April 19, 2022
A System for Learning Intelligently, 10 Common Logical Fallacies, & More
At a glance
Welcome to the 417(!!!) new friends of the Mental Models, Concepts, and Frameworks newsletter who have joined us since last week!
Highlights of this newsletter:
- A system for learning intelligently
- 10 common logical fallacies
- 10 mental models for making sense of the world
A system for learning intelligently
Learning how to learn is one of life’s most important skills.
Here’s how you can do it intelligently.
1/ Learning Selection
Have you ever started learning something only to stop a few days or weeks later?
This can happen for lots of reasons, but often it's bad learning selection.
Selecting what you learn and when you learn it is crucial to maintaining motivation to finish it.
Here are some questions to make sure you're choosing well:
1/ Is there a need for me to learn this skill/topic? If so, what is it?
2/ How urgent is this need?
3/ Is this the right time to be learning it?
4/ Why will I stick with this project when it gets hard?
5/ Is there a practical use for this learning? Can I use it in my current job?
6/ Would I learn this if no one ever knew that I learnt it?
When we have a clear "why" for learning something, it's easier to remain focused and resilient when it gets difficult.
Choosing a project you'll stick with long enough is an underappreciated factor in learning.
If you switch from project to project, you'll never see the benefit of compounding in any one area.
Focus is key.
Once you've chosen your learning, it's time to deconstruct.
Every complex skill or topic is just a combination of different skills or topics, just as every hard problem is a combination of smaller problems.
Therefore, one of the smartest ways to learn is to first deconstruct into smaller components.
How to Deconstruct
Step 1: Find the approximate scope of the topic of knowledge / skill
Note down what you need to learn:
- Facts/Key definitions
- Examples or analogies
- Procedures (if it's a skill)
Step 2: Produce a checklist or mindmap of the required learning
Finding the Scope of the Topic
1. Desktop Search:
- Mind maps
- Blog posts
- University curriculum
- Reddit or other online forums
- Table of contents in textbooks
2. Expert Interview:
- Find an expert or someone in your network and ask them what you should be learning
Here is where you ask:
1. Which 20% of the blocks (concepts, facts, procedures) should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?
2. What would I learn if I only had 2 weeks to learn?
Focus on the highest value knowledge first.
1. In what order should I learn the blocks?
2. What is the best logical progression of learning?
3. What are the pre-requisites I need to be able to learn and do before the next step?
Walk before you run.
In the deconstruct step, you would have found multiple helpful sources that you can use to go deeper.
Now is the time to select which ones you'll use for your learning.
Note down what you'll use:
- Coaches, etc.
Bonus tip: if you know your learning style, you should preference using resources that align with that learning style.
Learning styles (VARK Model): Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, Kinaesthetic.
Here's where you make it concrete and ask:
1. When do I want to complete this learning project?
2. How many hours will I commit per week?
3. When am I committing these hours?
Place the details in your calendar, set reminders, and make it easy for yourself.
Here's where you failure proof your commitment to learning.
1. How can I set up real consequences to guarantee that I follow my learning project?
2. How can I failure proof my decision?
A goal without real consequences is wishful thinking.
Now it's time to execute.
I've previously covered 13 powerful learning techniques for the actual learning component.
You can dive in here:
For more on learning intelligently, these are the best resources I've found:
The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything...Fast -Josh Kaufman
The 4-Hour Chef - Tim Ferriss
Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career - Scott Young
10 common logical fallacies
Anecdotal (vs. Empirical Evidence)
Using a personal experience or an isolated example to try and prove a point instead of empirical or more compelling evidence.
Humans tend to believe and relate to stories, but don't fall into this trap.
What's true for you isn't always true.
Begging The Question
Involves presenting a circular argument where the conclusion is included in the premise.
1/ "Of course smoking causes cancer. The smoke from cigarettes is a carcinogen."
2/ "Circular reasoning is bad mostly because it's not very good.”
Likely or Plausible Fallacy
Likely: Incorrectly assuming that just because something is possible means that it is likely.
Plausible: Incorrectly assuming that just because something is plausible means that it is true.
Incorrectly assuming the probability of A happening given that B has happened to be about the same as the probability of B given A.
Example: Terrorists tend to have an engineering background; so, engineers have a tendency towards terrorism.
Nope, not the case.
Post Hoc Fallacy
Believing or starting that, "since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X."
"The rooster crows immediately before sunrise; therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise."
Correlation does not equal causation.
The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
Cherry picking data to suit your argument, or finding a pattern to fit a presumption.
Named after a Texan firing gunshots at a barn, then painting a shooting target around the tightest cluster of hits and claiming to be a sharpshooter.
Claiming that a compromise, or 'middle ground', between two extremes must be the truth of a matter.
Sometimes a thing is simply untrue and a compromise of it is also untrue.
Half way between truth and a lie, is still a lie.
No True Scotsman
Claiming an appeal to 'purity' to dismiss another argument.
Person A: "No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
Person B: "But my uncle Angus is a Scotsman and he puts sugar on his porridge."
Person A: "But no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
The Common Belief Fallacy
Claiming that because many people believe or do something that it's a valid reason to believe or do said thing.
The popularity of an idea has absolutely no bearing on its validity.
"Everyone is doing it, so why aren't you?”
Claiming something is good or bad on the basis of where it came from, or from whom it came.
It's the belief that the origin of something determines its worth.
Example: "The news article is a conservative publication, so you know whatever it says is true.”
10 mental models for making sense of the world
“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
When we set a specific goal, people tend to optimize for it regardless of the secondary consequences.
An employee is rewarded by the # of cars sold.
They try to sell more cars, even at a loss.
The Paradox of Abundance
The average quality of information is decreasing over time.
But the highest quality stuff gets better and better.
Abundance is simultaneously bad for the 'median' consumer but good for the 'conscious, discerning' consumer who filters out noise.
Believing the stuff of earlier times is inferior to that of the present, simply due to societal progress.
It's not enough to talk about “progress;” one must prove that it is so.
This requires a rigorous assessment of both the past and the present.
"Ninety percent of everything is crap."
Represents the belief that in general, the vast majority of the work that is produced in any given field is of low quality.
Therefore, we should take our time to find the very best content before we learn or consume.
We reject something because it compares poorly to an ideal that in reality is unattainable.
We assume there is a perfect solution to every problem.
Reality is more complicated and trade-offs are abound.
Take the option with the most bearable trade-offs.
Due to the internet, where you're born no longer determines your community.
Future 'nations' may consist of people who are born on opposite sides of the globe who form online subcultures using incentives to crowdsource like-minded people.
Humanity's success is due to our culture, not to our individual IQs.
Culture collects our best ideas for success so they compound across generations.
The ideas we adopt from society are often far older than us, and far wiser.
When we have a problem, our natural instinct is to add a new habit or purchase a solution.
But usually, you improve your life by subtracting instead.
The foods you avoid are more important than the foods you eat.
Removing distractions leads to productivity.
Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior.
Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.
Obsessive control isn't always the answer to chaos.
All Models Are Wrong
Scientific models fall short of the complexities of reality.
A model is only a simplification or approximation of reality.
While a model can never be "truth," it can be rated from very useful, to useful, to somewhat useful, to essentially useless.
That's it! I hope you enjoyed reading :)