The inimitable and always interesting Social Affairs Unit blog has a post about autodidacticism and its more famous participants:
Autodidactism also had its dark side, since an intellectual universe created from one's own variegated readings and preferred opinion often lacked a moral component, and often went with ethical solipsism. Two of the greatest autodidacts of this type were Hitler and Stalin.
The post didn't get into the effect of the Internet, so I thought I'd bring it up:
Sometimes I think that the effect of the Internet will be to make autodidacts the norm and that will be a good thing. It could go wrong, though, if easy access to all knowledge means that malevolent thinkers can easily find reinforcement for their evil thoughts and openminded rationalists are so overwhelmed with conflicting theses and opinions that they "lose all conviction".
I'm having a hard time getting my comment to register, but I'll link to the article anyway. Perhaps it's being moderated.
JJLuna's next book will, I have heard, deal with the great benefits of the school of hard knocks.