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    WIRED | WIRED Staff | 4/21/08 | 33 min
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    WIRED
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    • deephdave
      Top reader this weekReading streakScout
      2 months ago

      As a student at the Poznan University of Technology in western Poland in the 1980s, Wozniak was overwhelmed by the sheer number of things he was expected to learn. But that wasn't his most troubling problem. He wasn't just trying to pass his exams; he was trying to learn. He couldn't help noticing that within a few months of completing a class, only a fraction of the knowledge he had so painfully acquired remained in his mind. Wozniak knew nothing of the spacing effect, but he knew that the methods at hand didn't work.

      • Karenz2 months ago

        The most surprising thing to me in this article is that Wozniak is married!!

    • thorgalle
      Scribe
      2 months ago

      Excellent! This article comes at a time where I'm using Anki to learn Swedish words from books & video. Anki is a spiritual descendant of SuperMemo. Happy to get this bit of context to the tool in Readup, thanks deephdave!

      The article weaves an intriguing mesh of subplots: the inapplicability of psychological research (thinking about Thinking, Fast and Slow), the path to optimal memory, and a glimpse into the eccentric lifestyle of Wozniak.

      When it comes to fact-based knowledge, a big spaced repetition system should deserve more attention in education. As a 14 year old, I learned certain facts about certain plants and animals in biology class for one semester. I got excellent grades at the end term exam. But today I'd recall almost nothing of that. If I had been repeating those facts it for 10 years with spaced repetition, I'm sure it would be long-term memory by now.

      Still, how much do I care about those facts now? Memory is about forgetting: it is about remembering what is worth to remember, and forgetting the rest.

      It is thus about having intellectual goals and priorities. A hard thing to manage. The article points to a rabbit hole in the pursuit of "extreme knowledge":

      But the value of what he remembered depended crucially on what he studied, and what he studied depended on his goals, and the selection of his goals rested upon the efficient acquisition of knowledge, in a regressive function that propelled him relentlessly along the path he had chosen. The guarantee that he would not forget what he learned was both a gift and a demand, requiring him to sacrifice every extraneous thing.

      The article made that seem like a life alienated from others. My take-away: don't take this train to the last station, hop off somewhere in the middle. Use this technique to achieve specific learning goals, but leave some space for the natural evolution (read: depreciation) of memory, feelings and human randomness.

      Extreme knowledge is not something for which he programs a computer but for which his computer is programming him.