Scott wrote "Seriously, I constantly meet people who ask me questions like: 'could quantum algorithms have implications for biomechanical systems?' Or 'could neural nets provide insight to the P versus NP problem?' And I struggle to get across to them what you've articulated so clearly here: that part of being a successful researcher is figuring out what isn't related to what else."
But another part is looking at things from a different perspective -- sometimes, a researcher might ask herself a question such as: "What would it be like if biomechanical systems were governed by quantum algorithms?" Not because she thinks these things really must be related, but because anything that provides a new angle has the potential to spark a creative solution or insight.
An FYI that does not address the substance of Eliezer's post:
This woman was telling you the Norse creation myth, which is definitely one of the stranger ones I've heard: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/creation.html. As a story, it lacks the rudimentary narrative cohesiveness most of us expect, having been exposed since childhood to the Christian "first there was light" story, which proceeds in a rather more linear manner. On the other hand, Norse myth is the basis of Tolkien's Middle Earth, whereas the Christian myth has been responsible mainly for lots of paintings of Adam and Eve looking coyly at each other.
A good post, Eliezer, but it brings to mind that quote about the horse, and the water -- you know the one I mean. In my college years (as a philosophy major) it because clear that there were students who actually went through the process of digesting, seeking broader context, checking out other sources, and so on. And there were students who were there to get a BA. I don't recall either group doing much better or worse on exams, papers, etc. But perhaps this is more common in the humanities, where reading is the main activity, than in the sciences...
As far as high school goes, Robin's point about the true purpose of school is on target -- it's obvious that the primary function of high school is keeping rowdy, hormonal, unstable adolescents under control and out of everyone's way until they stop being crazy. Also as a way to fill space between extracurricular activities.