Here's a situation I watch a video its creator synthesizes all kinds of ideas and comes to an interesting conclusion I think wow I know all about that now then a few hours later I can sort of recall its main points, but if someone asked me to explain it in depth I'd fumble for words.
This happens to me all the time.
It happens when I finish chapters of books episodes of television movies Podcasts articles you name it the story.
I tell myself is that upon completing any reading watching or listening? I feel like I know what it's all about But the truth is I don't I just felt like I knew something without actually knowing it I tricked myself into thinking I was competent in her course learning how to learn UC San Diego professor Barbara Oakley points out many of these Illusions of competence one seeing information in front of you such as reading a book doesn't mean you know it two Seeing or hearing someone come to a conclusion doesn't mean you know how to get to that conclusion or explain their argument 3 searching for something on Google gives you the illusion that the information is in your brain and 4 spending lots of time with Material doesn't mean you know it philosopher Mortimer Adler once said the person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it Usually does not know what he thinks This is the fundamental difference between feeling informed and truly understanding something I am as informed as ever I can more or less parrot opinions I read cite random facts But when tasked with explaining what something is all about why it is the case What its connections are with other facts and theories and putting it in context.
I fall flat on my face It's dangerous when I let these illusions of competence slip into my opinions I so often feel strongly about a position But if pressed I could hardly argue for it so much of media now is designed to make understanding things for ourselves obsolete the packaging of intellectual positions and views is a booming business viewers and listeners get hit with persuasive audio visuals professional rhetoric and Carefully selected data it all amounts to a nice little package for the viewer to make up their own mind with little difficulty Except the packaging is often done So effectively that the viewer listener or reader doesn't make up their own mind at all Instead people become no better than a human Spotify playlist that spits out other people's neatly wrapped opinions without actually understanding any of them to continue with Adler to regard anyone except yourself as Responsible for your judgment is to be a slave not a free man It is from this fact that the liberal arts acquire their name not being able to explain my position or parroting Someone else's means I'm never thinking for myself.
Now, you mean anyone is entitled to their opinion? No matter what it is That's the hallmark of democracy But I know that my life would be fuller if I actually understood everything my emotional brain So adamantly believes I do Charlie Munger the longtime business partner of legendary investor Warren Buffett is famously disciplined when it comes to this idea I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don't know.
The other side's argument better than they do So like any conclusion on getting better at something there's a lot of work involved I have to do a lot of active reading Listen to as many arguments as I can argue with people smarter than me fight against my own emotional bias Think about as many variables as possible It's not the easiest thing to do and there's also my problem at the beginning of the video How am I supposed to form an opinion or understand something when I keep forgetting all the information I? digest one of the many reasons why people have trouble explaining Videos or books or articles is because they simply don't remember what was said it's worth than understanding how the memory works There's two main parts short-term and long-term in recent years.
We've discovered that long-term memory is the seat of understanding, it stores not just facts but complex concepts or schemas by organizing scattered bits of information into patterns of knowledge rights nicholas carr schemas give depth and richness to our thinking understanding and Intelligence is derived largely from the scheme as we have acquired over long periods of time think of the long-term memory like an investment portfolio As you gather more and more schemas you gain intellectual compound interest over time They all begin to connect to each other increasing your understanding of the world Exponentially over time but and here's the key for information to get to your long-term memory in the first place It has to go through a part of the short-term memory called working memory working memory has about two to four slots where we process information it acts as a bottleneck for the infinite amount of information around us The problem is what we hold there can quickly vanish if we don't keep thinking about them or rehearse them in our heads in other words if we don't Grapple with the ideas in our working memory for an extended period of time they never get sent to the long-term memory They just disappear our current culture makes this process challenging We're blasted with new stimuli and information at the rate of a firehose.
This couldn't be worse for our memories Once we surpass these two to four slots in our working memory once we overload with information We begin to get distracted our ability to process and retain information begins to plummet this is in part why I feel like I know so much but understand so little why I can scroll down my twitter feed and barely Remember any of it info jumps in to my working memory? only to be replaced by the next thing and the next thing very little of it if any Makes it into my long-term memory as Nicholas Carr writes as we reach the limits of our working memory It becomes harder to distinguish relevant information from irrelevant information signal from noise We become mindless consumers of data, but it's not just information overload that affects our ability to remember things Multitasking is just as bad.
Our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time when we multitask All we're really doing is quickly switching from one task to another and our brain struggles to commit anything to long-term memory when we're constantly Task switching tab shifting and notification checking every switch is like hitting the reset button It gives no time for deeper processing.
So what's the fix the first is to eliminate? Multitasking distractions and information streams that call overload easier said than done I know we're all well aware at this point that these services exploit our Psychology and it's hard to resist the addicting dopamine surge that comes from checking them But once you have that one source of information a book, for example And it's the only thing you're paying attention to how do you remember that? How do you get the books? arguments into your long-term memory to the point where you could explain them back to someone there aren't a lot of methods that help commit things to long-term memory and I'm going to go through the three big ones Recall the Fineman technique and spaced repetition recall after you've read or watched any Material simply look away and see what you can recall from the material you've just taken in in one experiment students who studied a text and then practiced it by recalling as much information as they could and Repeated that process learn far more than their peers who either went on to something else or reread the text over and over again? practicing recall is counterintuitive to most consumers of content you finish a chapter and you go to the next one or you finish a video and move on to something else but spending as Little as 30 seconds after finishing a chapter or video and recalling its key points vastly improves your understanding Of a topic and commitment of it to long-term memory Then there's the Fineman technique world-renowned physicist and teacher richard fineman codified this method of learning It's probably the best if you want to understand something But it's also the most work intensive one take something you want to understand to write out an explanation as if you were teaching it to someone who didn't understand the Subject three whenever you get stuck go back to the material and relearn eventually you'll fill in the gaps in your knowledge until you can write an explanation without needing the source material for finally attempt to simplify our Explanation getting rid of technical terms and convoluted Language simplify it to the point that a kid could get what you're saying to do this find Minh recommended the use of analogies Analogies connect complex ideas to something more relatable making easier to understand I used to earlier understanding and intelligence is like an investment portfolio it gains compound interest as complex schemas connect with each other and the other Working memory acts like a bottleneck to long-term memory and finally, there's spaced repetition LeBron James has undoubtedly put in tens of thousands of hours shooting hoops over many years The Beatles practiced music for years before they became masters of the craft.
Why don't we do that with information and arguments? There are a lot of reasons but one of the big ones is that people assume the brain is a computer Once you get the information, it's there forever But the brain functions much more like a muscle and like any muscle it needs to be exercised its neural connection strengthened There's the famous saying neurons that fire together wire together in other words the more often you use the neurons grappling with the information you want to commit to memory the Stronger those connections will get and the stronger your memory and understanding of that information will get spaced repetition Does this by firing the neurons over a long period of time if you read? recall or do the Fineman technique on the key concepts from say Kant's Philosophy and spaced them out by three days over the course of a couple weeks It results in the highest amount of memory retention much better than if you were to do it all at once you may be thinking Read the same thing again recall the same thing again do the Fineman technique again over a long period of time Unfortunately, that's the reality if you want to understand something long-term We are strapped for time most days of our lives doing all this work outside of our jobs or other Responsibilities of daily life sounds like an awful task.
So we turn to others to do it for us It makes plenty of sense and I'll also add that life isn't the book report You don't need to be memorizing and understanding everything that comes your way.
That's absurd what I wish I did more often However is spent more time thinking about one important thing at a time instead of trying to absorb as much information as possible Only to forget most of it as Charlie Munger has said our job Is to find a few intelligent things to do not keep up with every damn thing in the world It's a call to increase the quality of the information you receive rather than the quantity and to spend more time with it Union College Psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Christopher Sabri says the internet plays to our natural tendency to vastly over value What happens to us right now? Our bias towards novelty is strong and forces us towards the trivial rather than the essential no matter what amount of work Anyone does people will continue to hold different opinions and that's when intellectual humility Becomes important to recognize the limits of your knowledge and to appreciate others Intellectual strengths is one of the best things a person can do It's not only where learning happens but it's also where disagreements become more constructive I think Cal Turnbull founder of the change my view subreddit sums it up well It seems to be in our nature to focus on how we were wrong over the fact that we're now Smarter as if we can't be works in progress and we often attach our egos to what we believe A view is just how you see something It doesn't have to define you and trying to detach from it to gain understanding can be a very good thing Real knowledge as Confucius once said is to know the extent of one's ignorance The trick is not to be fooled by illusions of superiority and to learn to accurately reevaluate our competence each day because in Adler's words true freedom is Impossible without a mind made free by discipline what's on trial is not just the weight of our opinions but our entire understanding of the world This video has been brought to you by audible and if you're as interested as I am in how our brains Interface with the internet how prone we are to know a large breadth of information But understand very little of it then I highly recommend the shallows by nicholas carr.
He goes into philosophy neuroscience history and media theory This book go to audible.
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