Education

Intelligence as skill acquisition

The intelligence of a system is a measure of its skill-acquisition efficiency over a scope of tasks, with respect to priors, experience, and generalization difficulty. – François Chollet, On the Measure of Intelligence

How to read hard books

A thoughtful framework for reading and understanding deeply from Brad DeLong.

First, get prepared:

  • Figure out beforehand what the author is trying to accomplish in the book.
  • Orient yourself by becoming the kind of reader the book is directed at—the kind of person with whom the arguments would resonate.
  • During and after reading, try to rephrase and improve on the argument:

  • Read through the book actively, taking notes.
  • “Steelman” the argument, reworking it so that you find it as convincing and clear as you can possibly make it.
  • Find someone else—usually a roommate—and bore them to death by making them listen to you set out your “steelmanned” version of the argument.
  • Finally, try to disprove the arguments, and decide how you feel about them:

  • Go back over the book again, giving it a sympathetic but not credulous reading
  • Then you will be in a good position to figure out what the weak points of this strongest-possible argument version might be.
  • Test the major assertions and interpretations against reality: do they actually make sense of and in the context of the world as it truly is?
  • Decide what you think of the whole.
  • Then comes the task of cementing your interpretation, your reading, into your mind so that it becomes part of your intellectual panoply for the future.
  • The limiting factor of our education is no longer access to information–it’s making the most of the information we access.

    Related: The purpose of reading is to write

    Danish Folk High Schools

    A Danish Folk High School is “a non-formal residential school offering learning opportunities in almost any subject.”

    More generally, it’s a place where post-high-school age students can go live for a while and learn about community practices together.

    The book The Nordic Secret argues that the invention of the folk high school in the 19th century is key to the rise of the once-poor Nordic societies since then. The “folk-bildung” it developed can be described as “character formation, cultural heritage and developing a moral backbone all in one.”

    A sense of belonging; a connection with nature; social responsiblity; conscience and morality–how many of these are lacking in our current education systems?

    We should teach our kids sports, music, painting…Everything we teach should be different from machines…we have to teach something unique, so that a machine can never catch up with us. – Jack Ma

    Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read

    Great overview of the “forgetting curve“, the way that we immediately forget almost all the information we take in:

    For many, the experience of consuming culture is like filling up a bathtub, soaking in it, and then watching the water run down the drain. It might leave a film in the tub, but the rest is gone.

    That describes many of my reading experiences quite well; sometimes I feel like the characters in this Portlandia skit. The key to avoiding this is recalling and re-encountering the information again:

    If you want to remember the things you watch and read, space them out…Memories get reinforced the more you recall them, Horvath says. If you read a book all in one stretch—on an airplane, say—you’re just holding the story in your working memory that whole time. “You’re never actually reaccessing it,” he says.

    The most well-known technique for recalling information systematically is spaced repetition:

    Spaced repetition is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect.

    This website has always served as my outboard brain, but I don’t re-encounter my own thoughts on a regular basis. I’ve tried a few times to set up a system to send me random past posts; worth getting that going.

    Learning the basics

    I think learning should be about learning the basics in all the fields and learning them really well over and over. Life is mostly about applying the basics and only doing the advanced stuff in the things that you truly love and where you understand the basics inside out. – Naval Ravikant

    When I taught an introductory design class at Stanford, I finished by telling the students, “That’s it! That’s all you’ll ever need to know about doing design. Now, go out into the world and spend the rest of your lives trying to actually do it.”

    KidZania

    The perfect business model? Parents pay for their children to work and be advertised to. And it actually sounds pretty fun!

    http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/profiles/stateofplay.php

    Nice quotes from the Do Lectures

    Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one — Michael Forbes

    It’s better to fail with your own vision rather than following another man’s vision. — Johan Cruyff

    I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take a game winning shot….and missed. I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed — Michael Jordan

    Diversity and design

    “Creativity is just connecting things…[but] a lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” – Steve Jobs, 1996

    The orchid gene

    “Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care…The genetic sensitivities to negative experience that the vulnerability hypothesis has identified, it follows, are just the downside of a bigger phenomenon: a heightened genetic sensitivity to all experience.” – The Science of Success