nhaliday + prioritizing   60

Ask HN: What's a promising area to work on? | Hacker News
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27 days ago by nhaliday
How I Choose What To Read — David Perell
READING HEURISTICS
1. TRUST RECOMMENDATIONS — BUT NOT TOO MUCH
2. TAME THE THRILLERS
3. BLEND A BIZARRE BOWL
4. TRUST THE LINDY EFFECT
5. FAVOR BIOGRAPHIES OVER SELF-HELP
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27 days ago by nhaliday
Ask HN: How do you manage your one-man project? | Hacker News
The main thing is to not fall into the "productivity porn" trap of trying to find the best tool instead of actually getting stuff done - when something simple is more than enough.
hn  discussion  productivity  workflow  exocortex  management  prioritizing  parsimony  recommendations  software  desktop  app  webapp  notetaking  discipline  q-n-a 
7 weeks ago by nhaliday
Why You Should Learn Cultures, Not Languages | LinkedIn
Given the nature of my work, I’m constantly asked what languages people should invest their energies learning. If you do have a knack for languages, and lots of time on your hands, study Chinese. It’s a business language of the future, and China remains the most politically disruptive force in the world order today. That’s where the smart money is.

But looking back, I would have spent less time on learning a language. Seriously. Though I studied Russian for many years, my Russian skills have atrophied over time. What remains is the insight I gathered into the mentality, familiarizing myself with how other people in the world live by interacting with them directly. That’s never gone away. It gave me the type of perspective that remains critical to my work to this day.

A lot has changed since those days. The rise of technology plays a big role in the advice I’m handing out here. Technology will soon make language barriers obsolete, probably in the next five to 10 years. Google Translate has already removed most of the barriers of the written word, though with occasionally hilarious results, and new generations of smartphone apps will do the same for verbal communication in short order. Of course, it’s important to show people that you care enough about their country to learn their language.
journos-pundits  world  developing-world  language  foreign-lang  cost-benefit  prioritizing  culture  cultural-dynamics  alien-character  china  asia  travel  tip-of-tongue  human-capital  strategy 
9 weeks ago by nhaliday
Learning to learn | jiasi
It might sound a bit stupid, but I just realized that a better reading strategy could help me learn faster, almost three times as fast as before.

To enter a research field, we sometimes have to read tens of research papers. We could alternatively read summaries like textbooks and survey papers, which are generally more comprehensive and more friendly for non-experts. But some fields don’t have good summaries out there, for reasons like the fields being too new, too narrow, or too broad.

...

Part 1. Taking good notes and keeping them organized.

Where we store information greatly affects how we access it. If we can always easily find some information — from Google or our own notes — then we can pick it up quickly, even after forgetting it. This observation can make us smarter.

Let’s do the same when reading papers. Now I keep searchable notes as follows:
- For every topic, create a document that contains the notes for all papers on this topic.[1]
- For each paper, take these notes: summaries, quotes, and sufficient bibliographic information for future lookup.[2, pages 95-99]
- When reading a new paper, if it cites a paper that I have already read, review the notes for the cited paper. Update the notes as needed.
This way, we won’t lose what we have read and learned.

Part 2. Skipping technical sections for 93% of the time.

Only 7% of readers of a paper will read its technical sections.[1] Thus, if we want to read like average, it might make sense to skip technical sections for roughly 93% of papers that we read. For example, consider reading each paper like this:
- Read only the big-picture sections — abstract, introduction, and conclusion;
- Scan the technical sections — figures, tables, and the first and the last paragraphs for each section[2, pages 76-77] — to check surprises;
- Take notes;
- Done!
In theory, the only 7% of the papers that we need to read carefully would be those that we really have to know well.
techtariat  scholar  academia  meta:research  notetaking  studying  learning  grad-school  phd  reflection  meta:reading  prioritizing  quality  writing  technical-writing  growth  checklists  metabuch  advice 
september 2019 by nhaliday
What kind of problems give an MLE (memory limit exceeded)? - Quora
To be fair, memory limit exceeded is a pretty rare occurrence. Problems aren't usually set such that you have to optimize for memory.
q-n-a  qra  programming  oly  oly-programming  space-complexity  stylized-facts  computer-memory  prioritizing 
july 2019 by nhaliday
How Many Keystrokes Programers Type a Day?
I was quite surprised how low my own figure is. But thinking about it… it makes sense. Even though we sit in front of computer all day, but the actual typing is a small percentage of that. Most of the time, you have to lunch, run errands, browse web, read docs, chat on phone, run to the bathroom. Perhaps only half of your work time is active coding or writing email/docs. Of that duration, perhaps majority of time you are digesting the info on screen.
techtariat  convexity-curvature  measure  keyboard  time  cost-benefit  data  time-use  workflow  efficiency  prioritizing  editors 
june 2019 by nhaliday
documentation - Materials for learning TikZ - TeX - LaTeX Stack Exchange
The way I learned all three was basically demand-driven --- "learning by doing". Whenever I needed something "new", I'd dig into the manual and try stuff until either it worked (not always most elegantly), or in desperation go to the examples website, or moan here on TeX-'n-Friends. Occasionally supplemented by trying to answer "challenging" questions here.

yeah I kinda figured that was the right approach. just not worth the time to be proactive.
q-n-a  stackex  latex  list  links  tutorial  guide  learning  yak-shaving  recommendations  programming  visuo  dataviz  prioritizing  technical-writing 
may 2019 by nhaliday
Reverse salients | West Hunter
Edison thought in terms of reverse salients and critical problems.

“Reverse salients are areas of research and development that are lagging in some obvious way behind the general line of advance. Critical problems are the research questions, cast in terms of the concrete particulars of currently available knowledge and technique and of specific exemplars or models that are solvable and whose solutions would eliminate the reverse salients. ”

What strikes you as as important current example of a reverse salient, and the associated critical problem or problems?
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  science  technology  innovation  low-hanging  list  top-n  research  open-problems  the-world-is-just-atoms  marginal  definite-planning  frontier  🔬  speedometer  ideas  the-trenches  hi-order-bits  prioritizing  judgement 
may 2019 by nhaliday
Why read old philosophy? | Meteuphoric
(This story would suggest that in physics students are maybe missing out on learning the styles of thought that produce progress in physics. My guess is that instead they learn them in grad school when they are doing research themselves, by emulating their supervisors, and that the helpfulness of this might partially explain why Nobel prizewinner advisors beget Nobel prizewinner students.)

The story I hear about philosophy—and I actually don’t know how much it is true—is that as bits of philosophy come to have any methodological tools other than ‘think about it’, they break off and become their own sciences. So this would explain philosophy’s lone status in studying old thinkers rather than impersonal methods—philosophy is the lone ur-discipline without impersonal methods but thinking.

This suggests a research project: try summarizing what Aristotle is doing rather than Aristotle’s views. Then write a nice short textbook about it.
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june 2018 by nhaliday
Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point: https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/02/22/christianity-is-the-schelling-point/
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/04/morals-should-be-adaptive.html
I agree with this
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Docta Ignorantia – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!
One minor advantage of cultural homogeneity is that it gives you tools to figure out exactly how ignorant a society’s authors and intellectuals truly were. In an era when the pool of books written on any given topic was small, then if someone says something quirky we can eventually, given enough time and coffee, figure out exactly where he got his quirky ideas from.

...

However it may be, Schelling was a genius, and his contemporaries recognized his genius at an early age and rewarded it. For us this may be slightly difficult to parse, at first: how can you recognize the intellectual talent of a man — of a boy, really — who is in fact deeply ignorant of his own field, philosophy? How can you make him a professor and expect him to lecture on what he has only just started to study?

In our already-degenerate culture, talent has become synonymous with grinding. Having no common standards for the good, the beautiful, and the true, we have no easy way to judge whether someone who disagrees with us is far-sighted or short-sighted. (Imagine looking at Monet’s haystacks for the very first time.) With no consensus on the questions that matter, to seek standards for expertise we have no choice but to turn to the things that don’t matter: the raw mass of (relatively) uncontroversial background material that anyone hoping to become an expert on a certain subject would find useful.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Relative Effects of Forward and Backward Planning on Goal PursuitPsychological Science - Jooyoung Park, Fang-Chi Lu, William M. Hedgcock, 2017
Compared with forward planning, backward planning not only led to greater motivation, higher goal expectancy, and less time pressure but also resulted in better goal-relevant performance. We further demonstrated that this motivational effect occurred because backward planning allowed people to think of tasks required to reach their goals more clearly, especially when goals were complex to plan. These findings suggest that the way people plan matters just as much as whether or not they plan.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Low-Hanging Fruit: Nyekulturny | West Hunter
The methodology is what’s really interesting.  Kim Lewis and Slava Epstein sorted individual soil bacteria into chambers of a device they call the iChip, which is then buried in the ground – the point being that something like 98% of soil bacteria cannot be cultured in standard media, while in this approach, key compounds (whatever they are) can diffuse in from the soil, allowing something like 50% of soil bacteria species to grow.  They then tested the bacterial colonies (10,000 of them) to see if any slammed S. aureus – and some did.

...

I could be wrong, but I wonder if part of the explanation is that microbiology – the subject – is in relative decline, suffering because of funding and status competition with molecular biology and genomics (sexier and less useful than microbiology) . That and the fact that big pharma is not enthusiastic about biological products.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
mental gluttony – Snakes and Ladders
Again, while it is a great blessing that a man no longer has to be rich in order to enjoy the masterpieces of the past, for paperbacks, first-rate color reproductions, and stereo-phonograph records have made them available to all but the very poor, this ease of access, if misused — and we do misuse it — can become a curse. We are all of us tempted to read more books, look at more pictures, listen to more music than we can possibly absorb, and the result of such gluttony is not a cultured mind but a consuming one; what it reads, looks at, listens to is immediately forgotten, leaving no more traces behind than yesterday’s newspaper.

https://twitter.com/eli_schiff/status/860648590854762498
Clearing up browser bookmarks of saved reading. Realizing that having way too much to read for a lifetime isn't something to be proud of.

https://twitter.com/GtaGrothendieck/status/886639545583886336
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Alzheimers | West Hunter
Some disease syndromes almost have to be caused by pathogens – for example, any with a fitness impact (prevalence x fitness reduction) > 2% or so, too big to be caused by mutational pressure. I don’t think that this is the case for AD: it hits so late in life that the fitness impact is minimal. However, that hardly means that it can’t be caused by a pathogen or pathogens – a big fraction of all disease syndromes are, including many that strike in old age. That possibility is always worth checking out, not least because infectious diseases are generally easier to prevent and/or treat.

There is new work that strongly suggests that pathogens are the root cause. It appears that the amyloid is an antimicrobial peptide. amyloid-beta binds to invading microbes and then surrounds and entraps them. ‘When researchers injected Salmonella into mice’s hippocampi, a brain area damaged in Alzheimer’s, A-beta quickly sprang into action. It swarmed the bugs and formed aggregates called fibrils and plaques. “Overnight you see the plaques throughout the hippocampus where the bugs were, and then in each single plaque is a single bacterium,” Tanzi says. ‘

obesity and pathogens: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/alzheimers/#comment-79757
not sure about this guy, but interesting: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/alzheimers/#comment-79748
http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2010/06/is-alzheimer%E2%80%99s-caused-by-a-bacterial-infection-of-the-brain/

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/the-twelfth-battle-of-the-isonzo/
All too often we see large, long-lasting research efforts that never produce, never achieve their goal.

For example, the amyloid hypothesis [accumulation of amyloid-beta oligomers is the cause of Alzheimers] has been dominant for more than 20 years, and has driven development of something like 15 drugs. None of them have worked. At the same time the well-known increased risk from APOe4 has been almost entirely ignored, even though it ought to be a clue to the cause.

In general, when a research effort has been spinning its wheels for a generation or more, shouldn’t we try something different? We could at least try putting a fraction of those research dollars into alternative approaches that have not yet failed repeatedly.

Mostly this applies to research efforts that at least wish they were science. ‘educational research’ is in a special class, and I hardly know what to recommend. Most of the remedial actions that occur to me violate one or more of the Geneva conventions.

APOe4 related to lymphatic system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apolipoprotein_E

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/spontaneous-generation/#comment-2236
Look,if I could find out the sort of places that I usually misplace my keys – if I did, which I don’t – I could find the keys more easily the next time I lose them. If you find out that practitioners of a given field are not very competent, it marks that field as a likely place to look for relatively easy discovery. Thus medicine is a promising field, because on the whole doctors are not terribly good investigators. For example, none of the drugs developed for Alzheimers have worked at all, which suggests that our ideas on the causation of Alzheimers are likely wrong. Which suggests that it may (repeat may) be possible to make good progress on Alzheimers, either by an entirely empirical approach, which is way underrated nowadays, or by dumping the current explanation, finding a better one, and applying it.

You could start by looking at basic notions of field X and asking yourself: How do we really know that? Is there serious statistical evidence? Does that notion even accord with basic theory? This sort of checking is entirely possible. In most of the social sciences, we don’t, there isn’t, and it doesn’t.

Hygiene and the world distribution of Alzheimer’s disease: Epidemiological evidence for a relationship between microbial environment and age-adjusted disease burden: https://academic.oup.com/emph/article/2013/1/173/1861845/Hygiene-and-the-world-distribution-of-Alzheimer-s

Amyloid-β peptide protects against microbial infection in mouse and worm models of Alzheimer’s disease: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/8/340/340ra72

Fungus, the bogeyman: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21676754-curious-result-hints-possibility-dementia-caused-fungal
Fungus and dementia
paper: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep15015

Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/1/eaau3333
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Read History Of Philosophy Backwards | Slate Star Codex
https://twitter.com/robinhanson/status/810281385852276736
Philosophy is mainly useful in inoculating you against other philosophy. Else you'll be vulnerable to the first coherent philosophy you hear
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Leaving Social Media Taught Me How Broken The News Cycle Is | FiveThirtyEight
Informing Ourselves to Death: https://secondnaturejournal.com/informing-ourselves-to-death/
Neil Postman appears on The Open Mind on December 8, 1990 to discuss the problem of information glut with host Richard Heffner.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Rheumatoid Arthritis | West Hunter
It causes characteristic changes in the bones.  Key point:  it is vanishingly rare in Old World skeletons before the 17th century.  Those changes, however, been seen in some pre-Columbian Amerindian skeletons [work by Bruce Rothschild].

The obvious explanation is that RA is caused by some pathogen that originated in the Americas and later spread to the rest of the world.  Like the French disease.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/montezumas-revenge/
Everybody knows that the Amerindians were devastated by new infectious diseases after Columbus discovered America and made it stick. Smallpox, falciparum malaria, yellow fever, bubonic plague, cholera, measles, whooping cough, etc : by some estimates, the Amerindian population dropped by about 90%, worse than the Black Plague, which only killed off half of Europe. Naturally, you wonder what ailments the Americas exported to the rest of the world.

We know of two for sure. First, syphilis: the first known epidemic was in 1495, in Naples, during a French invasion. By 1520 it had reached Africa and China.

From the timing of the first epidemic, and the apparent newness of the disease, many have suspected that it was an import from the New World. Some, like Bartolome de las Casas, had direct knowledge: Las Casas was in Seville in 1493, his father and uncle sailed with Columbus on the second voyage, and he himself traveled to the New World in 1502, where he spent most of the rest of his life working with the Amerindians. Ruiz Diaz de Isla, a Spanish physician, reported treating some of Columbus’s crew for syphilis, and that he had observed its rapid spread in Barcelona.

I have seen someone object to this scenario, on the grounds that the two years after Columbus’s return surely couldn’t have been long enough to generate a major outbreak. I think maybe that guy doesn’t get out much. It has always looked plausible, considering paleopathological evidence (bone changes) and the timing of the first epidemic. Recent analysis shows that some American strains of pinta (a treponemal skin disease) are genetically closest to the venereal strains. I’d say the Colombian theory is pretty well established, at this point.

Interestingly, before the genetic evidence, this was one of the longest-running disputes among historians. As far as I can tell, part of the problem was (and is) that many in the social sciences routinely apply Ockham’s razor in reverse. Simple explanations are bad, even when they fit all the facts. You see this in medicine, too.

...

There are two other diseases that are suspected of originating in the Americas. The first is typhus, gaol fever, caused by a Rickettsial organism and usually spread by lice. Sometimes it recurs after many years, in a mild form called Brill’s disease, rather like chickenpox and shingles. This means that typhus is always waiting in the wings: if the world gets sufficiently messed up, it will reappear.

Typhus shows up most often in war, usually in cool countries. There is a claim that there was a clear epidemic in Granada in 1489, which would definitely predate Columbus, but descriptions of disease symptoms by premodern physicians are amazingly unreliable. The first really reliable description seems to have been by Fracastoro, in 1546 (according to Hans Zinsser in Rats, Lice, and History). The key hint is the existence of a very closely related organism in American flying squirrels.

Thinking about it, I have the impression that the legions of the Roman Republic didn’t have high casualties due to infectious disease, while that was the dominant cause of death in more recent European armies, up until the 20tth century. If smallpox, measles, syphilis, bubonic plague, perhaps typhus, simply hadn’t arrived yet, this makes sense. Falciparum malaria wasn’t much of a factor in northern Italy until Imperial times…

The second possibly American disease is rheumatoid arthritis. We don’t even know that it has an infectious cause – but we do know that it causes characteristic skeletal changes, and that no clear-cut pre-Columbian rheumatoid skeletons are known from the Old World, while a number have been found in the lower South. To me, this makes some infectious cause seem likely: it would very much be worth following this up with the latest molecular genetic methods.

American crops like maize and potatoes more than canceled the demographic impact of syphilis and typhus. But although the Old World produced more dangerous pathogens than the Americas, due to size, longer time depth of agriculture, and more domesticated animals, luck played a role, too. Something as virulent as smallpox or falciparum malaria could have existed in the Americas, and if it had, Europe would have been devastated.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/montezumas-revenge/#comment-2910
Malaria came from Africa, probably. There are old primate versions. Smallpox, dunno: I have heard people suggest viral infections of cows and monkeys as ancestral. Measles is derived from rinderpest, probably less than two thousand years ago.

Falciparum malaria has been around for a while, but wasn’t found near Rome during the Republic. It seems to have gradually moved north in Italy during classical times, maybe because the range of the key mosquito species was increasing. By early medieval times it was a big problem around Rome.

Smallpox probably did not exist in classical Greece: there is no clear description in the literature of the time. It may have arrived in the Greco-Roman world in 165 AD, as the Antonine plague.

The Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis: http://sci-hub.tw/http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1004965

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/age-of-discovery-pandora/
In the Age of Discovery, Europeans were playing with fire. Every voyage of exploration risked bring back some new plague. From the New World, syphilis, probably typhus and rheumatoid arthritis. From India, cholera. HIV, recently, from Africa. Comparably important new pests attacking important crops and domesticated animals also arrived, such as grape phylloxera (which wiped out most of the vineyards of Europe) and potato blight ( an oomycete or ‘water mold’, from central Mexico).

If one of those plagues had been as potent as smallpox or falciparum malaria, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
In the first place | West Hunter
We hear a lot about innovative educational approaches, and since these silly people have been at this for a long time now, we hear just as often about the innovative approaches that some idiot started up a few years ago and are now crashing in flames.  We’re in steady-state.

I’m wondering if it isn’t time to try something archaic.  In particular, mnemonic techniques, such as the method of loci.  As far as I know, nobody has actually tried integrating the more sophisticated mnemonic techniques into a curriculum.  Sure, we all know useful acronyms, like the one for resistor color codes, but I’ve not heard of anyone teaching kids how to build a memory palace.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/in-the-first-place/#comment-20106
I have never used formal mnemonic techniques, but life has recently tested me on how well I remember material from my college days. Turns out that I can still do the sorts of math and physics problems that I could then, in subjects like classical mechanics, real analysis, combinatorics, complex variables, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, etc. I usually have to crack the book though. Some of that material I have used from time to time, or even fairly often (especially linear algebra), most not. I’m sure I’m slower than I was then, at least on the stuff I haven’t used.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/in-the-first-place/#comment-20109
Long-term memory capacity must be finite, but I know of no evidence that anyone has ever run out of it. As for the idea that you don’t really need a lot of facts in your head to come up with new ideas: pretty much the opposite of the truth, in a lot of fields.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci

Mental Imagery > Ancient Imagery Mnemonics: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mental-imagery/ancient-imagery-mnemonics.html
In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, very elaborate versions of the method evolved, using specially learned imaginary spaces (Memory Theaters or Palaces), and complex systems of predetermined symbolic images, often imbued with occult or spiritual significances. However, modern experimental research has shown that even a simple and easily learned form of the method of loci can be highly effective (Ross & Lawrence, 1968; Maguire et al., 2003), as are several other imagery based mnemonic techniques (see section 4.2 of the main entry).

The advantages of organizing knowledge in terms of country and place: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/02/advantages-organizing-knowledge-terms-country-place.html

https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-best-books-on-Memory-Palace

fascinating aside:
US vs Nazi army, Vietnam, the draft: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/in-the-first-place/#comment-20136
You think I know more about this than a retired major general and former head of the War College? I do, of course, but that fact itself should worry you.

He’s not all wrong, but a lot of what he says is wrong. For example, the Germany Army was a conscript army, so conscription itself can’t explain why the Krauts were about 25% more effective than the average American unit. Nor is it true that the draft in WWII was corrupt.

The US had a different mix of armed forces – more air forces and a much larger Navy than Germany. Those services have higher technical requirements and sucked up a lot of the smarter guys. That was just a product of the strategic situation.

The Germans had better officers, partly because of better training and doctrine, partly the fruit of a different attitude towards the army. The US, much of the time, thought of the Army as a career for losers, but Germans did not.

The Germans had an enormous amount of relevant combat experience, much more than anyone in the US. Spend a year or two on the Eastern Front and you learn.

And the Germans had better infantry weapons.

The US tooth-to-tail ratio was , I think, worse than that of the Germans: some of that was a natural consequence of being an expeditionary force, but some was just a mistake. You want supply sergeants to be literate, but it is probably true that we put too many of the smarter guys into non-combat positions. That changed some when we ran into manpower shortages in late 1944 and combed out the support positions.

This guy is back-projecting Vietnam problems into WWII – he’s mostly wrong.

more (more of a focus on US Marines than Army): https://www.quora.com/Were-US-Marines-tougher-than-elite-German-troops-in-WW2/answer/Joseph-Scott-13
west-hunter  scitariat  speculation  ideas  proposal  education  learning  retention  neurons  the-classics  nitty-gritty  visuo  spatial  psych-architecture  multi  poast  history  mostly-modern  world-war  war  military  strategy  usa  europe  germanic  cold-war  visual-understanding  cartoons  narrative  wordlessness  comparison  asia  developing-world  knowledge  metabuch  econotariat  marginal-rev  discussion  world  thinking  government  local-global  humility  wire-guided  policy  iron-age  mediterranean  wiki  reference  checklists  exocortex  early-modern  org:edu  philosophy  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  qra  q-n-a  books  recommendations  list  links  ability-competence  leadership  elite  higher-ed  math  physics  linear-algebra  cost-benefit  prioritizing  defense  martial  war-nerd  worrydream 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Low-Hanging Poop | West Hunter
Obviously, sheer disgust made it hard for doctors to embrace this treatment.  There’s a lesson here: in the search for low-hanging fruit,  reconsider approaches that are embarrassing, or offensive, or downright disgusting.
west-hunter  scitariat  stories  discussion  medicine  meta:medicine  being-right  info-dynamics  epistemic  emotion  sanctity-degradation  education  low-hanging  error  bounded-cognition  embodied  policy  ideas  the-trenches  alt-inst  innovation  discovery  prioritizing  arbitrage  judgement 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Arthur Schopenhauer: Chapter XXIV, On Reading and Books
§290
Ignorance degrades a man only when it is found in company with wealth. A poor man is subdued by his poverty and distress; with him his work takes the place of knowledge and occupies his thoughts. On the other hand, the wealthy who are ignorant live merely for their pleasures and are like animals, as can be seen every day. Moreover, there is the reproach that wealth and leisure have not been used for that which bestows on them the greatest possible value.

§291
When we read, someone else thinks for us; we repeat merely his mental process. It is like the pupil who, when learning to write, goes over with his pen the strokes made in pencil by the teacher. Accordingly, when we read, the work of thinking is for the most part taken away from us. Hence the noticeable relief when from preoccupation with our thoughts we pass to reading. But while we are reading our mind is really only the playground of other people’s ideas; and when these finally depart, what remains? The result is that, whoever reads very much and almost the entire day but at intervals amuses himself with thoughtless pastime, gradually loses the ability to think for himself; just as a man who always rides ultimately forgets how to walk. But such is the case with very many scholars; they have read themselves stupid. [...]
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march 2017 by nhaliday
I Want a New Drug | West Hunter
Big pharma has taken a new course over the past few years. In the past, most useful drugs originated in some kind of living organism – penicillin, quinine, insulin, etc etc. Nowadays, big pharmaceutical companies use combinatorial chemistry and computer modeling. Merck has sold off its biological-products research arm. This new approach, combined with doubled spending on drug R&D, has been a resounding failure. The rate of development of fundamentally new drugs – ‘new molecular entities’ – is running about 40% of that seen in the 1970s. Since big pharma makes its money from drugs that are still on patent, this slowed innovation is a real threat to their bottom line.

...

I think that this is an instance of a more general trend: often a modern, advanced approach shows up, and it persists long after it’s been shown to be a miserable failure. You can see some of the reasons why: the people trained in the new technique would lose out if it were abandoned. Hard to imagine combinatorial chemists rooting around in a garbage can looking for moldy fruit.
west-hunter  discussion  pharma  medicine  FDA  randy-ayndy  regularizer  critique  minimalism  bio  nature  low-hanging  drugs  error  scitariat  info-dynamics  innovation  ideas  discovery  meta:medicine  stagnation  parasites-microbiome  the-trenches  alt-inst  dirty-hands  regulation  civil-liberty  proposal  corporation  fashun  prioritizing 
february 2017 by nhaliday
What was the hardest part of doing your Ph.D.? - Quora
I think it’s a 5-way tie, each hard in its own way:
- Picking a good topic.
- Figuring out how to bound it.
- Actually getting started.
- Going on when nothing works as you had planned.
- Knowing when to stop.

A good advisor can make some of these things easier, but you’re the one who has to do them all.
q-n-a  qra  grad-school  phd  planning  scholar  success  advice  prioritizing 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Advice to a new graduate student
first 3 points (tough/connected advisor, big picture, benchmarking) are key:

1. There is often a tradeoff between the advisor from whom you will learn the most vs the one who will help your career the most. Letters of recommendation are the most important factor in obtaining a postdoc/faculty job, and some professors are 10x as influential as others. However, the influential prof might be a jerk and not good at training students. The kind mentor with deep knowledge or the approachable junior faculty member might not be a mover and shaker.

2. Most grad students fail to grasp the big picture in their field and get too caught up in their narrowly defined dissertation project.

3. Benchmark yourself against senior scholars at a similar stage in their (earlier) careers. What should you have accomplished / mastered as a grad student or postdoc in order to keep pace with your benchmark?

4. Take the opportunity to interact with visitors and speakers. Don't assume that because you are a student they'll be uninterested in intellectual exchange with you. Even established scholars are pleased to be asked interesting questions by intelligent grad students. If you get to the stage where the local professors think you are really good, i.e., they sort of think of you as a peer intellect or colleague, you might get invited along to dinner with the speaker!

5. Understand the trends and bandwagons in your field. Most people cannot survive on the job market without chasing trends at least a little bit. But always save some brainpower for thinking about the big questions that most interest you.

6. Work your ass off. If you outwork the other guy by 10%, the compound effect over time could accumulate into a qualitative difference in capability or depth of knowledge.

7. Don't be afraid to seek out professors with questions. Occasionally you will get a gem of an explanation. Most things, even the most conceptually challenging, can be explained in a very clear and concise way after enough thought. A real expert in the field will have accumulated many such explanations, which are priceless.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Thoughts on graduate school | Secret Blogging Seminar
I’ll organize my thoughts around the following ideas.

- Prioritize reading readable sources
- Build narratives
- Study other mathematician’s taste
- Do one early side project
- Find a clump of other graduate students
- Cast a wide net when looking for an advisor
- Don’t just work on one thing
- Don’t graduate until you have to
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september 2016 by nhaliday
On Refusing to Read - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The activity of nonreading is something that scholars rarely discuss. When they — or others whose identities are bound up with books — do so, the discussions tend to have a shamefaced quality. Blame "cultural capital" — the sense of superiority associated with laying claim to books that mark one’s high social status. More entertainingly, blame Humiliation, the delicious game that a diabolical English professor invents in David Lodge’s 1975 academic satire, Changing Places. In a game of Humiliation, players win points for not having read canonical books that everyone else in the game has read. One hapless junior faculty member in the novel wins a departmental round but loses his tenure case. In real life, the game has been most happily played by the tenured professor secure in his reputation. Changing Places had apparently inspired my adviser’s confession to someone at some point, and the information then wound through the gossip mill to reach me, standing around in the mid-1990s with a beer, trying to hide my own growing list of unread books.

Consider, however, the fact that, as Matthew Wilkens points out, in 2011 more than 50,000 new novels were published in the United States alone. "The problem of abundance" is a problem for every person who has an internet connection, and it is a professional problem in every corner of literary study. Nonreading, seen in this light, is not a badge of shame, but the way of the future. Franco Moretti has been making this point for years about the literary production of the 18th and 19th centuries, inspiring a few labs-worth of scholars to turn to machine reading — for example, using algorithms to find patterns in a particular era’s literary works. This is a form of not reading that holds tight to the dream that our literary scholarship should be based on the activity of reading as much as humanly or inhumanly possible.
academia  literature  learning  attention  contrarianism  essay  rhetoric  len:long  org:mag  org:edu  minimalism  news  signal-noise  serene  culture  time-use  inhibition  info-foraging  prioritizing  explore-exploit 
september 2016 by nhaliday
Home Page << Autobiographical writing software designed to stimulate psychological growth; Self Authoring
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/19/writing-your-way-to-happiness/

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2011/12/easy-job-fix.html
I’ve been slowly working my way through Triver’s book Folly of Fools. Chapter six reviews the many amazing benefits that appear to arise from having people write about their troubles. For example:

>Writing about job loss improves one’s chance of reemployment. This sort of writing appears to be cathartic – people immediately feel better. More striking, at least in one study, is a sharply increased chance of getting a job. After six months, 53 percent of writers had found a new job, compared with only 18 percent of non writers. One effect of writing is that it helps you work through your anger so it is not displaced onto a new, prospective employer or, indeed, revealed to the employer in any form.

...

This suggests an easy way to increase employment, at least if the problem is employee attitudes. Digging more, I found this ’01 review, which seems to confirm the benefits of writing therapy. It all does seem a bit hard to believe, but stranger things have been true.

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/o7nRiBP9W8xR5E4v5/meta-analysis-of-writing-therapy

Not Learning From Failure—the Greatest Failure of All: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797619881133
Our society celebrates failure as a teachable moment. Yet in five studies (total N = 1,674), failure did the opposite: It undermined learning.
...
Why does failure undermine learning? Failure is ego threatening, which causes people to tune out. Participants learned less from personal failure than from personal success, yet they learned just as much from other people’s failure as from others’ success. Thus, when ego concerns are muted, people tune in and learn from failure.
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july 2016 by nhaliday
soft question - How do you not forget old math? - MathOverflow
Terry Tao:
I find that blogging about material that I would otherwise forget eventually is extremely valuable in this regard. (I end up consulting my own blog posts on a regular basis.) EDIT: and now I remember I already wrote on this topic: terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/write-down-what-youve-d‌​one

fedja:
The only way to cope with this loss of memory I know is to do some reading on systematic basis. Of course, if you read one paper in algebraic geometry (or whatever else) a month (or even two months), you may not remember the exact content of all of them by the end of the year but, since all mathematicians in one field use pretty much the same tricks and draw from pretty much the same general knowledge, you'll keep the core things in your memory no matter what you read (provided it is not patented junk, of course) and this is about as much as you can hope for.

Relating abstract things to "real life stuff" (and vice versa) is automatic when you work as a mathematician. For me, the proof of the Chacon-Ornstein ergodic theorem is just a sandpile moving over a pit with the sand falling down after every shift. I often tell my students that every individual term in the sequence doesn't matter at all for the limit but somehow together they determine it like no individual human is of any real importance while together they keep this civilization running, etc. No special effort is needed here and, moreover, if the analogy is not natural but contrived, it'll not be helpful or memorable. The standard mnemonic techniques are pretty useless in math. IMHO (the famous "foil" rule for the multiplication of sums of two terms is inferior to the natural "pair each term in the first sum with each term in the second sum" and to the picture of a rectangle tiled with smaller rectangles, though, of course, the foil rule sounds way more sexy).

One thing that I don't think the other respondents have emphasized enough is that you should work on prioritizing what you choose to study and remember.

Timothy Chow:
As others have said, forgetting lots of stuff is inevitable. But there are ways you can mitigate the damage of this information loss. I find that a useful technique is to try to organize your knowledge hierarchically. Start by coming up with a big picture, and make sure you understand and remember that picture thoroughly. Then drill down to the next level of detail, and work on remembering that. For example, if I were trying to remember everything in a particular book, I might start by memorizing the table of contents, and then I'd work on remembering the theorem statements, and then finally the proofs. (Don't take this illustration too literally; it's better to come up with your own conceptual hierarchy than to slavishly follow the formal hierarchy of a published text. But I do think that a hierarchical approach is valuable.)

Organizing your knowledge like this helps you prioritize. You can then consciously decide that certain large swaths of knowledge are not worth your time at the moment, and just keep a "stub" in memory to remind you that that body of knowledge exists, should you ever need to dive into it. In areas of higher priority, you can plunge more deeply. By making sure you thoroughly internalize the top levels of the hierarchy, you reduce the risk of losing sight of entire areas of important knowledge. Generally it's less catastrophic to forget the details than to forget about a whole region of the big picture, because you can often revisit the details as long as you know what details you need to dig up. (This is fortunate since the details are the most memory-intensive.)

Having a hierarchy also helps you accrue new knowledge. Often when you encounter something new, you can relate it to something you already know, and file it in the same branch of your mental tree.
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june 2016 by nhaliday
When does Robert Cottrell just stop reading? (from the comments) - Marginal REVOLUTION
I read full-time to edit The Browser, and I abandon a hundred articles for every one that I finish. I generally stop if I hit “eponymous”, or “toxic”, or “trigger warning”, or “make no mistake”. Summary labelling of anything in an article as “complex” means that the writer does not understand or cannot explain the material. I don’t often read beyond headlines that use the words “surprising”, “secret”, “really”, “not” or “… and why it matters”. Any headline ending in a question mark is a bad sign. I know writers don’t usually write their own headlines, but the headline represents a best effort to say what is useful in the article by a sympathetic person who has been paid to read it.
thinking  learning  internet  lifehack  advice  hmm  econotariat  cracker-econ  marginal-rev  attention  🎩  priors-posteriors  signal-noise  info-foraging  prioritizing 
may 2016 by nhaliday
How to pass a programming interview - Triplebyte
Mostly intuitive (eg, I had also planned to interview in reverse order and use Python but mention C++ experience), but still very good advice. Summoning/faking enthusiasm will prob be hardest part for me.
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march 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : disciplinegrowthngthinking

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