Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Story - Chapter 3 "A Lifestyle of Learning"

So Supermemo seems to help one to learn anything. This was very exciting to realize. Learning no longer had to be a hit-and-miss process; it could be broken down into a very simple and finite set of steps. Regardless of my intelligence, potentially any subject could be broken down and retained forever. How exciting!

(Slight topic change)
Among many, tangible progress seems to be one very compelling reason to play a video game. Progress (Even if it is an illusion) creates motivation, which creates a pattern of action. This can be unhealthy for those that spend hour after hour consumed in a world of fantasy (And often filled with sadistic violence), further isolating and distancing oneself from reality. Everything in moderation, but games (And entertainment in general) seem to encourage and reward a lack of moderation. There are other sources of time drainers, but I am particularly vulnerable to this one (Hence why I bring it up).

Learning things did not bring the same tangible progress as playing a game did (Or almost any other form of media). Some subjects can be difficult to learn and learned information can easily be forgotten. I think that for the above two reasons I remained fairly unenthusiastic about learning as a hobby (Autodidacticism), and spent most of my time enjoying the general pursuit of entertainment (Games, light reading, artistic things with no real purpose, etc.). When I began to realize the potential usefulness of Supermemo, I began to see learning as more of a tangible thing. If I was ignorant about a certain subject or topic, after I put a sufficient amount of information into Supermemo, I became less ignorant than before; but more than this, whatever progress I made would never be lost (As long as I used Supermemo regularly). Intellectual progress was now almost as tangible a thing as collecting coins in Super Mario Bros. or eating dots in Pac-Man.

Since I have made this connection, my goal has become the following: "Learn as much as possible from as many different sources as possible."
I am trying to devote most of my free time to learning various subjects. But there are many things that drain my free time, things and activities that aren't really contributing to my happiness or goal of learning lots of stuff. Therefore recently I've been trying to simplify my life, and the "minimalism movement" I've found online has provided some inspiration in that regard. If you google "Unclutter" or "Minimalist living" you'll find some blogs and articles pertaining to the subject.

At present I am at this stage: Trying to adopt a minimalist lifestyle and get rid of things I don't need. Once I have fully achieved this, I will be very happy with myself.


  1. Thank you, Little Fish, for another terrific blog entry . . . I have fallen in love with Supermemo and I'm looking for ways to continue to get more out of it.

    Your article covered something that I'm struggling with . . . what is worth learning in Supermemo? Despite the wonderfulness of Supermemo, it required time and energy that can be used towards other pursuits. Additionally, learning one thing precludes learning another (at least for a short while).

    So far, I've received great benefits from learning people's names (I recently moved to a new town). Before Supermemo, I would stumble around. Now, I feel a lot more confident and I'm able to focus on the person rather than the recall of their name.

    I'm also working on learning the states and their capitals, but from more of a "I should know this" viewpoint than one of practicality. When I compare this pursuit to learning names, it's clear that the benefits from learning names far outstrips the benefits from learning state names or other trivia.

    If I were in school or taking tests, then it would be clear what to learn. However, without those types of tasks driving my behavior, I'm left wondering "what's next?"

    So here's my question: What knowledge have you found most useful to learn?

  2. I've been wondering the same thing recently. Ultimately, the idea is to lead to a better more fulfilling life. I'm all about the pursuit of knowledge in and of itself, but in all your years of experience, what has turned out to be the most rewarding? There must be tons of tricks and patterns, ways of organizing ideas etc... that people could benefit from. I'm pretty far along in my Japanese studies, but I'm still a fledgling of what to study when it comes to languages I'm fluent in.

  3. (Sorry this took so long)
    (I deleted my previous comments due to lack of proofreading)
    PART 1
    Those are interesting questions, as I've encountered them in the past also. There are many sources of knowledge, and the amount of new knowledge being generated and discovered surpasses our ability to take it in. Clearly we must select knowledge to learn, but where does one start? Here is what I did, and if I had to do it all over again, I would go about this journey in the same way:

    I started with a basic question: Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? If I knew the answer to these questions (Very important questions, in my mind), then I could intensely study other fields of interest (Less important, but still relevant in my mind). Two general groups try to answer those questions: religion and science. Both groups seem to be plagued with extreme views (In my opinion):

    Many religious people are adamant about their beliefs but are not willing to reconcile them with certain established facts or even to entertain the thought that they are wrong. This unwillingness to question one's own actions seems to be what the definition of a "cult" is. Only when the actions of this group become violent or harmful are they taken to task for pursuing such an illogical lifestyle.

    But the realm of science also seems to suffer from a similar problem. For some scientists, the belief or concept of a god is not treated as a possibility that "could be right," but as an idea that should not only be dismissed but criticized in a language that reminds me of one grade-school student picking on a weaker one.

    Certainly not all religious people are nuts and not all scientists show hatred towards the concept of a god, but in both groups, holding an extreme view could possibly result in a dismissing of knowledge without thorough investigation. I wanted to fully understand both perspectives without quickly dismissing one or the other. (Although there are many different religions and different opinions among scientists, I wanted to investigate both "schools of thought," and the many offshoots that they entail).

    Even though I already had my own assumptions on the answers to the above questions, I realized, "I could be wrong. Just because I've believed this up until now doesn't mean that it is absolutely right."

    So I began a thorough study of past and present significant religions, while at the same time researching what the general field of science offers in regards to the origin (And therefore the purpose) of life.

    The findings ranged from interesting and enlightening to "drop-dead-insane how-can-people-believe-this-stuff!" But even the crazy stuff gives me an idea of how other people think, which was another one of the overall goals: Examine the basic foundations that shape human thought, then figure out which one makes the most sense and benefits oneself and society the most.

    Even if I don't agree with something, knowing how other people think is beneficial; it can help find deficiencies in my own life where I can improve (As an example, even though I don't believe or live like an Amish person, their goal of living a simple life is admirable and could serve as motivation to simplify my own life). And on the science side, as an episode of Mythbusters demonstrates, science is awesome. The scientific method yields beautiful and fascinating information, and once you start researching this stuff, the knowledge becomes addicting. Keeping up with Popular Science, National Geographic, HowStuffWorks, etc. with Supermemo is now a regular habit.

    I should have specified that "philosophy" is also included in this study, so the writings of Plato, Aristotle, etc. are considered, analyzed and put into Supermemo.

  4. PART 2

    Along with learning how other people think and improving my own life, another one of the goals I set out to accomplish in this was to be able to say "I will never hide behind ignorance or arrogance. I'll give any idea a chance and I'll believe it if it makes sense."

    I don't want to state the conclusion I came to, I'd rather you do research and come to your own conclusion. The journey is half the fun!

    As far as where to start, HowStuffWorks is one great source to learn about the history of various religions, although I try to not confine myself to one single source.

  5. Very happy you continue blogging, a nice post about the subject, Nattan.

    For learning several subjects, understanding different view of the world, besides my profession or the most common aspects of my own culture, SuperMemo has become the tool of choice. I've always been searching for something like it, some big complete extension of the knowledge I wish to retrieve on some necessary ocassion. Incremental reading lets me worry lest I forget something. Autodidactism has also always been a way of life for me, today we have so much at hand that is difficult to stop loosing out self in trivial or intrascendent things. Yeah, I know many say that it makes us less human to be that way, but I believe is a way of life, like being a surfer, or guitarrist, for me to autodidactism is like that and SuperMemo is the surfboard I like most. A couple of day ago I took out a encyclopedia (yeah, the one that came with paper pages) its title "Autodidactic Encyclopedia, how creative, I know. This collection of big bounded books are still dancing around my living room and I can't get ride of them, the is to much memories about how much I loved them. But my kind of learning I have acquired thanks to a SRS system has surpassed every concievable amount of knowledge I can remember about my "Autodidactic Encyclopedia". The journey of living this way and letting go everything else that departs from the route of knowing will always have some limitations along the way, I'm grateful more of us share this same love for learning.

  6. Great comment! I've been checking your blog regularly so it's nice to see more from you.

    I think the whole autodidactic thing is a trait of people who are after "something" the meaning of life is a good place to start! I think leaving less room for so called trivial things is what many people would see as a flaw, but happy living isn't necessaily trivalities. I think I do plenty of silly things, but a lifestyle of self improvement and education is more rewarding, in my opinion.

    I've really been getting a lot out of How To Win Friends and Influence People. The title might lead you to believe that it's about manipluating and dehumanizing, but it's really the most profound treatise on humanity I've ever come across. I've come to be able to understand social situations I've been in and those of my friends and clearly see what's happened and also how to make the best choices in each situation. This is definitely due to SRSing; I've really been able to internalize whats written.

    On the other side, I've been learning Japanese to a high level, when I really become fluent I'd like to use it to make a living, not for profit but because I love it. I think that's the real bottom line of SRSing, it's that it puts the things that we want, that may otherwise be out of reach, into the palms of our hands.

    By the way, Littlefish, your comment should have been a post! It's good enough. Reading your thoughts really help me to clarify how I want to use SRSing, so I'll keep coming back to read more!

  7. How do you deal with math? Mathematics has been a challenge for me.

  8. I have not tried to tackle math yet using Supermemo. My first guess would be to treat learning it like I learn grammar: First I learn how to use a particular piece of grammar. Then I would use that piece of grammar in example sentences until I could use it without thinking very much about it. Then, I would put a few example sentences into Supermemo, with the important grammar piece marked out.

    So, perhaps you could create a few simple math problems that demonstrate a particular mathematic principle. Then you solve them using a particular method, and this ensures that you understand a mathematic principle.

    But I have never tried to use Supermemo to remember math before, keep that in mind. You will probably find a much better method; when you do find it, let me know what you did :D