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Stop learning, start thinking [LINK]

5 Post author: NancyLebovitz 21 November 2012 02:32PM

Stop Learning, by Jacob Barnett. This is an 18 minute video, and I think there's a lot to be said for getting the material in the order given.

However, if you'd rather have text, here it is in rot13. Wnpbo Oneargg pbzrf bss nf naablvat. Ybhq, ohzcgvbhf, naq ynhtuf ng zbfg bs uvf bja wbxrf. Ur'f nyfb n zngu cebqvtl, naq unf nhgvfz. Ur gnyxf nobhg ubj ur jnf qvntabfrq nf orvat hanoyr gb yrnea gb gnyx, ohg orpnhfr ur unq gvzr gb guvax, ur fgnegrq rkcybevat zngu. Vg'f abg fb onq gb snvy svatre-cnvagvat. Ur gnyxf nobhg Arjgba naq Rvafgrva nf univat orra oybpxrq bss sebz yrneavat sbe n juvyr (cynthr dhnenagvar naq cngrag bssvpr erfcrpgviryl), fb gung gurl unq gvzr gb guvax. Ur erpbzzraqf gnxvat gvzr gb guvax nobhg jung lbh pner nobhg.

Would anyone happen to remember the alternate history story where the plague doesn't come to England, so Newton has professorial duties and never discovers anything?

Comments (14)

Comment author: Vaniver 22 November 2012 02:47:12AM 4 points [-]

I find annoying speakers way easier to process as transcripts, and Barnett does appear to say some useful things in the talk. As for the content:

So... Newton already had his degree when the plague hit. It's not clear to me how much that stopped him from learning.

Spending time thinking is very useful, especially if you have a first-rate mind. But it's not clear to me that "stop learning" is the right way to sell that, or that "think in your own unique way" is always the best advice. Yes, if you make a startling new contribution, it will be because you think that way and others (in that field) didn't. But there are also alien modes of thought that will make you better off if you adopt them. Most of my learning in social areas has done much better than my thinking in social areas, as an example.

The best advice he gives is "I didn't play video games, I thought about shapes." But, again, spending your time creating instead of consuming is not an atomic act; there is engineering involved, and learning that sort of self-management is important.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 November 2012 03:20:45AM *  0 points [-]

Thanks for the comment. I was twitching slightly as the negative karma came and went and came back.

From my point of view, it was important to get past how annoying he was to the content. I agree that some of his worst habits faded as the talk went on.

I think his point is that formal learning can fill time in a way that's almost as wasteful as video games, and that there's a lot of fruit which isn't exactly low-hanging, but can be reached by thinking about what you already know.

Comment author: D_Alex 23 November 2012 07:00:08AM 0 points [-]

...formal learning can fill time in a way that's almost as wasteful as video games...

I would like to point out that:

  • books, music, socialising, board/card games etc can fill time "in a way that is as wasteful as video games"
  • conversely video games can provide an interesting, enriching and fulfilling experience, just as books, music etc can (of course YMMV - for all of these media!)

...and express a wish that video games are not used as a proxy for "evil time wasting".

Comment author: Vaniver 22 November 2012 03:31:56PM 0 points [-]

I think his point is that formal learning can fill time in a way that's almost as wasteful as video games

I agree that much of formal learning is explicitly designed to keep kids out of trouble by filling time and keeping them in one place where a relatively small number of adults can watch them, and that that purpose (though not other purposes of school) would often be better fulfilled by having the kids play video games in a giant room.

From my point of view, it was important to get past how annoying he was to the content.

Do you mean that the content was important enough to overcome his deficiencies as a speaker, or that his deficiencies as a speaker contributed to the content? (Thankfully, the largest problem I had with his talk will be fixed by puberty, and other presentation problems can be corrected by a small amount of deliberate practice. I suspect it'll be better for him to keep some deficiencies as counter-signalling, but we'll see what he chooses.)

I felt like much of his point could be better conveyed by someone that understood the purposes of the system- to him, as mostly a victim of the system, it's easy to say "yeah, special ed was a total waste of my time; the system isn't set up to make the most of first-rate minds." Right- it really isn't. But what are the tradeoffs that the system designers face?

Comment author: hankx7787 23 November 2012 04:04:53AM *  1 point [-]

Yes, I agree 1000%. It's expensive in this world for one to find significant time to simply think, and it seems to be very rare these days, but that's probably the most important thing in making revolutionary advances. I assume this very site is the result of someone having much time to simply think freely.

Of course you should also mention the flip side dangers of rationalism, how you actually have to walk the streets to draw an accurate map, you can't just sit in a room with your eyes closed, and so on. But there's a great point to be made here that is usually understated.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 23 November 2012 04:18:13AM *  1 point [-]

I liked this.

Inventing theories, learning theories, and applying theories are all 3 different activities. When you're in school, you spend a lot of time learning theories, you spend hardly any time inventing theories, and you spend some time applying theories (ex.: applying algebra in calculus class).

One way to get practice inventing theories: When a motivating example comes up in a textbook, shut the textbook and try to figure out how to solve the example on your own without reading further. (Or try to do the problems at the end of the chapter before reading it, etc. Credit for this idea goes to my 10th grade math teacher.)

Comment author: EvelynM 26 November 2012 09:03:32PM 0 points [-]

I found this talk to be quite motivating.

Comment author: roland 23 November 2012 01:41:08AM 0 points [-]

He reminded me of Halmos, who also advocated putting away with books and instead trying to figure it out on your own.

The best way to learn is to do; the worst way to teach is to talk. --P.R.Halmos

Comment author: roland 23 November 2012 01:06:45AM 0 points [-]

Why was this kid diagnosed with autism? He seems perfectly normal to me, besides his high IQ, I suspect a misdiagnosis.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 23 November 2012 04:12:04AM *  0 points [-]

I thought the same, but I don't interact with people his age on a regular basis, so it's hard to know what's normal at that developmental stage. Edit: Actually, one of my younger brothers is that age. He's goofy, but not anywhere near that goofy.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 22 November 2012 03:02:12AM *  0 points [-]

Stop learning, start thinking

I didn't like the title, and he kept on chanting it during the talk.

Eventually, at the end of the talk, he corrected it to my satisfaction, and talked about transitioning from learning to thinking to creating. The creation of new things, and in particular, writing down ideas and applying them is where more energy should be expended.

Learning and thinking without doing is masturbation.

From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: "You just keep thinking, Butch; that's what you're good at."

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 November 2012 03:26:06AM 1 point [-]

In his case, he had a long way to go to get to the point where he had a chance of communicating what he was thinking about.

For some people (and I think there are quite a few of them), they need to change their habits just to get to thinking.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 22 November 2012 04:05:55AM 0 points [-]

For some people (and I think there are quite a few of them), they need to change their habits just to get to thinking.

I don't think there are so many on this list with that problem. Plenty of thinking goes on around here. If anything, too much. If there is a problem, it's with doing, not thinking. Clearly some here do create, but with all the akrasia talk, I think a lot wish they created more out of that thinking, and I'm one of them.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 November 2012 06:20:48AM 0 points [-]

My impression is that, even here, there are relatively few people who will take five minutes (let alone more) to really focus on something. There are more here than average who will do a sort of casual non-creative reasonably clear thinking.