for the sake of learning.

Extreme cases of curiosity as a trait are called ‘neophiliacs’, defined by the Oxford dictionary as having “a great interest in what is new; a love of novelty”. The neophiliac is a very special type of person, highly interesting in terms of polymathy; they are avid seekers of novelty and will often go to great lengths to find it.

Neophiliacs are often found working in digital technologies, especially as hackers. Renowned open-source software programmer Eric S. Raymond once posited that the rapid progress of digital industry is the result of having these neophiliacs as IT startup founders, or in key positions on the boards of IT companies. Interestingly, he also noted that most neophiles have disparate interests, and tend to be well-read. It is not unusual for a neophiliac to be a "social butterfly", a technophile, revolutionary philosopher, and extreme sports enthusiast - all in one. Many neophiles and neophiliacs become part of cutting-edge subcultures.

Is this genetically predestined, or is it a construct of society?

Find the possible answer in my forthcoming book WHY POLYMATHS?

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