I know it's not exactly what you asked for, but in my experience, spaced repetition is borderline science fiction -- if implemented properly. It's not as instantaneous or cool as The Matrix, but it does feel like magic when you can remember obscure words or concepts years after entering them into a SRS program.
It's called "studying", which implies a form of "spaced repetition", but makes notions meaningful and "alive" by making them integrated in your "body of knowledge". To do differently - to just keep notions in a mental closet -, would be like memorizing a book: you have not read it. "Reading" - digesting information - and "memorizing" are not the same.
To "study" you will have to use some sort of (often natural, implicit, unplanned) spaced repetition. But you will also process the information with an eye to make it productive (as opposed to "just stored").
With the exception of word lists for foreign language study (and to be honest, vocabulary is rarely my most important issue with foreign languages), I haven't found anything that benefits from studying flashcards.
I know that flashcards were a big thing among students when I was in grade school and college (decades ago). I'm sure they helped students memorize pieces of information, but I'm not sure they helped students understand them.
Thing is, current flashcard software (including Anki) does not support complex "study and understand" workflows very well, but a lot could be done to improve it. Even something as trivial as supporting explicit dependencies among cards, i.e. "don't bother to show card X unless you have managed to push out repetitions of cards Y and Z beyond $time_interval" would help a lot.
This would also enable flashcard/SRS workflows to interoperate seamlessly with other memorization techniques, like memory palaces or mind maps. Foreign language vocabulary is the rare example of a domain that doesn't need these things, so flashcards are perceived as "good enough" for it.
OK, thanks for confirming that it's not just me and that Anki and friends are a study tool with very limited usefulness.
mostly in schools there's no understanding whatsoever: to the contrary, students have to REMEMBER what the teacher provided as a valid understanding.
Fortunately, no, not necessarily: not in the schools I have been to. In the schools of my youth, you had to understand the taught, not just remember it. Students were evaluated for how well they had processed the information, for their mastery in its "handling".
I'm interested in this, but I'm doing something wrong.
On the one hand, I've downloaded AnkiDroid and played with it a bit. But I have the impression that just "seeing" the card isn't helping me. I need to be forced to write down the answer.
On the other hand, I've struggled to understand what "kind" of things should go in to a card. For example, verbs: I'm learning a language that has a complex verb conjugation structure. What I really need is to study the conjugation table. But instead the usual cards I download just ask the infinive form, and then display the conjugation table in the back - I'm not going to sit down and study the conjugation table when I'm swiping cards. When I sit down and study I do without cards, so I don't see the benefit...?
I feel I'm missing the trick.
1. Definitely use Cloze cards. These allow you to highlight a section of text which you have to type in order to pass the card. They are much more effective than regular flash cards, especially for foreign languages (or anything that requires accurate spelling or precision typing, e.g. code syntax.)
2. Try to make the cards into real-world examples. For instance, don't add the conjugation table, create example sentences for each of the conjugations and make each one a card. For foreign languages, I try to add audio to my flashcards, too.
3. Always make your own cards. Downloading premade decks never works and you miss part of the learning process.
4. For things that don't necessarily lend themselves to being on a flashcard, don't just write the information. Try to frame it in terms of a question and/or in a form that mimics the context in which you'd use the information.
For example, let's say you want to memorize the periodic table. Don't just write:
Carbon - Atomic Number: 6, Chemical Symbol: C, etc.
Instead, create cards with questions like:
What is the sixth element on the periodic table?, Is carbon before or after nitrogen?, What element has the chemical symbol C? and so on.
The more "viewpoints" you have of the topic, the better. I've found this to be a solid approach for virtually any topic.
> Downloading premade decks never works
In my experience it works just fine. For example, using a geography deck to learn the location, flag, capital city, etc. of every country in the world. It also worked well when I taught my kids the multiplication table, the NATO phonetic alphabet, and so on.
I followed your link. It reads
> To create a cloze deletion note, select the Cloze note type, and type some text into the "Text" field. Then drag the mouse over the text you want to hide to select it, and click the [… ]
Select the Cloze note type, where exactly? I've searched both AnkiDroid and AnkiWeb (I was thinking that maybe I could creat cards from my computer and use them on my phone) and I can't find any button to make a note a "Cloze note".
Sorry I have actually never used AnkiDroid. I think it's just a mobile app for Anki on Android? If it's like the iOS one, you can create Cloze cards from it.
When you create a card, it should say Card Type or Type at the top. By default, this is on Basic. Click it and you can switch to Cloze. Then highlight the text and click the [...] icon in the toolbar.
What SRS software do you recommend?
I've tried both Supermemo and Anki. Supermemo's algorithm is much better - I found I spent less time reviewing compared to Anki. Unfortunately, it's Windows only so I use Anki for the convenience.
I’ve heard good things about Super Memo but it’s Anki for me. It’s simple, reliable, and gets the job done.
OpenSource and Libre!
Is it really that good?
Yes. I have concepts in Anki that I will be promoted to repeat again in 4 years and I've had to repeat 4-5 times in the past two years.
Why though? In what circumstances apart from preparing for exams does it makes sense to do this?
Without ascribing concrete value to it, I've done this my whole career and I am generally viewed as a "know-it-all" .. "Ask kthejoker, if anyone knows, he will."
Especially with regards to solution architecture, you're often combining or comparing a huge (think factorial!) mix of tools, code, data, etc. Each with their own configurations, settings, gotchas, patterns, constraints, capabilities, hacks ...
Being able to quickly recall and locate URLs, code repos, docs, points of contact in a company or the wider community ... for me, it is the ultimate career moat.
This article on A Cloud Guru kind of encapsulates the sentiment well
Anyway, convenient texhnology for spaced repetition plus a second brain is amazing compared to earlier centuries.
In the future this will probably be a core part of OP's question .. adding things to the brain, automatically deriving connections, surfacing things into your "local" memory at the perfect time ...
I memorize a wide variety of things:
* programming things that I use rarely enough that I don't memorize them simply from usage, but often enough that there is a time saving from having to DDG what's the exact way to do something.
* a couple personal information items like my credit card number (I don't like having it saved anywhere), my wife's phone number, my businesses registration number, etc
* moves for solving Rubik cube
* Bible verses
It seems that no one properly understands how information is stored in the brain. I think that needs to be solved first.
This is a popular thing to say but is too superficial, we obviously have interfaces that operate mechanical arms and other things with a computer interface interpreting signals from the brain and other nerves. We actually know quite a bit about what kind of signals get sent from some parts of our bodies to other parts and these patterns hold within the brain as well. It just gets microscopic and -very- complicated. Check out these books:
Dayan & Abbott theoretical neuroscience (I found a pdf)
Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code
This is definitely a huge problem, but we also need a viable interface to write information.
How do you write if you don't even know how to read the storage media?
Write-only memory! In a very literal sense.
This reminded me of Sleep Learning. This topic has the oddest Wikipedia page . You would expect this topic to have research, historical background and other sections. But 80% of that page is just references to fictional literature.
I remember reading an article about this years ago that stacked evidence against this practice.
Slightly more useful might be lucid dreaming. I can imagine that a stable lucid dream would be great for knowledge synthesis.
Tangentially, studying right before sleeping has always been one of the most effective way for me to memorize stuff.
Not a word about the security implications?
The easiest reply would be "They are called books", or whatever container and format for information - and already there issues and risks are more than just possible, mitigated by filters one is trained to develop. The more acquisition of information takes the aspect of an "injection", a whole world of issues open.
From "I read War and Peace in one hour: it was about Russia", to all kind of mental poison (from "bad" notions to concretions of intellectual inadequacies): information has to be digested - processed and integrated.
So, on the point of view of feasibility: if knowledge implies diffused transformations (as opposed e.g. to installing an independent informatic file, non-integrated with its peers), that idea of injecting knowledge is absurd - it does not work that way. When you come to know that Paris is in that location, in that position on the map, you modify a number of notions: some directly related to Paris, others of all related entities - of the idea of France and its layout, of Montparnasse, of the Second World War, of the treaties there signed etc. Information needs to be digested to be productive.
I would think security wise it would be like medication. Everything from highly trusted,tested and expensive sources to the free for all of the black market.
I would suspect you are right though that the idea of a knowledge injection is absurd.
If an athlete takes steroids they are injecting strength in one sense but not like a movie that they take the injection and are superman 5 minutes later. Surely, there are biological processes that can't be sped up all that much unless we are talking about complete science fiction with total mastery of biology.
Except you can't do mind control by intercepting someone's steroid supply.
I have thought for a while now that VR would allow for this kind of training. You essentially control a large proportion of the input and can measure the output. We could start training human brains like we train neural networks - throw tonnes of data at them and then test what parts stick, then repeat until the training set is learned.
On a different note, the new Matrix really failed to captivate and imagine like the old movie series did.
Cybernetic implants into the mind are in their infant stage. We have electrical and magnetic stimulation treatments being tried all around our healthcare system, but these are to modulate the brain and help it normalize for dementia, depression, etc.
The best practical way to achieve your end? Reform education. We are forced to learn so much useless, outdated, opinionated information in the 20 years of mental training we call education. Let people begin apprenticeships very early on, let them try actual jobs and tasks, not just tests.
A low tech noninvasive way? Phones. If our phones downloaded all the data they needed, theoretically they could make our decisions for us. We'd never need to know things as long as the phone can communicate precisely what to do, without the costly why.
Obviously, I wouldn't sign up for the latter unless it became necessary to stay relevant. I don't like the privacy and freedom implications of a device with all the "right answers".
There will be market forces to put there more than just the intended knowledge you want. And probably it won't be so easy to debug or clean as with plain text.
The thread has plenty of replies as of now so I don't feel too bad for playing devils advocate here. Can't you either "download from" or "upload to"? "Download to" just sounds strange. Anyway
I'm not any kind of neurologist, but intuitively, the ways in which people seem to learn things varies so much from person to person, it seems highly likely to me that there is no universal format in which our brains store knowledge of facts and movement patterns. This bodes rather poorly for ever doing something like downloading knowledge to the brain Matrix style. Even assuming you had a way to "write" whatever neuron structure stored knowledge, you'd have to first carry out a super-detailed analysis to determine exactly how to encode that knowledge in each particular brain. And God only knows what'll happen if you get it wrong.
Probably something that the brain does very early in life, like around infancy, is to figure out for itself a way to store knowledge and learn how to store new things that it learns in that way. If each one makes it all up for itself, then it stands to reason that they're all different in unpredictable ways. The observed fact that people vary widely in overall intelligence, what they're good and bad at learning, and how they learn it, seems to follow naturally from that.
This idea reminded me of reading this post series on brain evolution:
According to that, the current best-supported theory is that the human brain evolved the ability to think and reason in in a modern way long before they started actually doing it. The ability to actually think like that is only latent, and needs to be exposed to "recursive language" at the right point in the brain's development to actually have it. So if only under the correct stimulus does the brain develop the ability to think, it stands to reason that they don't all work in exactly the same way at a biological level.
We have a high bandwidth input already known as eyes and ears
This is the correct answer!
Can you only imagine what advances we'd make in "information upload" if we invested as much in Teaching Pedagogy as we invest in Neuroscience?
They deal with pretty noisy mediums though. How much of the input is actually transformed into what we perceive as relevant knowledge and stored long-term?
Better question is how important will noise end up being in the formation of valuable outputs.
Nothing worse than a system not sufficient trained to deal with high noise environments
I agree that they are high bandwidth inputs but not all of it sticks. There is a saying that goes: "in one ear and out the other". Recently, I learned about "reticular activating system". As far as I can understand, RAS determines what is important to you and provides your focus there. This is pure speculation but it might be that, eyes/ears are indeed very high-bandwidth inputs that if all their data was persisted, it would overwhelm our brain.
No, but a philosophical argument that showed how it was impossible would be almost as useful. You can just give someone a magic feather and let them believe they have become something, which is sufficient for many purposes.
Remember that in the Matrix story, a world in which they could download skills from the simulation and instantly become things by essentially just imagining them, so long as they stayed within its confines - was the world they were trying to escape. If you tell a 5yr old that their crayon drawing is beautiful, they become an artist, and for most people, that pattern doesn't change for the rest of their lives unless they become disillusioned and pursue their destiny as an existential hero.
Maybe there could be some neural interface that lets you transmit and replay brain activity through other bodies faster than language does now, or muscular electrostimulation that simulates say, deadlifting, but just as having a music collection doesn't make you a musician, I'm with Feynman in that I don't think we understand what we don't ourselves create.
We have actually had muscular electrostimulation devices for quite a long time. I believe they work quite well to get stimulation when injured.
In general though anything I have read says they work well even if not injured. They have just never caught on the way lifting weights has.
Knowing how to do something doesn’t live outside the brain.
You can erase entire categories of knowledge by damaging the brain in particular areas. There is no reason to believe the opposite is not true.
Therefore it is a matter of modifying the state of the brain to learn or know something.
Not a neurologist, but my hunch is that even if we had perfectly working brain implants, this would be impossible the way they do in the movie - or at least would require lifelong monitoring of your brain structure before it could be done (which, arguably, would be feasible for people spending their life in a tub like in the movies - but infeasible for us)
As a start, what "data format" would that downloadable knowledge be represented in? It would have to be interpretable by your brain and able to reference knowledge and other concepts you already know about - not just explicit knowledge, but also motor memories, etc. Unfortunately, all this stuff depends heavily on the experiences and learnings you personally have made until this point - so this is probably completely unique for every brain.
I'm not a neurologist too but what if you can do it without brain implants? Something like transmitting data in the form of waves to brain.
What kind of waves would that be? You'd need something to resonate with specific neurons in any case.
Idk but do you need brain implants or somehow it would be possible to do it without them?
Wouldn't it be easier to understand how the brain works and transfer intelligence and consciousness into silicon (by emulation?) rather than try the reverse?
We know our bodies age and die whereas sustaining a computer for 100s of years via a part replacements is quite doable.
Keanu Reeves was also in Johnny Mnemonic which had a similar concept.
Many Japanese comics, stories, etc. showcase and celebrate the hero's trip from 0 to 1 on a scale of 100. I believe this is an Asian cultural thing, were struggle _matters_ and even little steps - sometimes invisible to others - are celebrated.
Most US based comics, movies, books, short-stories celebrate the hero's accomplishment _after_ the training period. The hero is already the _the best one around_ in whatever art/skill/etc. Sometimes it's a random event (spiderman, captain america, ironman) or the backstory is quickly brushed off (e.g. jack reacher, even Hiro Protagonist in Cryptonomicon to mention something more involved) in the past.
I believe this approach, gives instant gratification but creates that narrative that _things come for free_ and/or by _design_ (God, nature, randomness, whatever you wanna call it). Not saying one is necessarily better than the other, but IMO there's beauty in widely considered small wins as well, especially when they become consistent.
ps. A counter-example western Hero I can think is Harry Potter. There's too much shine there as well, but Harry ultimately acquires his skillset through struggle. Harry is not as proficient as others, but dealing with dangerous situations through the series grows into a formidable dueller.
> but dealing with dangerous situations through the series grows into a formidable dueller.
Does he? It’s been a while since I’ve read the books but my recollection is that he never actually develops a ton of deep skill, or at least it’s never seen. His biggest accomplishment in magical terms seems to be his ability to do the patronus charm at an earlier age than most. Otherwise most of his success comes from 1) bravery, 2) friends, or 3) luck. At the end he chooses to be an auror, which I thought was odd because it seems like he’s poorly equipped to do that job.
It’s true that the books do not paint his journey as instantaneous (except his proficiency flying the broom). But they also don’t really paint his journey as ending in a place of impressive skill.
> I believe this is an Asian cultural thing
every culture values work
What do you mean, forget? The whole point of the OP was that they are aware of how much time learning takes in real life, otherwise it wouldn't be a problem to solve.
the op probably means that learning kung-fu takes _a lot of practice_. In the real world probably years not just a summer camp :-p
Yeah they're called teachers. Some are good, some are bad.
No, we are very far from anything like that. I would watch Neuralink's recruiting events for a sense of where things are. They are trying to make a robot that will insert dozens of threads with several hundred tiny electrodes on these threads. This will allow reading a high-resolution picture of that part of the brain's activity. You can then hook this up to a computer and train yourself to map your brain's signals to some desired output (typing, moving a wheelchair, robot arm, etc). They talk about "writing", but that is just providing feedback, ie they send in signals and you train to interpret them as something.
If they are successful, you can expect to have an accessible (ie, couple thousand dollars) brain-computer interface covering a tiny portion of your brain sometime in the 2030s. New knowledge would necessarily need new connections between between neurons, ie you have to grow and connect neurons in a very particular and intricate pattern. I think we're still at the "just barely trying to understand wtf is going on" stage.
You can skip ahead to part 3, where he describes the absolute state of the art machine they are building which will be able to map the structure of a tiny slice of brain <1mm^3 part of a brain using advanced optics, robotics and machine learning. It's quite humbling.
Really great question! Former PhD in Neuroscience here. I spent many years building systems and algorithms to decode neural activity in rats. I've been out of neuro for almost a decade now so some of this is out of date, so take this all with a grain of salt.
The TL;DR is yes but its insanely hard and we're decades away from knowing how to do this (if not longer). We still lack the technologies to interface with individual neurons. We're good at reading from a handful of neurons, we very good are reading from a population of neurons.
When it comes to writing there are a number of problems that need to be solved.
First we haven't cracked the "neural code". We don't have a unified theory of how information is represented across the brain. We do have some idea of what individual brain region are doing but the codes used by each region can be wildly different. I'm not as caught up on my neuro literature as I would like but its completely possible their isn't a unified code and therefore we'll need to learn how each specific neural population encodes information. The software analogy here is we're trying to reverse engineer a system running in product without the source code and each module was written in a different programming language that we've never encountered before.
Second we do not have mechanisms to write to individual neurons at the population level. The best we can do is akin to blasting a loud speaker at a crowd of people. We can push around the population but we cannot do much more than that. Software analogy here, what we can do its more akin to Steve Balmer yelling "Developers, developers, developers" than a class room instructor teaching students python. Opto-genetics is a potential path forward here but it requires controlling the genome of an individual and really only lets you target specific neural populations rather than any neuron in the brain.
Third, we still do not understand where the memories or information live exactly. We know what brain regions are involved but we're a long ways away from truly understanding how long term information is consolidated to the cortex from the hippocampus and other structures.
Finally, lets assume we know how to do all of the above (in rodents). Translating the science to humans is going to be a Herculean task for a bunch of reasons. Some of these reasons are scientific while others are ethical. The immune system of the human brain is more aggressive than in other animals and tends to reject implants more quickly. Next finding human test subjects is akin to sending someone to Mars. You're putting their life at risk and there's not true way for them to come back. Nearly all of the human subjects in studies that required invasive brain surgery were suffering from medical conditions so severe that the risk of the condition was greater than surgery and the research was piggy-backed on top of a planned medical intervention.
Thanks for the reply! The last point is one I had not considered. In some ways it might be harder than finding someone willing to go to Mars.
Infohazard comes to mind...
As compelling as that tech would be, the risks are crazy!
Two examples of skills you can quickly obtain are speed-reading and fast silent running. And actually speed-reading is most similar to The Matrix knowledge download. The mind is pretty impressive at character recognition, we just don't use the whole potential. Also muscular programming allows defining the angle, speed, and strength/flexibilty sequence of each feet to run silently at full speed.
God I hope not. For one, it'll put me out of a job as a teacher. For another, you know that it'll just be used to inject corporate propaganda and advertisements into our heads, not cool skills like kung fu and how to fly a helicopter.
No one has any clue how to do this nor will they (likely) ever.
Caveat here that I have no specific expertise in this area.
As far as I'm aware, all of the current work on brain-computer interfaces are focused on output, interpreting electrical signals from the brain either to control external devices or perform some extremely simplistic form of "mind reading." I don't believe anyone is working on input.
That said, there is no reason in principle it can't be done, but there are additional challenges in that encoding knowledge in the brain involves changing neural architecture, and doing that via attached mechanical device is risky. The closest to this we've ever achieved is electroconvulsive shock therapy to try and treat certain types of psychiatric disorders, which is controversial at least. I have no idea how effective. We don't currently have the means to do this at any finer granularity level and we wouldn't know what we're doing anyway because we don't know in any general way how knowledge gets encoded in the brain (and for athletic activities like kung fu, the entire CNS, not just the brain).
I can imagine at least a line of research where we attach extremely good internal sensors to a person's entire CNS and observe what happens when they train. If it looks sufficiently similar on all test subjects, you can possibly assume what you're seeing is a pattern of electrical activity that amounts to "learning kung fu" and then try to induce that via mechanical device rather than actual training.
Even if this works, however, you're limited by a few factors. One, if you've ever done any serious athletic training, you'll know it can actually fry your CNS, not just cause muscle soreness. Your CNS does need time to recover from learning activity. So you can't just upload kung fu instantly, or in the span of hours like they do in the Matrix. The human CNS can't actually handle that level of continuous input and needs rest and recovery.
Let's grant you can still learn faster than by actually training. In The Matrix, they're only ever performing kung fu in a simulation, not in physical reality, so their level of physical fitness doesn't matter. Performing real kung fu takes more than just knowing kung fu. You need to be sufficiently physically fit, in terms of strength, endurance, aerobic capacity, flexibility, everything it takes.
I can imagine a future where, given these limitations, maybe time to mastery can be decreased from 20 years to 2 years, but I don't see it ever being possible to become a kung fu master in a matter of hours like in The Matrix. At least one major difference between brains and hard drives is brains can only have knowledge encoding gradually changed. We need repetition to learn. It isn't possible to just erase a file and write a new one. There are no files. And the rate at which it is possible to learn is inherently limited by biochemical realities. "Electrical signaling" in the brain involves ion channels opening and closing, physical molecules moving around. It's an energy consuming process and it wears down the cellular machinery that then needs to be repaired by producing and emplacing new proteins to replace broken down. These same things are true of silicon microchips, but there are major differences in that you can just keep it plugged in and give a continuing energy source. Humans need to eat, digest, excrete waste, all of which take longer. CPUs can be much more easily and quickly cooled. Some rigs just blast them with liquid nitrogen, which you definitely can't do to a brain. And they can be replaced. You don't need to rebuild them in-place at the molecular level. You can just keep a fresh stock of excess chips, and when one burns out, replace it. When a hard drive fails, you have backups of the file and write them to a fresh hard drive. You can't do that to a brain. You have to let it recover and rebuild itself in-place.
Rather than changing the brain for each individual bit of knowledge, if we can learn how the brain interfaces with itself for that knowledge, it might be possible to keep the new information or skills in digital form and respond to the access attempt. After the initial interface setup, this might be a way to get "instant" new skills, memories, and knowledge.
I wouldn't exactly call electroshock therapy an "input of information"
The same way deep brain stimulation is not an input of information. They're just attempts to modulate neural oscillations in order to alter behaviors and thought processes
To be honest, we don't understand memory itself well enough to build a device for information input. Even our output devices are incredibly blunt and primitive.
Not to say its impossible, people are working constantly on learning how the brain stores information but it doesn't have the sort of funding that cancer research has, so it can be a bit slow going. Also not to say that throwing money at it would solve the problem overnight, the brain as a system is absurdly complex
It'd be surprising that this category of knowledge would be all/only brain-located.
Yes, quite so, one would expect spiritual instead.