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Arpit Mohan
Arpit Mohan

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The art of learning and unlearning

TL;DR notes from articles I read today.

Effective learning for software engineers

Apply these five strategies for effective learning:

  • Preparation: Select the materials you will learn from, choosing the best available sources per online reviews, experts’ recommendations or personal experience.
  • Exploration: Familiarize yourself with the material as quickly as possible, without going into detail. Feel free to skim through the hardest parts, make quick notes to summarize sections and write down any questions you have.
  • Practice: Apply what you have learned so far to sufficiently challenging exercises (but not too demotivating) and highlight what you do not understand so you can immerse yourself in it later. Continue this longest, most focused effort until the end of the fifth stage.
  • Immersion: Apply the Feynman technique to immerse yourself in all the concepts you found harder - collect all the essential information and break it up into chunks if you need to, write down the concept or visualize it with a drawing if it helps, restate the concept in simpler terms and few sentences as though teaching a child, and add analogies that help connect it with concepts you already understand.
  • Repetition: Transform your notes on the hard concepts to flashcards and review them every day for 10-15 minutes, then make it less frequent (once every few months).  

Full post here, 5 mins read

The art of unlearning

  • The most useful learning is unlearning something false or unhelpful.
  • The first challenge of unlearning is that you are likely to dismiss something that contradicts your current understanding (confirmation bias).
  • Unlearning is a deep dive into strangeness underlying what we think we know, acknowledging that convenient approximations guide our actual lives but the accurate picture is stranger and more interesting.
  • To unlearn things, seek additive information in familiar areas and use it to modify old knowledge - this is difficult and requires you to have patience with theoretical and academic learning.
  • You should seek other people’s experiences, and use them as a touchstone to understand your own patterns of thinking (travel is a good example if it involves you actually talking to local people, not just sightseeing).
  • Be bold and varied in experimenting - this is randomness, but avoid obvious risks. However, being able to do this typically requires you to have had positive experiences with venturing outside your comfort zone in the past.
  • Become comfortable with mystery and encourage yourself in an open-ended inquiry. You can thus condition yourself to be comfortable with what starts as aversive (like more activities involving heights to rid yourself of a fear of heights), what psychologists call progressive exposure.

Full post here, 15 mins read

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