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I've developed superhuman abilities, specifically, I am able to "copy" and permanently keep "skills" and technical knowledge from other people. For example, if I spend time near a politician I might absorb oratory and public speaking skills or if I spend time absorbing skills from a scuba diver, eventually I'll know how to scuba-dive, make a dive plan, etc.

Unfortunately, my power is not fast and it's not long range. The amount of time it takes to absorb someone's skills is related to how much work they put into getting them--for example I can pick up "how to solve a Rubik's Cube" in maybe a day of close proximity but something like "how to preform neurosurgery" would take months of close proximity to fully absorb. Furthermore, I've found that the rate of skill absorption has an inverse relationship with distance to the person. I get the highest skill-absorption speeds when I'm sharing a bed with someone (my power works while I'm unconscious) but even being in the same room as the person(s) I'm copying skills from is rather fast. Fortunately, I'm not limited to absorbing skills from one person at a time. This means if I'm in a classroom or other setting where I spend a lot of time around skilled people, I absorb from all of them simultaneously.

Now, my goal is to become the most skilled jack-of-all-trades ever. I want as many diverse and unique skills as possible. I want to be able to pick up and play any instrument, be a master at any sport, be a crack engineer, a chess champion, etc. Luckily, I am patient. I'm playing the long game, but I still have a mortal, regular human lifespan. Assume I'm starting at 18 years old.

Question: What profession/occupation/strategy should I pursue that will let me spend extended periods of time in close physical proximity with the most diverse set of experts in all sorts of fields?

Example ideas:

  • Astronaut, spend lots of time with group of highly skilled individuals
  • Military-civilian interface, spend lots of time traveling and spending time with military and contractors
  • High powered therapist, spend lots of time in one-on-one settings with distinguished clients
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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Sep 1 '20 at 3:27

19 Answers 19

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Start flying... a lot.

the longer the flight the more you will absorb, but the real benefits is close proximity to dozens of people with the SAME skill at the same time. Languages will come first. Take one or two 16 hour flights to China and be able to speak like a native. Even under the worse case scenario you are sitting very close to a dozen different people absorbing all they have every flight. As a bonus you can use your new found translation skills to pay for more flights.

You should pick up flying and business skills fairly quickly, although you may have to worry about picking up bad business skills. Ideally you leverage this to gain access to flight information and booking so you can start planning flights.

You will luck out and be on flights going to conferences/conventions occasionally. Imagine being on a plane with a dozen heart surgeons or a dozen particle physicists. I have been on flights with 20-30 Paleontologists all going to a scientific conventions, and know of similar conferences for nearly any scientific or technical skill you can think of. If you were smart you might even start tracking these conferences so you can get on flights from major cities to where they are being held.

Technical cruises are also a thing, less proximity but a lot more people for a much longer time, up to you whether it balances out.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this. There are few situations where you're crammed into such a sense space with so many other people over such a prolonged period of time $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Aug 30 '20 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ You could start out by getting a job as a flight attendant. Do this enough, and sit nearer the front, and you'll also be able to quickly get your pilot's wings. $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '20 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Nathaniel Long ditance buses are mostly used by people with low income or students. So, people with low skills or with lower added value skills. On the other hand, commuting trains (first class ?) might fit your idea, with two hours a day, every day next to a lot of different people, with skills accross the whole spectrum of activities. and you still have a job to pay for your education. $\endgroup$
    – MakorDal
    Aug 31 '20 at 9:06
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    $\begingroup$ I love the idea of targeting high densities of people, but I think you could do better than flying. Try riding the London underground during rush hour, by the end of the day you'll be the most incredible fusion chef, a genuine full-stack software engineer, a breathtaking artist and the worlds most in demand polyglot. Once you've got those skills down it shouldn't be too hard to find someone to share a bed with you! $\endgroup$
    – David258
    Aug 31 '20 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ Based on this, you may want to rush enough cash/reputation to run a combined Conference Centre and Hotel - instead of having to wait for lucky flights to gain skills, you have the experts all come spend a weekend at your place... $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '20 at 12:55
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When somebody is skilled or has accomplished something of note, how do we hear about it? From the news, because they were interviewed by a reporter. A reporter would be able to get close to a wide array of interesting people without people getting suspicious.

For example, when there is a scientific breakthrough the reporter would be able to interview the lead scientist, perhaps get a tour of the facility and if charismatic enough could perhaps even befriend the people there and come by a second time or more to do some follow up questions for a larger article.

Also nobody would look that surprised when a reporter volunteers to go to the war front to report in the situation there while being surrounded by trained soldiers.

Alternatively tournaments would also be a great place for a reporter to be to learn the skills of those present. Due to him being of the press would even be allowed closer tot he participants or other forms of back stage access. The reporter status would also allow entrance to certain crowded high priority events like the opening of a nightclub, a museum or be allowed at gatherings like that of world leaders.

And best of all, as a reporter it is your job to be informed about gatherings like this so will always be kept in the loop. (Probably the same reason why Superman goes undercover as a reporter or Spider-Man works for the news paper. Be kept in the loop and nobody would be surprised if they were at a place where a normal person would run away from.)

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    $\begingroup$ I really love this answer. You might pick up less skills than some other options allow to, but 1) this allows for some of more fascinating and rare skills 2) it's relatively safe and reliable 3) it is highly unlikely that anyone will suspect anything, because that's just how any reporter works 4) essentially includes @John's idea of flying a lot. $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '20 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ But a reporter would spend mere hours at best near his subjects. From the question I gather that he'd need days if not weeks to absorb a skill fully. $\endgroup$
    – Vilx-
    Aug 30 '20 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Vilx- It's also hard to get into that gig $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '20 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Vilx I like this answer because it's incremental. Those “mere hours at best” allow you to potentially have a more detailed conversation with someone the next day, which allow you to have a more detailed conversation the next day, and so on. So like you volunteer to come to professional basketball training for a day to watch and write a “puff piece” and after a couple days you can be like “you know, I used to play ball myself” and maybe they’ll be like “pff, show me what you got” and you’re actually a reasonably decent player by then so maybe you get to hang around a little longer. $\endgroup$
    – CR Drost
    Aug 31 '20 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Vilx- as i said Charisma would help a lot. If you can semi befriend them they might be more inclined to have you around more...and seeing you absorbed some of their knowledge by then or form similar people you have something to connect over. $\endgroup$
    – A.bakker
    Sep 1 '20 at 9:09
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I would suggest to optimise for places with a high number of people in close proximity.

Using this tactic nightclubs is a good venue, as is collage auditoriums, lunch restaurants, beaches etc.

You could probably get rather far by going to college and instead of focusing on classes focusing on the senior class parties, hanging around the faculty, going to the beach etc.

The thing to remember is that with a large enough group of people most skills will be represented.

You can the selectivly join clubs or organisations which contain people with skills where you feel you have gaps.

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    $\begingroup$ Night clubs is small potatoes. Go to big theaters and stadiums. $\endgroup$
    – person27
    Aug 30 '20 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ Theaters are a good idea, depending on the show you might be able to affect the clientel you are interacting with. If a stadium would help would depend on how quickly the power falls of with range. $\endgroup$
    – lijat
    Aug 30 '20 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ Professional conferences may be good too $\endgroup$
    – RomainL.
    Sep 1 '20 at 10:59
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First day - go to the nearest nightclub, head for the mosh pit

Go jump up and down to the beat in a mosh pit. Sure you're not targeting the skilled, but you'll get a ton of useful life skills. After a few big nights, you'll hopefully steal a set of skills that allow you to more efficiently steal skills:

Option 1. Sex work

Assuming you're non-lesbian female or non-straight male, able to mentally and physically do the work, and it's legal and safe in your location. You'll get a lot of very intimate contact with a wide range of people. Repeat clients are very common in that industry, and professional men looking for a few minutes of faux intimacy are a good market to exploit. If you're good at it (eg you stole the skills to appearing emotionally open and can easily "become their friend"), you'll get long bookings, allowing for the more complex skills to be absorbed.

Option 2 Tinder

Say you're not up for sex work for some reason (maybe you're a straight male?) in which case, hopefully you've learnt some skills on how to appear attractive, lead potential lovers on, and pick up anyone you want.

"What do you do for a living?" "I'm the city's only female structural engineer" "Ooh exciting I've never dated anyone in that field before! That sounds complex, I mean interesting!", "um, ok". Date them until you've learnt their skills, then move on.

Option 3. Adult events.

You've learnt a whole lot of skills from the thousands of people you were with in the mosh pit, some unmentionable, so put them to use. These events often attract people a little bit older than you'd like - which is good as it means they have more skills to give you.

Once you're "in" in that scene you can get referrals to other events (which you'll definitely need if an unaccompanied male), and start travelling the world of adult sex parties. Lots of close, intimate contact to steal even more skills.

Option 4 Taxi / uber driver

Say you don't want to use sex or love as a tool to pick up skills, you can use driving. Which is handy as from the mosh pit you've probably absorbed the ability to navigate every corner of your town in intricate detail.

Like sex work, but an extra 50cm between you (so a bit slower to absorb), but less police raids and you don't need a shower afterwards. You'll constantly be absorbing from various people. Do airport routes in a big city to get travelling professionals.

Other ideas:

Just take long haul plane trips / bus rides over and over

You'll absorb everyone's skills in a few rows around you. Land, immediately fly somewhere else. Just keep flying over and over. Yeah it'll be a sucky life, living in economy class, but I don't think anything can beat it.

It's better to be in ecconomy than first class, or a flight attendant or pilot, as they don't get long, extremely close contact with as many people. The more BO you smell, the faster you're learning. In economy, you're touching two other people thigh-to-thigh for 20 hours, you have 6 more people within 75cm (3 row in front, 3 row behind), another 10 within 1.5m (6 in rows 2 in front, 2 behind, 2 out of 3 across the corridor, and the one in front or behind them). Within 5m on a particularly cheap airline (75cm seat pitch), you could be looking at 50 people.

Enrol in generic postgraduate study

Master of Business degrees are great because everyone in your class has a degree, and they're from a wide range of professions. By the time you get your MBA, you'll have everyone elses degree too!

Hospice ward night shift

The later in life you spend time with them, the more skills you get, right? So wait till they're at the end of their life, slowly dying under medical care, you can easily spend hours in the same room as them every night when nothing else is going on.

Spend the winter in Antartica

Research stations are wanting people for jobs at Antarctic research posts all the time. You're trapped for 12 weeks over winter in close contact with an expert in every field, as they need to be there for the full winter in case something breaks.

Volunteer at refugee aid organisations. Or join their caravans.

Who can afford to pay 10's of thousands of dollars to human traffickers to get crammed into a leaky boat for a chance to get to (for example) Australia? Rich, well educated families can. Illegal immigrants are often well educated. Eg 30% of American illegal immigrants have a college degree. When a coup happens and refugees flee, often the educated are the ones with both the motivation and the resources to flee. Spend a few weeks crammed in with all of them, and then maybe the overcrowded immigration centre if you're caught, you'll get all that education, and their language.

Just pay for tutors

Once you've got a skill that you can earn money from reliably and quickly (anything from sex work to performing arts to welding (which pays the most of any trade) to stock market manipulation), just start hiring tutors.

This also gives a paper trail to explain how you learnt something, just in case some government type tries to accuse you of, say, electrical work without an electricians training course.

Once you've learnt something, teach it

Aim to get hired by a university teaching (or even just tutoring in, to begin with). The goal is to hang out with all the professors in the uni faculty lunch room / staff training days.

You could also teach something like "Workplace sexual harassment training", or "workplace first aid", in which you have to spend time at a diverse number of workplaces interacting intimately with the staff. ("I need someone to demonstrate chest compressions on - what do you do?" "I'm the accountant", "uh I know that already, what about you?" "I'm an AI engineer" "Excellent come lie down here and let me talk at length about CPR while in close proximity to you").

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    $\begingroup$ signing up for a sleep study would be a good way to get a bunch of college student skills. also not just planes, trains and cruises are also decent sources. expensive relaxation centers are also viable. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 30 '20 at 13:44
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    $\begingroup$ I was going to go with the healthcare angle, seniors have tons of skills, but you risk gaps as memory loss sets in. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Aug 30 '20 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for antarctica $\endgroup$
    – lijat
    Aug 30 '20 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with academic/scientific problems is you're not going to have a background that can be checked, and that's going to raise questions. Talented musicians and artists can often come out of nowhere ("I just learned to play like Eddie van Halen watching videos and practicing"). A surgeon is a bit harder to explain. ("I, uh, learned to do endoscopic cardiac surgery...on YouTube...? And practiced on...my pet hamster?") $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '20 at 5:06
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    $\begingroup$ @aherocalledFrog, you're still going to have an issue if they show real talent. It's not just someone looking up their credentials, it's things like someone wanting to do a feature story on this amazingly talented young surgeon, so they go to the medical school they claim to have went to, and the teaching hospitals they say they were a resident at, but no one can remember ever seeing or instructing this brilliant newcomer. $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '20 at 19:46
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Pay for skill

I'll say how I would do it in several phases.

All phases

Although learning skills it good, the right kind of body is required. A skilled dancer can't suddenly be good at water polo for example. The muscles are different. I would go for a reasonably strong and limber body with good hand eye coordination. That way you might not have the best body, but it might still be great for nearly all physical tasks. The suggestion to be with politicians is good and can be added with spending time with highly social people. That way you can use charm and speaking skills to get a great deal done.

Phase 1

I would go for a certain cocktail of skills, but start with getting rich. Learn one well skill that earns a lot of money very well. For example, the top of certain music players, like violin or singing, can get ridiculous amounts of money. The quick rise in music is also often more respected and less 'suspicious' than scientific knowledge for example. So it's recommended as a start. Once a lot of money is acquired, the second phase begins.

Phase 2

The second phase is simple. Either by fame or by paying money you can get in contact with highly educated people. To make it easier, focus on a certain kind per half a year, month, or week. Related topics would be great. Graphic designers and then engineers for example. Ask for people to sleep in a building where the rooms are orientated in such a way that all beds are close to a small room where you sleep.

With the knowledge aquired you can at a certain moment advance the fields dramatically. This is because you have the skills and understanding of multiple highly skilled people, making you able to improve on things better than those people working side by side. With this you can rinse and repeat. Get (related) skills, improve or simply capitalise on it, move on. Once in a while you revisit a field that you improved. Based on your improvements they probably continued development, so you can learn the extra in a day or two and raise the bar again.

Phase 3

Your fame in so many fields might've been disputed at first, but at a certain moment you'll have proven yourself enough that you're sought out by people. Like an oracle you can spend some time with the highly skilled people, improve where possible and give much needed answers. You might not solve everything, as the skills aren't high enough yet, but at the very least you can use your vast knowledge base to assist in insight.

To fuel some of your knowledge, you might actually spend some time with some people seen as damaged by society. Autism and savants can greatly increase your levels. You might even be able to translate incredible understandings when absorbing their knowledge.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not convinced extraordinary musical skill is simple to translate to "getting rich". $\endgroup$
    – aschepler
    Sep 1 '20 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @aschepler Then substitute it with one that does. I'm not picky :) $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Sep 1 '20 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ This is pretty much the answer I would have suggested, but perhaps with playing poker for phase 1 - you get to sit close to a bunch of people, and once you have their level of skill you should be able to win enough money to move up to playing against better players for higher stakes. The element of luck can also help to deflect suspicion about how you got that good that fast. $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Sep 2 '20 at 10:16
  • $\begingroup$ Poker doesn't need a lot of background explanation: there are professional players who made a big splash coming out of essentially nowhere because they were really good recreational players who decided to take the plunge or played online. Where luck would come in is in the losing. Even the best, highly skilled players in the world regularly lose; all the skill in the world won't help you if your opponent beat your three aces with a straight flush on the river. So this would be unlike, say, telepathy or precognition where you'd have to intentionally play badly to make sure you lost enough. $\endgroup$ Sep 2 '20 at 21:28
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Become a concierge, personal assistant, valet, bodyguard, personal attorney, or similar

These are all jobs which typically require close physical proximity to the employer. As a bonus, highly capable people in competitive fields are more likely to have such a person near them, due to their own wealth or the high value of their time. And if your employer interacts with people of similar skill (which would not be uncommon), you can pick up bonus skills from them from time to time.

Become a high-powered consultant in a field broadly needed in society

Gaining skill in just about any field is trivially easy for you with this power. If you became, for examples, an attorney, actuary, insurance researcher, or IT specialist with skills equivalent to the best practitioners in the world you could easily find a place for yourself in many organizations for extended periods of time. Spending four months "designing an insurance policy" for a firm, you could be working right near people of interest all day long!

Own (or otherwise have freedom to move inside of) a venue which hosts conferences and retreats

If you have easy access to a place which hosts conventions, conferences, and similar, you can attract lots of skilled people to you all at once, over and over again. I don't know if the power can work more quickly drawing the same skills from multiple people at a time, but whether it does or not you can still get several days (maybe even weeks) around people who are at the tops of their fields. If you have some influence in an attached hotel, you could book rooms adjacent to the most desirable targets and be within a few feet of them all night, every night of the event.

If you own someplace like a resort, you can contrive something like a (seemingly) random contest giving away multi-week vacations, for free, to lucky winners. And if you happen to be choosing winners based on what skills you'd like to learn... well, make sure to absorb some relevant legal skills before creating a fake contest. But the point is that you can attract people with money you can easily replace (again, this power makes money easy to come by), put them in specific places which you know in advance, and keep tabs on their activities in a way that makes it easy to be near them while they're around.

Become wealthy enough to fund projects, and then hire skilled people on contracts to work on them

You could amass a good amount of money pretty quickly with a super power like this. Once you've done so there's no reason you couldn't initiate projects which would naturally require some of the most skilled people in the world in their fields to come and help. Throw enough money at many experts in any field, and you can likely get at least some of them to consult on-site for you for a few weeks or months at a time. As above, you can pull all sorts of tricks to increase your proximity (like choosing living arrangements which are close to your own home), and even try new ones (like scheduling lots of in-person meetings).

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Join the Navy

Yvan eth noij

Naval vessels put lots of people in close confines, and the ships — especially the larger ships — need to be able to cover a wide variety of skills to a high degree of competence. From nuclear engineering, medicine, and command/leadership all the way down to "simpler" things like knot-tying, welding, and machine maintenance. The people on the ship will also have a wide variety of hobbies you can absorb.

You say the power works slow. Perfect. You'll be stuck in close confines with the same people for deployments of several months. Get back to home port, and you ought to know how to do most anything on the ship.

Work at a College

The Navy is definitely not for everyone. As an alternative, take a job (even maintenance/custodial) at a small college. Even small schools will have PhD-level talent in both sciences and arts, and then there are the hobbies (of all the students as well). The smaller the college, the closer the proximity.

This is likely to take longer than the Navy option (maybe even a few years), but the variety and ultimate expertise of the talent pool (your final ceiling for potential skills) might be a little higher, and it's much easier to leave the college when you're done.

Take a Long Cruise

Lots of people, very tight spaces. Unlike a Navy vessel, you'll be surrounded by people from many walks of life. Even better, they'll be the kinds of people with the skill to support themselves well enough to afford a long cruise. I could have also said, "Work in a Hotel", but a cruise will give you longer exposures to the same people, which I feel might help your power work better. Perhaps taking a job on a cruise ship is the way to go, as you might need to do a few of these to start noticing the benefit. But I think this could be very effective.

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Events Technician

For knowledge skills, pretty much every field has conferences, and someone has to set up and run those conferences. Being a sound or lighting technician will enable access into conferences across any field.

For performance skills, this is simple, a on stage sound technician can be in close proximity to performers for the entire time they are on stage and for some time before and after.

For sports, most top end competitions are shows as well, so again a sound or broadcast technician should be able to get close to the events.

Additionally this gets you into situations with a lot of people in the audience, so you should be able to pick up some skills from them.

A lot of this work is done by small agencies and self employed individuals, with lots of opportunities to build up skill by hanging near top people, and then once you build up a reputation you can pick and choose which jobs to go for. For example one way you could get started is to go to your nearest live gig and try and stay near the back and absorb skills from the technicians. The key advantage of this approach over owning a venue is people often pick venues for reasons like location and size which you would have no control over. By being a technician you could more easily move to whichever events you want to attend.

You can also transition from this skillset to also pick up work as a broadcast technician and/or recording technician, allowing access to TV recording setup and movie studios. This could potentially get you close to top politicians and actors along with all the various people who TV and radio shows are made about.

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Ride the subway

The world's biggest metropolises, like New York, Tokyo or Beijing also feature the busiest subway systems. People from all walks of life, including neurosurgeons and rocket scientists, are riding the subway cars there every day. During the rush hour, the number of people in rider's proximity just couldn't get any better.

Keep riding the same line until you fully absorb skills of your neighbors, then move on.

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You need the papers, too!

To start "real life" you need the paper, too. In our highly bureaucratic world, we need a paper that tells "This person is a Dr. Phil. whatever", otherwise people don't believe you. It's your entry ticket to a lot of things. If you want a real effect from it, it has to be backed up by several people, too. So if someone calls your university, they confirm "oh yes that one's an expert".

But that's a fair game, because spending 4 or 5 years at two or three community colleges will give you the brains of all the talented ones in the community (Thousands at a time! And completely sucked dry because you sit with them in a room for weeks, not just hours!), plus the doctorates, plus the professors. No-one will look strange at you when you go to conferences, switch your field for another one or switch the university two or three times in that time. Many people do that. Best is, you can pick up all you need for your "paper skill", plus all the other skills of all the other fields in all the universities you are visiting in that time, too.

Once you have the combination of many skills, you can write a really great paper for your "paper skill" - imagine being able to perfectly do graphics design, text composition, greatly understand harmonies from music and from electrical engineering, being a great & persuasive talker and using all those skills to do some groundbreaking "work" just by combining the ideas of two or three theoretical & observational physic/math scientist with easy-to-understand and outstanding beautiful pictures and some engineering from the engineering departments. This can get you kickstarted, because things written by scientists have remarkable longevity and are read by lots of people, as long as they are beautiful and understandable. (which is not normally the case in physics and math, and this is why I picked those two :-) ) Also, a paper normally covers only a small chunk of a problem, while you could cover the whole problem using that skill.

Don't do the work anymore

Then you will have to switch fields: You don't want to do the work, you want to have a bigger impact than that right? So once you have your "paper skill" ticket providing invitations to you, use the clout and get in contact with entrepreneurs, politicians and the like, and pick up their skills. Go down the route of the other postings now.

What's the danger of that skill?

This is not your question anymore, but I am curious.

What happens if you pick up a junkie skill? How to best use meth, crocodile or heroine? Will you become a junkie, too, just because you downloaded their experience in your brains? Many drugs have a psycological addictiveness. Could that be transferred? Because that would be a great danger indeed, your character would have to choose very carefully where to copy what.

Can your character pick up codes and passwords? Because, then they would be an incredible hacker, too, no need to work, just hack into a government or company and tell the bureaucrats what to do.

Will your character get bored once he sucked up humanity's knowledge? This could be deadly! Sucide, Corona and TB are on par with each other in terms of death rates.

Does your character learn from relationships "This woman loves to be seduced that way", "That man likes it if he can do this in bed"? Or more generally, do they pick up the skill of people surrounding one person, to manipulate that one person? Because that can be a dangerous extra-feature, too. If your character uses that manipulative edge, he will draw in the jealousy of the others like hell.

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    $\begingroup$ Once you have the skills, getting the papers is a matter of either publishing papers or just signing up for exams. Getting the skills is the hard part. Just don't do it in a country that require you to pay an exorbant amount of money to take the exams; say, almost everywhere in Europe. $\endgroup$
    – Clearer
    Sep 2 '20 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ Internet University Hagen :-D If I had unlimited skill like this character, I still would do it in Polytechnique or Singapore or Stanford... probably I'd do it in Singapore, that's apparently the best university for technical skills, and then again in Polytechnique because that grants you high ranking jobs in french speaking countries. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Anderas
    Sep 2 '20 at 13:40
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Start with something that gets you a job in a hospital

It's one of the few places where people of nearly all professions will be guaranteed to end up at some point.

Probably better off with a role that has you moving throughout the hospital a lot, possibly a janitor.

You might not get the same quality of skills, and you'll have people constantly coming and going before you've finalised picking up their skill, but the sheer quantity and amount of overlap should offset that.

Enough time at this should give you a well rounded set of skills, you can then specialise to pick up the missing ones.

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Libraries

Free, legal, not suspicious; anyone can come in and sit quietly reading (or pretending to read). University libraries may or may not be public, but even those that aren't will rarely turn away someone who's there to learn.

That may especially be a good approach at the beginning, before setting up some of the more sophisticated schemes, or while restricted in other ways; eg. a minor.

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For general skills, move to a high population city and spend time in a wide variety of settings but keep a fixed schedule for the best chance of overlapping skill sets by encountering the same people or groups.

For specific, scientific skills, take a job as a mail clerk in a high-density office building/laboratory that conducts research and interns college students. You get to make your rounds every day, encountering the same highly credentialed people.

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It depends on the Scaling

Furthermore, I've found that the rate of skill absorption has an inverse relationship with distance to the person.

I am assuming an exponential learning curve

Assume, you are a meter away from the person and you learn a small skill* in an hour
If you are 10 meters away, do you need ten hours?
If you smack your and the persons heads together do you need a minute?
Go for group huggings or similar or focus on closing distance with one person like in Ash's answer or in Johns answer

Or
If you are a meter away from the person and you learn a small skill* in an hour
If you are 10 meters away, do you need only 10 minutes more?
If you are 20 meters away, do you need only another 10 minutes more?
Go to expert Conferences, Festivals or Games from your favorite Teams in Stadiums,
like in user1937198s answer

hope it helps

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Take long train trips.

People on the train are interesting. You're with them for a long time. They mill about and socialize, finding ways to pass the time together.

That last one might not be important to your in your quest for skills, but it could sure help anyone who, say, wanted to write a story about you.

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Spend time at a University.

Some answers have mentioned getting a job at a university, but even that much isn't necessary. Most college campuses are open to the public and nobody will stop you from just sitting in on a class in progress. Large college classes can have hundreds of people from all walks of life crammed tightly into one room for hours at a time, and every single person there will have at least a high school diploma.

When one class ends, just walk around until you see another class in progress and join that one. This can be done from sunrise to sunset a minimum of five days per week, and if you want to really get the most out of your time, be a teacher's pet as they will generally be the most educated on a given topic. Sit in the front row to absorb that knowledge as quickly as possible during class, and go to their office hours whenever possible. When not directly in class, the faculty building is your best friend. One building swarming with people with Phds and Master's degrees which you can just hang out in all day.

You'll learn everything from different languages and high-level mathematics to instruments and dance all in one spot.

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Sports

As a football referee for example you will get fit and learn the rules perfectly. As you become more experienced you will progress to higher levels and absorb better and better skills. It is much easier to become a top referee than a top player.

Remember however that sportspeople have a limited active life so maybe start even earlier than 18.

Academic

Get a job in the cafes and bars of MIT or other distinguished universities. I can tell you from experience that the bars are packed in the evenings with students of all levels and the bar is a great place to meet (or rather serve) local and visiting professors - especially at conference time.

Specialist/science

Again work on-campus in bars and cafes but this time at CERN or Google.

Medical

Start by volunteering at a hospital then get a job as a hospital porter at the most expensive private hospital you can find. Make sure they cater for the rich and famous. You will be pushing distinguished patients on trolleys and wheeling them to operating theatres as well as brushing past senior doctors and surgeons in the corridors every day.

Business

Become the most reliable and skilled PA then get a job with a high-powered business exec or company owner. You will be interacting with them day in day out.

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The Morgue / Grave digger

You never said they needed to be alive. You have unlimited amount of time to be near your "skill tomes". You'll also have all sorts of people come in without any limitations. Rich, poor, skilled, educated etc.

I guess the only people you won't get are high profile politicians or celebrities, but that depends on how you sell yourself.

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  1. Pursue a career in sales. This will put you in close proximity to salesmen. You are building charisma, or charm. If unable to hit a maximal skill, abandon this and attempt to become an executive assistant for a CEO.
  2. Once you have acquired a near mythical level of charisma, pursue a career in finance. Your goal here is to maximize contact with people who are just incredibly good at managing money.
  3. You now have an enormous amount of charm, skill in managing money, and probably a fairly wide web of contacts. Use these skills to start managing money for billionaires. This puts an incredibly large amount of capital under your control and gives you a great deal of influence at high levels of society.
  4. Now, start your own investment firm using your contacts and your personal wealth. Use this firm to form business relationships with all kinds of experts in all sorts of fields. Use some of the wealth you generate here to donate generously to all sorts of causes and weird special interests - this puts you in basically any room you want to be in for however long you want to be there, and you're incredibly charming, so nobody really minds all that much, and you're insanely wealthy, powerful, and respected, so nobody questions you.
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