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Doug_S. comments on Truly Part Of You - Less Wrong

59 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 November 2007 02:18AM

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Comment author: Doug_S. 21 November 2007 08:42:56AM 14 points [-]

I make it a habit to learn as little as possible by rote, and just derive what I need when I need it. This means my knowledge is already heavily compressed, so if you start plucking out pieces of it at random, it becomes unrecoverable fairly quickly.

This is why I find learning a foreign language to be extremely difficult. There's no way to derive the word for "desk" in another language from anything other than the word itself. There's no algorithm for an English-Spanish dictionary that's significantly simpler than a huge lookup table. (There's a reason it takes babies years to learn to talk!)

Comment author: FiftyTwo 23 April 2011 02:37:16AM 6 points [-]

I had a similar complaint, and the need to memorise a great quantity of seemingly arbitrary facts put me off learning languages and to a lesser extent history. Interestingly it seems easier to learn words from context and use for that reason, you can regenerate the knowledge from a memory of how and when it is used. I am also told that once you know multiple languages it becomes possible to infer from relations between them, which is perhaps why latin is still considered useful.

Comment author: SilasBarta 14 June 2011 03:14:06PM 18 points [-]

I find that it helps to think of learning a foreign language as conducting a massive chosen-plaintext attack on encrypted communications, in which you can use differential analysis and observed regularities to make educated guesses about unknown ciphertexts.

Comment author: thomblake 06 January 2012 04:01:46PM 5 points [-]

and to a lesser extent history

My ability to learn history improved greatly when I stopped perceiving it as "A random collection of facts I have to memorize" and started noticing the regularities that link things together. Knowing that World War II was fought amongst major world powers around 1942 lets you infer that it was fought using automobiles and aeroplanes, and knowing that the American Revolution was fought in the late 1700s lets you infer the opposite, even if you don't know anything else specific about the wars.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 06 January 2012 08:59:57PM 1 point [-]

True, you can derive new information from previously learned information. But patterns like 'there were no cars in the american revolution' aren't going to score you anything or get radically new information. And theres no way to derive a lot of the information.