Algorithms & Me

First this morning a word, an algorithm for cultivating a learning practice towards genius.

You must clarify your goals; gain knowledge through spaced repetition; preserve health; work steadily; minimize stress; refuse interruption, and never resist sleep when tired, — Piotr Wozniak, inventor of the learning software, SuperMemo. A writer on this method or process commented, This should lead to radically improved intelligence and creativity. The only cost: turning your back on every convention of social life.

William James is quoted as saying, “Mental life is controlled by noticing.”

Leo Tolstoy adds, “All great things are happening in slow and inconspicuous ways.”

One part of me appreciates the tidiness of genius-production, the order and rational process of contributing to this possibility. Clarity is within personal agency; so too the steadiness of work and the giving in to sleep when the need arises and the idea of spaced repetition seems doable. Health and stress — clearly related — and an uninterrupted period of time at your desk seems less so achievable. Too much lies outside one’s control. Biological considerations and the world’s demand for interruption all but guarantees difficulty in these latter measures.
Noticing is key fully to realizing the production. An attentiveness, mindfulness can be initiated, practiced, and mastered.
Still. Tolstoy, as in most things, seems to have his finger on the golden ring of truth. Anything great, and surely learning is such an endeavor, takes time and sometimes (especially) when we’re not looking at our watches and largely and wholly without our notice.
This brings me back to Wozniak and his software called SuperMemo, which purports to program spaced repetition. The program reminds: memorize and review at intervals of ten, twenty and forty days. Gain knowledge this way. But first: notice. And lastly: have patience.
And, perhaps, a tolerance of the unseen.
My own algorithm is much the same, but clearly a result of my dedication, to afternoon naps.

— listening to Dawn Upshaw and Maria Schneider’s “Winter Morning Walks”

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