How to Be a Genius, via Piotr Wozniak

You must clarify your goals, gain knowledge through spaced repetition, preserve health, work steadily, minimize stress, refuse interruption, and never resist sleep when tired.

That's from this thoroughly interesting article in Wired profiling psychologist Piotr Wozniak about memory, SuperMemo, achievement, foreign language acquisition, and more.

3 Responses to How to Be a Genius, via Piotr Wozniak

  1. Thanks, Ben, I had read this article, but forgot about it.;-)

    So Wozniak winnows written material down to the type of discrete chunks that can be memorized, and then schedules them for efficient learning.

    I wondered what is the purpose of all this learning if in a lifetime one can acquire “only” a few million new items, and there are roughly “only” 24,000,000 waking minutes in a 70-year life.

    If I turned over my mental life to a computerized system, and refused to be pushed around by random inputs and requests, I wouldn’t have a social life, much less a sex life.

    For me, the sacrifice of “turning your back on every convention of social life” is too great a cost for supposed “radically improved intelligence and creativity”.

    I’m surprised Wozniac can maintain a marriage under the rigors of such an extreme approach.

    As a young autodidact, I found that in memorizing either vocabulary words from the dictionary, or the binomial nomenclature of plants, five oral repetitions accompanied by simultaneous visualization of the words or plant names was enough to imprint an eidetic memory (extraordinarily accurate and vivid recall) of the data.

    Many years later I can still retrieve them instantly.

    (But I can’t find my glasses.)

    When I’m brewing up some ayahuasca, I do want to be sure that it’s psychotria viridis that I’m mixing with my Banisteriopsis caapi, but I never use lists for memorization.

    I simply deploy my memory technique at the moment I encounter a new word or a new plant, and it still works.

    Of course, this is anecdotal evidence, but I live life far too randomly to ever submit to a scheduled regimen of self-improvement (if that’s really what it is) like Wozniak’s.

  2. DaveJ says:

    There is no question that remembering better and more can make us more effective, but the “genius” terminology is very misleading. Genius is in how you use what you do know.

    Nevertheless, I like the ideas here – the prospect of learning factual material in a way that is effective for the long term. I suspect that the approaches employed will work significantly better than undirected study even if you don’t dedicate your life to it.

  3. andres says:

    SRS is absolutely rewarding. I’ve been SRSing for longer than 1 year using the supermemo suggestions to consolidate memory.

    however… supermemo is by far the most disorganized piece of software ever written, it’s website is a pain in the butt as well. Most people use either free SRS like anki and mnemosyne

    I’m a bit sad that Cal from Study Hacks still has strong faith in paper cards, maybe you Ben can convince him lol

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