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The Art of Unlearning | Scott H Young

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2018/04/12/the-art-of-unlearning/

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The Art of Unlearning | Scott H Young
"It ain't what you know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain Most people think about learning as adding knowledge and skills. When you learn French, you learn that the word, avoir means "to have."

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Mark Twain

“It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mark Twain

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The most useful learning

The most useful learning
Most people think about learning as adding knowledge and skills. You now have a new fact in your mind that didn’t exist before.

The most useful learning isn’t usually a strict addition of new knowledge, but first unlearning something false or unhelpful.

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Types of Unlearning

  • Straightforward refutation of the old idea. This complete refutation is atypical. More likely the new knowledge doesn’t contradict the old one, but it may modify it in some way.
  • The new knowledge revises a simpler picture by filling it with more complex details. This is similar to adding new knowledge, although because the older, simpler view of the issue has been overwritten with more detail, there is some unlearning going on.

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Unlearning and the confirmation bias

When something contradicts your current understanding, you are likely to dismiss it. This may be adaptive in a world where a big part of the information you encounter is false or is constructed to manipulate you. Things that you don’t currently believe are more likely to be false. 

However, this confirmation bias can make it harder to unlearn when that’s valuable to you.

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The challenge of unlearning

The challenge of unlearning

Most of our false or doubtful assumptions about the areas that impact our lives are never examined. 

We use these assumptions to operate, but because they aren’t actively reflected upon, studied or challenged, they maintain their full force, even if fairly simple arguments could overturn them.

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How to Unlearn Things

  • Seek additive knowledge in familiar areas and then use that new knowledge to start pulling up and modifying old knowledge.
  • Seek other people’s experiences of the world. Travel, in this way, can be a potent form of unlearning.
  • Be more varied and bold in your experiments in life. Pure randomness can have a destructive quality to it. However, if you avoid obvious risks, many directions in life can be explored more thoroughly than most people do.

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Directness in learning

Directness in learning

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Direct learning works for a particular goal

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There are two problems you can encounter when you're trying to learn something.

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  2. Speed learning is effective when you're not sure what the ideal should be and need more information to work it out. A good example of speed leading to move closer to quality is in entrepreneurial fields. Many fail because they picked the wrong problem to solve and wasted too much time trying to solve it.

Going faster vs doing it right

The balance between going faster and doing it right depends on what you're trying to achieve.

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