RE: Self Improvement

From: Herb Martin (HerbM@LearnQuick.Com)
Date: Fri Jan 27 2006 - 16:07:08 MST

> Modality level: reading, speed reading (how effective is this,
> anybody?),

Extremely -- 2500 WPM is easily reproducible, while
some claim 25,000+ but I haven't personally achieved

The key to speed reading is it is almost precisely
like "weight lifting" -- you have to work it and it
works in proportion to the effort and exercise you
put into it.

foreign languages,

New methods for learning languages are speeding
up this process (verses the mid 20th Century even.)

> and also various sports,
> martial arts, and "twitch" video games.

My suggestions would be the arts with significant
'soft' components, e.g., Aikido, Tai Chi, Pentjak

> Concept level: I think that most people do not often generate new
> concepts except as children. Concepts can be serialized into text or
> speech, and then re-encoded by another human, but the
> transfer is lossy.

There are algorithms for producing "creativity"
and other skills that many people believe are

> Because of this, it is usually not possible to teach someone a complex
> concept unless you can express it concisely in terms of
> simpler concepts that they already know.

Or teach them the simpler concept they need first.

An interesting source for mathematics is
"The Road to Reality : A Complete Guide to the Laws
of the Universe" by Roger Penrose; he does a fair
job of guiding the reader through the math needed
for modeling the laws of physics.

This is neither graduate level mathematics text
NOR a layman's popularization, but the closest
thing to a blend of the two that I have so far
found. (I have a serious "web link list" for
supplementing this book if anyone is serious about
reading it.)

> A person who is experienced at generating new concepts should
> be able to
> "repair" concepts that have been mangled by the process of
> serialization
> and re-encoding,

Troubleshooting (e.g., of computer systems, logistics
systems, and mechanical systems, etc) is a teachable
skill as well -- the trick is to teach people to
realize that those same techniques can be used and
further adapted to enhance one's own mental etc.

> and so should be able to learn concepts faster with
> fewer supporting concepts. Most training available today (in any
> specialized subject) seems to focus on conveying a large number of
> concepts.

Or isolating the key, critical components and teaching
those as a basis.

> What is out there that can help you practice generating new concepts?

Modeling those with such skills is (at least one of)
the most effective meta-skills for doing such things.

> Well, there are induction games like Zendo and and Eleusis, which
> (depending on who you are playing with) can lead to many new concepts,
> but these new concepts are usually discarded after the game
> ends. It has
> been suggested to me that the process of learning games like
> Go involves
> generating concepts, but this seems very slow to me. Writing science
> fiction seems like it fits here too.


> Thought and deliberation levels: "Critical thinking," the scientific
> method, mathematical logic, and probability theory all go here, and so
> do things like meditation. These are different approaches to thought
> that can be learned, but seem to be very sensitive to natural ability.

Natural ability is vastly overrated.

For most people who just blunder through it is
pretty much the whole game, but most any skill
is (radically) more teachable than people
generally realize.

> High schools and universities attempt (or claim to attempt) to teach
> "critical thinking," but are they teaching anything, or only
> weeding out those who don't do it already?

Practically no pre-colleges do this; and from
what I know there are few colleges and universities
that do it aggressively enough.

> Heuristics and biases belong at the thought level. Learning about
> heuristics and biases can help you spot systematic errors, and
> (hopefully) learn to stop making them.

Yes, and to exploit them when that is effective.

> Something fun you could try is to sit down with a calculator
> and Google,
> and optionally a friend, and play Bayescraft: think of a
> question with N
> possible answers, assign a probability to each, and check the answer.
> Multiply your cumulative score by the probability you assigned to the
> correct answer. Alternatively, one player can write down a sequence in
> binary, and the other players can predict the next value.

What's the purpose of this? (Not being critical, but
merely sincerely curious...)

Herb Martin

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