Plenty of dead ends too when it comes to the path of greater knowledge. Learning and doing new things that you never needed for your goal. Welcome to scientific research of any caliber in any field. If you're lucky, you recorded the Earth shattering kabooms though. If it were easy to be "smart", then don't you think everyone would be "smart". Obviously we all define the terms smart, educated, learned, intelligent and !dumbass differently. But (I hope) you get the point of the context.
Anyways, I'm sure as shit late to the party by a few thousand years (at least) saying this since I've been hearing this from the time of... I don't know, forever in any field I gandered into more indepth. To recognize someone else as above average, or at least capable, they have humility and diligence towards educating themselves. Not complaining that it is difficult, but striving towards it because it is difficult. Most of us have heard similar at the projectile level of ad nauseum. Now I'm thinking it's not really said enough if people still think "learning is hard" after the age of 9 is news worthy. Getting really tired of teens with their "unique profound insight" that's been published since Socrates' time.
It's pretty hard to even talk about this issue without crashing into nature vs nurture immediately, and that's a gargantuan question in itself. For example:
> If it were easy to be "smart", then don't you think everyone would be "smart".
This statement entirely depends on a nurture-based interpretation of the above gargantuan question.
I've met lots of smart, accomplished people who believe that if learning becomes difficult or tough or grueling, you're "doing it wrong". The kind of people for whom talking about "T-shirt turning" is their idea of fun. Hard to argue with them when they know more than I do, isn't it? Yet, for some people, banging their head against something to understand it seems absolutely necessary and they can't really avoid it. And so two people learn the same thing, one carefree, one with a great amount of pain. What's this about?
I've had my own personal experiences where I was working on something, and found it rather easy, and assumed it wasn't really anything complicated, but got feedback which was the opposite of this. On the other end of the scale, I had times when I was working really hard and felt like I was using everything I had at my disposal to do the task... and then got feedback that I was performing extremely poorly, and was missing something fundamental that would have made my life easier if I would have just known.
"learning is pointless" is often very much about hard work not paying off. This has major social implications.
There's a lot of oddness that comes with learning things in general. People learn with far less effort if the task involved is actively enjoyable in itself. Other people learn better when the task has a return, such as a monetary one.
I think "learning is hard" is a very useful statement socially. I.e., for the average person, there's lots of resistance to learning things. But it is not a statement that can be made globally, i.e., that learning is always hard.
"All good advice is obvious". Repeating obvious things helps you remember that they're true, because there's a surprising number of obvious things we forget on a regular basis.
About the pointless part, sometimes learning something means killing its magic. Or at least you end up in plato's cave, with your expertise surrounded by people mania. It's not a great joy to render a piece of knowledge dull.
And a meeting point between the last two paragraphs. Society teaches you things so you can work but in the end it's also to help/serve others; which makes your knowledge valuable by giving something to someone. And a lot of value in knowledge is when you can share it.
There is no royal road to geometry. (μή εἶναι βασιλικήν ατραπόν επί γεωμετρίαν, Non est regia [inquit Euclides] ad Geometriam via)
Reply given when the ruler Ptolemy I Soter asked Euclid if there was a shorter road to learning geometry than through Euclid's Elements.
Proclus (412–485 AD) in Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements as translated by Glenn R. Morrow (1970), p. 57. ἀτραπός "road, trail, track" here takes the more specific sense of "short cut". The Latin translation is by Francesco Barozzi, 1560)
Yet, apart from the put-downs and boasting, and saying "we've heard it ad nauseam", the main body of your comment is .. you repeating the same content you just said wasn't worth saying?
I often feel that people see hardship as a virtue. You /must/ feel shitty, otherwise you're not worthy. And, I don't think that's even remotely true in the long run.
Really my only advice to anyone who wants to learn a new skill: if you start to feel reluctant; just stop. Really. Only do the things you ultimately enjoy. Why put yourself through tedious things in your adulthood. The world is a big place, I'm sure there is something you like doing. Just do that. Don't beat yourself up over it. I've never learned to play an instrument, and suck at countless things; and that's fine. You'll notice that you will quickly become better at the things you enjoy, compared to the tedious ones.
It’s too easy to interpret that advice as doing things that are easy. Easy things don’t require effort, and people who are not inherently driven to explore or be creative point to advice like this as ways to justify spending all day watching Netflix or posting on Instagram. Those things are easy and give some level of enjoyment, but they are ultimately empty and eventually result in deeper sadness.
Hardship is not the right word but struggle is. Struggle is not pleasant but leads to deeper satisfaction, and that’s what people mean when they talk about “hardship” as a virtue.
If you don’t enjoy something, ask yourself if you really have to do it, and if you do, ask yourself how you can enjoy it more. And I say this as a dad who has changed hundreds of poopy diapers and resolved thousands of toddler requests and minor conflicts. Learning French is not “better” than watching TV. There are lots of pointless, impoverishing hard tasks and meaningful, enriching easy tasks. Any value judgments on struggle will make this harder to see.
I am in the process of withdrawing from opiates that were prescribed for an injury. Over time I realized that my wear-withall to do hard and long term rewarding tasks was being degraded by the opiates. I still have pain but narcotics training my brains' reward system are so much worse than pain can be.
We all have seen movies and have that visceral image of the executive or city slicker who does hard drugs but still has drive to take care of their family, pay the bills, and do the hard things -- as if they lived in two worlds and were somehow hardened against mixing the pleasure rewards of drugs and the real rewards of life. Well it is pure bullshit. For only one reason if any: the brain physically changes..no matter how tough mentally a person is.
Ultimately, if one doesn't reinforce medium length promises of rewards and doesn't de-emphasize short term rewards like Netflix, drugs, and other consumables..then the brain has much larger of a reward gradient to scale..a steep cliff that is likely to require mental reserves that are likely to be exhausted, failing to push through. The only way to do long and hard tasks that have worthwhile rewards is to...train for them..by consistently going against the empty vapid consumption culture. It is just dopaminergic biology. Don't get used to easy and hollow pleasures. Because though day to day pleasure might be dictated by simple chemical concentrations of catecholamines, happiness is a complex thought..a function of memory and past effort... nothing easy gives real happiness. Only pleasure. And cheap pleasure is something we end up becoming stale and miserable over, wishing we hadn't reinforced our weakness to fleeting and short term, short sighted, moments of incredulity.
Happiness comes from knowing we did the hard things that went against our feeble reptilian neurological reward system. That we truly defeated easy and thoughtless inclination.
The best example from my experience is learning songs in a foreign language I'm studying. First you listen to a song you really enjoy and partly understand. Then you sit down and translate it. For most songs this will not just be tedious work, but also take out some of the joy of this song, because if you understand it you realize some of the text is outright stupid. That's normal.
Then you go and learn the song. That's not hollywood romantic stuff, with exciting background music and action heavy cutscenes. That is sitting down and repeating line 1 until you hate it. Then repeat it a few times more. Then do the same with line 2. Then do the same with the combination of lines 1 and 2. Then line 3. Then line 1+2+3. Then line 4. Then line 1+2+3+4, [...] then repeating line 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8 but sadly by doing that you completely forgot line 2 and you always reorder line 5 according to your mother language's grammar instead of the one used in the lyrics.
In the end, you really hate the song. And you sing it quite badly if you just spend time learning the lyrics and no time on the melody and composition of the whole thing. When you can really sing it for other people to enjoy listening, even the slightest bit of magic for it will be gone for you.
And only after you done this multiple times and you start to have a collection of songs, ready to apply to different circumenstances, able to apply the feelings of the moment for a unique interpretation of your own, then you will find joy in it again.
And I can promise you, if you can get to that point it doesn't really matter anymore if in the beginning it was something you enjoyed or not. You made it your own, and that is what is much more enjoyable.
I won't claim that toughing it out isn't worthy or that there always is a better way, however it seems clear that top performers in every field tend not to have to tough it out very much. This is unfair but not smart to ignore.
I would argue that someone around A2 level in a language (where most hobby learners are) will take 10x longer in learning a song, when applying the method proposed by you. And many people won't ever finish learning one song, because before they finish other topics, songs, activities become more interesting.
But even with skills that do require solid spaced-repetition (like factoids, and probably only factoids) if you run out of joy: what even is the point. Maximize misery in life?
It seems like the unpleasantness emerges from anxiety about potential failure to learn the material. If you don't actually need to (not just in terms of external things, but personally, too), then there is no need to fear failure.
The more necessary it is to learn the thing and the more uncertain you are of your capability of doing so, the more unpleasant it's going to be.
Extreme examples, yet I believe it applies to formidable gaps within fields too, knowing a number of PhDs and what they went through: learning things that are both outside of your comfort zone and considered difficult will almost certainly require a significant amount of discipline and head-banging.
I also just enjoy learning, I love making new connections and synthesis of existing knowledge with new information.
Rather than learning being pointless, I would focus on this.
In a world of instant gratification we are fed the idea that if learning isn't fun and easy, then you are teaching wrong. Granted, a lot of material can be optimised, but I concur that people should expect to have to make a bigger effort once you pass the superficial stage.
I still remind myself regularly that learning without the push of curiosity is necessary, and a path to that next burst of curiosity.
I also enjoy writing. I can also assure you that looming deadlines are not fun by reasonable definitions of the word :-)
Spot on, IMO. That mindset is encouraged or aggravated by kind of e-learning startups that seem to want to kidify / gamify / dumbify all their content. I've had interactions with some of them when they approached me for partnerships of some kind, or for content creation, often in Python. Have had to say no to some of them due to that mindset, which I do not think is good for either the students or the instructors / companies providing the instruction, from both a pedagogical and a business (profit) point of view.
For me, this largely boils down to whether the subject is being taught within an applicable context or not – for instance, I find it quite dry and unfun to try to learn CS concepts for their own sake, whereas if I’m learning them because they’re needed for my current project they’re quite interesting.
This varies from person to person but my impression is that many people are like myself in this aspect.
In short personal small projects and big group projects good. Campaign learning and just reading PDFs bad.
But big shock is that group learning with clear goal is so effective it dwarfs every other method. One graph showed like 5 to 1 better retention then gamified or solo learning.
Often the teachers would ask me to make an entertaining class, but I eventually decided that the fun of learning would be at least 10x better than any entertainment I could provide. At about the same time I was working with a teacher who urged me to start giving out surveys to my students to find out what they enjoyed most in my classes. Even I was surprised to find that my daily quiz was the most popular element by a huge margin.
I completely restructured my classes so that students had much more opportunity to apply their learning, rather than focusing on shovelling an endless stream of content into their heads. I think it's that realisation that you went from not knowing something, to understanding it and being able to use it easily that's fun.
Yes, as you get more advanced, there is considerably more grind, but I think if you build techniques to enjoy the process you are going to have much more success. Especially for languages, it's going to take a long time and you have to be consistent. If you are just grinding it out and pushing yourself every day, I think it will be very difficult to make any significant progress.
One of the things that I found illuminating was that the satisfaction of my students (as measured by my surveys) pretty much mirrored their performance. The better the average class grade, the more satisfied the students. This is all anecdotal, but at least for me it made up my mind that there is a relationship. All kinds of success is fun and learning is a kind of success.
Edit: I should point out that there is nothing conceptually difficult in language learning -- even exceptionally stupid people are fluent in at least one language. So the above may not apply to something that is really difficult as opposed to really big.
I've wept at the reflection of how awful math class was, and how amazing it could have been.
I've been learning Thai for a few months. Realistically, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to use it but it doesn't matter as the mere process of learning is enjoyable. I commit myself to 30 min of focused work each day. I've noticed that it helps me relax and clear my mind (especially writing).
I'll also observe that many fields have an unpleasant introductory learning curve in which one must memorize lots of random-seeming and unpleasant things, before one can operate fluidly in that field and do anything interesting.
That's sort of the opposite of the original author's statement: "Learning is fun, but often as it happens, the fun parts start drying up as you delve deep," but it may be that there are un-fun parts on both sides of the curve, so to speak.
I'm not sure what I think of this article though. I read what he's saying as along the lines of a lot of people who find essentially pop science about some subject interesting would find developing true expertise about the topic a real slog. That's doubtless true but there are relatively few things that any of us have the time or interest to go deep on.
Eg. Running is pointless, you're not running away from a predator, or a foot-messenger delivering a message or anything; but you are maintaining your health, fitness and quality of life.
First of all, clickbaity title as he says it might be "pointless".
Secondly he is talking about topology. I find it to be a very hard subject. If you pick up most topology books you will find an area of math that most people have never really been prepared for and the books themselves start with some concepts that are very abstract. Now depending on what you are interested in, Topology can provide many insights into the shapes and constructions of spaces. Things like metric topology tie into how vector spaces are constructed. Things like n-dimensional manifolds can be related to aspects of machine learning.
I recommend The Teaching Company’s Shape of Nature videos for learning some general ideas about topology.
Just a disclaimer, I am not a mathematician, so I might be off on some my perceptions. Also no pun intended on pointless.
Anything rewarding demands something from you, otherwise it wouldn't be rewarding. Pain, discomfort, and adversity are good for the soul. If you want instantaneous gratification without sweat, do heroin or play video games.
I'm not sure heroin offers a sweat-free experience ….
I'm not sure about heroin, but there's a bit of an obstacle in getting that into one's system too, no? And then usually in getting additional funds to acquire the next fix?
Life is a struggle.
Video games are about creating the perception of challenge and the perception of reward, both of which are calibrated to maximize user engagement and enjoyment. I don't dislike games as a form of entertainment, but let's not pretend they're in any way an analogue of real life.
(Oh, and it feels great afterwards.)
I.e. why does it even have to require input from my side? You don't have to train your peristaltics, why are other muscles different? I guess it just boils to a mutation 100 thousands years ago which decreased default muscle power to save on energy, we could roll that back, get extra colories burned as a bonus.
Animals don't work out. They also don't push the envelope every day.
Evolution and life is primarily an optimization game. And our bodies are product of that. When we do things, we tend to become better at them. When we don't do things, we tend to lose our ability to do them well, hopefully in lieu of new focuses. Even the brain works this way - as becomes readily apparent when you age and can see in your acquaintances who continues to work with their brain, and who instead spends their time watching television and imbibing.
But I'm nitpicking.
No wonder you don't enjoy exercising if you frame it as 'ultimately pointless'. You need to change your internal dialogue.
> If exercising were truly at the top most enjoyable things for everyone then we would not have an obesity crisis.
Exercising itself has little to do with obesity. It all comes down to eating healthy and restricting your caloric intake.
Healthy food is cheap af when you prepare it yourself and don't buy into every trend. You don't even have to exercise if you don't want to but obviously it's good for your overall health and mind.
It's a process you need to work at, but it will enrich your life in so many ways if you can get past that tricky mental hurdle. I truly hope you do!
Mine can keep up with me on a bike so on foot I constantly throw sticks to him and make him swim while I run in the opposite direction.
Also, maybe try THC I hear it brings on the runners high immediately.
Once you have at least some ability practice amd exercise isnt nearly so bad befcause it doesn’t feel like a waste of time.
Getting in depth with a subject is painful. And its easy to waste time and effort. But it can be less painful if you're smart about it.
If you're tracking your progress, and you're aware what that next 5% looks like, that's much easier than trying to go for 100% each time. Getting feedback is critical too, and having that person help you set short, challenging but achievable goals makes a big difference so you aren't moving too quickly or slowly. Having peers who you can relate with and socialize your challenges with makes motivation easier. And you really need to set a time and place on a recurring basis, where the physical environment sets you up to be successful.
Disclaimer: I'm working on sagefy.org
This is wishful thinking. This is how you wish the world was, and, as a child, you demand it to be so.
However, that doesn't mean it's worthless, or that you should apply it to stuff that doesn't matter (like the math of t-shirt turning). If you do that it's really a waste of time.
But there are endeavours that are totally worth it. For instance really spending the time to learn the movements of quick folding t-shirts might bring more order to your life, increase your dressing and save quite some time over the years. And there are other endeavours that are really, really profitable. For instance learning another language well enough to read good books in it. It will not add +X value to your life, it will add another dimension. Think about turning a 2D person from plane world into a 3D person. How much more vast would his understanding of the world be? While the price of learning that much of another language might be incredibly high, the value is even higher.
So, how do you discover these profitable learning experiences? By looking at all the Cool New Stuff that all the kids are learning, figuring out what is the "magic ingredient" that enables everybody to just get the job done without learning this one skill that is a lot of work, seemingly has not many benefits, that everybody in the industry should know but for some reason most people don't know. And then, instead of using the Cool New Stuff you go and learn that basic skill. You will be surprised that in the end, when you really mastered that one skill, you are not just able to handle all the Cool New Stuff of the next 10-500 years, you won't even need it to solve your problems.
In writing that might be learning all the different words and applications, grammar and punctuation. In software development that usually means studying ascepts of unix (parallel processing, package management, data storage, text processing, binary processing). In business that means learning balancing the books and taxes. In soccer that means shooting straight curves, basic stamina, dribbling.
You will be surprised how many partners and competitors you will beat just with mastering these boring basic skills.
The need to learn how to learn is so important and poorly taught in society. There's a great online course on the subject here:
The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge by Abraham Flexner
The second thing was - he used "cul-de-sac" instead of "dead end" :)
 so you should avoid trying to reinvent the wheel here
No, you cannot infer 80% from logic and experience. It might look that way, but mostly you'll be hopelessly wrong and and entertainment for anybody working in that field.
Do the hard work, or be a clown. In any field.