With any project I work on, the more disparate and wide-ranging the sources that end up going into it, the more interesting the final result. For Vajra I ended up reading a good deal more Thomas Merton than I did Freeman Dyson, if you get my drift. Not to say that I was deliberately ignoring the nuts-and-bolts stuff (although I'm fairly sure the end result does tend to lean towards the lower end of the SF Hardness Scale), but that so many of the stories I've seen in that vein already cover that territory so well, why duplicate their work? If I had something to add to such a story that was mine, I'd rather it have been from a territory that complemented the uniqueness I wanted to bring to the story in the first place. (I did read a lot about programming, though, so I guess that counts.)
Time and again I've invoked the importance of getting out of one's bubble, but I don't think I talk enough about how genuinely difficult it is. Moreoever, I've always phrased it in terms of getting out by going up rather than going sideways or down. "Playing over one's head" is the term I keep using for it, but it might well be that the things we need to get out of our bubble for aren't "up there" somewhere but "down below". In the end it doesn't matter where they really sit; what matters is that you make the effort and come away with something for it.
I'll admit, I don't do a lot of what I could describe as "dropping down" to get out of my bubble — e.g., reading books I think are far beneath my skill level or interest set. I'd sooner make the effort to read Dostoevsky's Writer's Diarythan YAPTR (Yet Another Paranormal Teen Romance), because my prejudices tilt me in that direction. They tell me I'm apt to get that much more out of the former than the latter. But nowhere am I commanded to look down my nose at someone who thinks the latter has far more to offer them than the former.
When you have only one criterion for "broadening the mind", it gets harder to do that than you'd think.