attending breakthrough conferences might be, statistically speaking, as much a waste of time as buying a mediocre lottery ticket, one with a small payoff. The odds of the paper’s being relevant—and interesting—in five years is no better than one in ten thousand. The fragility of science!
Even the conversation of a high school teacher or that of an unsuccessful college professor is likely to be more worthwhile than the latest academic paper, less corrupted with neomania.
Amateurs in any discipline are the best, if you can connect with them. Unlike dilettantes, career professionals are to knowledge what prostitutes are to love.