Understanding Requires Effort

  • to really understand something conscious effort is required
  • I keep looking at this through the lens of being somehow limited by my brain, no ideal note-taking system (or possibly helping-thinking-system) will solve this (memex and my limits)
  • this is related to constructionism - there's no way to just "download" the knowledge (transmissionism)
    • this also might be why some of the best workshops/lessons are the ones where students work on their own projects
    • obviously it's easier to make this effort when an idea is interesting to the student - it's hard to learn things which we are not interested in
  • I'm curious if going into this effortful mode can be trained the same way that attention span can
  • realising how much effort is given to understanding something is a metacognitive skill
  • references:

    When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. (...) For the more one reads the fewer are the traces left of what one has read; the mind is like a tablet that has been written over and over. Hence it is impossible to reflect; and it is only by reflection that one can assimilate what one has read if one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later, what has been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost. Indeed, it is the same with mental as with bodily food: scarcely the fifth part of what a man takes is assimilated; the remainder passes off in evaporation, respiration, and the like.

    — Schopenhauer

  • computers are currently made to be "easy to start using", bicycles are not - they require effortful learning (and mastering), but it pays off in the long term
  • but most important technologies have high barriers of entry - written/spoken language, mathematics, etc. all require conscious effort to master, but the "payout" is huge - maybe there's some relation between how high the entry barrier can be vs how big the "payout" is?
  • maybe part of the reason that it works, is that it forces effort (and Understanding Requires Effort), but I have an inkling that maybe there's something more here

The main premise is there though notes are short, they usually contain one idea, even if I can't name it yet (this also leads to interesting note titles, like spreadsheets might be a wrong model, or understanding requires effort). Notes are interlinked through direct links, and automatic backlinks (via muninn cli tooling). If I have a bunch of notes which seem related in some way, I create index note to collect them together, enforcing a specific point of view. Single note can be in multiple different indexes that way (connections are usually better than taxonomies).

Szymon Kaliski © 2022