(2020-07-14) Matuschak Bringing Ideas Into Your Orbit

Andy Matuschak: Bringing ideas into your Orbit. Central to what I’m imagining here is a daily practice habit somewhat akin to meditation: you open this thing up and engage with whatever microtasks it presents. You’ll work on your memory, maybe do some self-authorship with reflection questions, do some quick physics problems, some quick writing, etc. Then ten minutes later, the train arrives, you board, and that’s it for the day. The next day’s different.

I’ve spent these last few months building infrastructure which I hope will help me (and others!) explore a wider set of ideas around systems like the mnemonic medium.

What if there were an “OS-level” spaced repetition system (SRS)? What if, rather than living “inside an app’s shoebox”, as in Anki and other existing tools, prompts were framed more like files in folders—readable and writable throughout the system and by other services across the web? (cf (2020-03-21) Matuschak On SRS; CoachBot, Universal Inbox)

Web articles could surface interleaved prompts, written by the author as in the mnemonic medium or perhaps by readers as on Genius / Hypothes.is. You’d fluidly import these prompts as you read, just as your browser forms a history as you read.

All these ideas become much more interesting once you think of SRS as useful for much more than memorization.

With the final chapter of Quantum Country, we’ve experimented with using spaced repetition prompts to help readers apply what they’ve learned, in addition to remembering what they’ve learned. In our personal Anki practice, Michael Nielsen and I have been experimenting for several years with using these interactions to prompt synthesis and reflection. Over the last year, I’ve been experimenting with using these interactions to support incremental creative work and for my reading queue.

You could raise your watch and say: “remember to reflect: what novel contexts might benefit from an OS-level SRS service?”

Central to what I’m imagining here is a daily practice habit somewhat akin to meditation: you open this thing up and engage with whatever microtasks it presents. You’ll work on your memory, maybe do some self-authorship with reflection questions, do some quick physics problems, some quick writing, etc. Then ten minutes later, the train arrives, you board, and that’s it for the day. The next day’s different.

In summary, this system is about giving you a way to bring ideas into your orbit. When something seems interesting, you can tie a string to it and throw it up in a lazy arc.


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