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Mental modules for learning are fascinating to those that seek to be more efficient in their thinking. If you are reading this, then you most likely are one of these people. Here is a short list of helpful mental modules I’ve found: Good questions are highly underrated; Corollary thinking should be on our minds more; Disaggregate, Disaggregate, Disaggregate! And, for a bonus, Anti-illusion illusions. Let us begin:

Questions are highly underrated even though podcasting has become one of the most dominant forms of edutainment, and search engines are in full bloom. (In this sense, podcasts stopped experimenting and those at the top of the pack for a sustained amount of time are those that can ask sufficiently unique questions as often as they can.) To illustrate the point, everyone has answers (Google’s competitive advantage is arguably linked to this realization), but finding the answers you want requires you to be crafty with asking questions. Ask better questions, and you get exciting answers (!). Revolutionary.

Equally important is corollary thinking. In fact, I would stress that it should be on our minds more. For example, for every instance of X where the reasoning is known, one should strive to find other domains where X applies because there is practically no downside. If you find a domain (Y) in which X applies, you know more about the reasoning displayed in X, and more about domain Y. You also remember two things at the price of one. Like I definitely always say: “Why store as a float when an int will do?” (this is a computer science joke) This module is a slight variation of not reinventing the wheel. That said, society needs those that actually invent wheels so we can all benefit from applying them in different domains. There are some Xs with untapped mines for corollary thinking. One of which is computers.

Computers are dumb… what can we learn from them? Disaggregation. Because computers are stupid and humans are the brains feeding the computers algorithms so that they perform, the programmer must account for every possible scenario and assumption humans make. We can adopt this. When we disaggregate deep concepts or ideas, we find that which is hidden but crucial and can apply that at whatever margin it fits.

Bonus:

Just wondering if this has been coined somewhere else: Anti-illusion illusions. These are aphorisms that offer actionable propositions telling you to do X, which includes the opposite of X where doing the opposite of X still satisfies the X condition. Here are some anti-illusion illusions.

  1. Complexity for complexity’s sake is useless

  2. Beware of stories

  3. Don’t knock it till you try it

  4. Do something

  5. Think for yourself

These aphorisms require quite an amount of mental fortitude to get out of. The question then becomes, how do you take the truth given in these anti-illusion illusions and break out of the cycle of intellectual discomfort it provides when the futile thing to do is to perpetuate in the cycle the aphorisms inflict? Well, one could use a flavor of conditional expectation. For example, take the “Think for yourself” proposition. You could think for yourself conditional on the fact that no other line of reasoning exists that you agree with. In other words, you think for yourself only when you find that every line of reasoning is unpalatable. This does not guarantee that you break out of the illusion. Alternatively, you could lean into the illusions. This way, you free up mental resources to think other thoughts.

Overall, I suggest you think of these as easy and actionable innovations we can have at some margins in our lives.

Certainty rating: 71%


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