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Knowledge workers & their articles:

Michael Nielsen:

Essential: His article “Augmenting Long-Term Memory“ is a fantastic read covering knowledge formation, Anki, the power of memorisation for fluency & creativity etc, patterns & antipatterns for Anki use amongst other things.

Some relevant quotes from this piece re: the power of Anki for learning, and how it’s not simply for memorising facts:

“My somewhat pious belief was that if people focused more on remembering the basics, and worried less about the “difficult” high-level issues, they’d find the high-level issues took care of themselves.”

“I found it almost unsettling how much easier Anki made learning such subjects. I now believe memory of the basics is often the single largest barrier to understanding”

“With a few days work I’d gone from knowing nothing about deep reinforcement learning to a durable understanding of a key paper in the field, a paper that made use of many techniques that were used across the entire field”

Andy Matuschak:

Andy is a really highly regarded independent researcher & software engineer who previously worked at Khan Academy & Apple.

His website is fantastic & contains articles on a bunch of topics: I haven’t checked them all out, but there are a few really good ones particularly related to Anki/ metalearning. His site is also just beautifully made and makes me wish I was a proper software engineer.

Essential: “Why books don’t work” outlines how books & lectures etc follow the “transmissionism” model of learning (i.e. they rely on the assumption that if you read a non-fiction book for 8 hours, the knowledge is being transmitted into your brain, which it actually totally isn’t without Anki-style systems).

He also has one on how to write good Anki prompts which is a fantastic and exhaustive guide. A genuinely mind-blowing & gamechanging insight I got from this is storing your flashcards in plaintext files so you can add to your knowledge in a more holistic way: he points out that Anki treats each flashcard as a ‘sovereign unit’ whereby once you create one it vanishes into the ether, whereas this way you can clearly see the overall picture of what you’re building, which is really powerful for building upon your flashcards with new ones to attack concepts from different angles.

He has some notes on “unusual anki paradigms”, here, here, here. I’ve now got a master deck called “cards for learning” and another called “other card paradigms”, which so far contains:

  1. Daily reminder prompts for stuff I want to keep top of mind
  2. Open-ended prompts (i.e. “Think of a mental model and apply to life”, “what am I grateful for?”, “what do I need right now?”

Michael Nielsen + Andy Matuschak:

It should be noted that these guys are working in tandem with the aim to create new “Mnemonic mediums”: essentially, as outlined in Andy’s “Why books don’t work”, books don’t work very well for learning. They’ve made an interactive online textbook teaching the basics of quantum mechanics with spaced repetition & active recall baked in called Quantum Country, and Andy is working on an open-source tool called Orbit to allow anyone to add a Mnemonic Medium element to their website. I’m not explaining this too well, definitely worth checking an eye on, and something I really want to dive deeper into!!

Other websites to check out:

This one may be more for people who are deeper into their Anki/ SuperMemo journey, but when I was posting in various places to get some feedback on this site, someone mentioned, which looks INSANELY useful & full of amazing articles, very excited to check it out properly! I’d say if you’re currently reading this and you came from, this website will be an invaluable resource

Online courses:

Learning How To Learn - a well known & free online course about learning. I’d recommend it, but I think for immediate gains getting into Anki first is a better way to go. This course has some great insights re: the mechanics of learning, but there’s not too much in there that I think about reguarly, apart from the idea of learning a field being like making a jigsaw: the more facts you know, the easier it is to attach new ones, whereas if you don’t know much at all, it’s a real struggle (this relates to the idea of “orphan cards” in Anki - making one random card on a random topic is something I’ve done and always regretted as they’re far harder to remember and mean far less to you)

Books: highly recommends Make It Stick.

Masterhowtolearn re: this book: “I couldn’t recommend this book more. The content is totally relevant; stories are engaging; explanations are plain and easy to understand. I got started into this whole meta-learning journey largely due to this book.“

First paragraph from the preface of the book:

“People generally are going about learning in the wrong ways. Empirical research into how we learn and remember shows that much of what we take for gospel about how to learn turns out to be largely wasted effort. Even college and medical students - whose main job is learning - rely on study techniques that are far from optimal. At the same time, this field of research, which goes back 125 years but has been particularly fruitful in recent years, has yielded a body of insights that constitute a growing science of learning: highly effective, evidence-based strategies to replace less effective but widely accepted practices that are rooted in theory, lore, and intuition. But there’s a catch: the most effective learning strategies are not intuitive“.