📖Augmenting Long-term Memory

Michael A. Nielsen
  • personal memory system is a system to improve long-term memory of a single person
  • spaced repetition systems make memory a choice
  • rule of thumb on whether to file a card or not

    • if the fact seems worth 10 minutes of time

      • Gwern has a more optimistic 5-minute rule
    • (superseding) if the fact seems to be a striking insight
  • with 10,000 cards over 2.5 years, the review takes 15-20 minutes per day.
  • he uses desktop client for entering cards, and mobile client for reviews
  • How to read papers with Anki

    • If it’s a hard paper, do a couple of passes, skipping what you don’t understand. Add cards for easy and general questions and what can be easily googled. You’ll naturally go deeper with each pass. Then, do one or two thorough passes
  • Anki is best used if you collect knowledge toward some project, not just pile up general knowledge. Find something meaningful and interesting to you.

    Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible. – Richard Feynman

  • It’s usually a bad idea to extract less than 5 questions from the paper—that means the paper was not worth a read at the first place.
  • Beware of commiting false facts into memory. If you’re not sure, add a part of who did the claim. → With spaced repetition, beware of adding false facts
  • Add figures. We’re good at remembering the general shape.

    • you could also ask more question about the figure (e.g., what is maximum level, at what time)
  • Syntopic reading (how to read an entire field)

    • Start with the most important paper (possibly one that got you fascinated in the first place) — read it thorougly
    • Then another 5-10 important/good papers
    • Shallow-read more papers

      • you’ll get an understanding what’s mundane progress looks like
      • also helps to figure out what important papers are
  • Patterns to write questions

    • Atomic questions

      • they doesn’t have to be primitive and they can rely on knowledge from other cards.
    • Spaced repetition is a skill to be mastered
    • When you build questions on top of other cards, spaced repetition can be used to build understanding of almost anything (not just memorizing simple facts)
    • Use a single pool of cards (phrase cards so the context is clear)
    • avoid orphan questions — questions not related to anything else
    • you can use cards to remember personal things, facts about other people, work matters
    • do not use shared decks — construct your own
    • you don’t need to much features of the spaced repetition. master the core
    • if you want to memorize some API, do not concentrate on learning API only. Do some experiments and build project. memorizing api should be a side thing
    • avoid yes/no pattern
  • another reference to Mental models make things easier to remember
  • recommends Benedict Carey’s book “How We Learn” (2015) for introduction on spaced repetition and memory in general.


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