Media junkies vs SuperMemo

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From: Michael Y.
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2011 4:08 AM
Subject: Supermemo for Medical School


I was thinking about many people I know who seem to "know everything", or have amassed an unbelievable amount of information. Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, Kevin Ashman all come to mind as people who are notoriously excellent at knowing a lot of facts from a lot of subjects. I am a firm believer in the principles of spacing and rehearsing, but yet all of these individuals deny using any of these strategies, and all just claim to be media junkies that read a lot, watch a lot, and so forth. Then, I was thinking about the idea that you can remember 90% of something you repetitively rehearse, but then only 10% maybe of what you just read once. Nonetheless, by just reading a lot, you do save a lot of time compared to repetitively rehearsing the same information. In that case, what if you remember 90% of what you repetitively rehearse, and 10% of what you just read once, but with the time you save with "just reading", you can cover 10 times as much information? In that case, would reading lots without scheduling repetitions or taking the time to rehearse lead to 10% of lots more information, versus 90% of much less information, so that these two methods balance out? In other words, do Ken Jennings and their ilk subject themselves to lots more remembering AND lots more forgetting, for a net balance of great acquisition of information? I hope I am making sense. And otherwise, how are we to explain how Ken Jennings and their ilk are able to acquire so much information by seemingly just being media junkies, and not doing any kind of systematic rehearsal of information?


SuperMemo optimizes for specific retention (e.g. 95%) of the facts you choose. It is not optimized for maximum speed of learning. You can learn faster as long as you (1) accept lower retention and (2) accept the loss of control over what you remember.

People with wide knowledge would easily surprise you with gaps in knowledge in basic things they should remember from early school. They are very strong in one area (usually the area where you see them in), and might be very weak at other areas (e.g. where you excel).

Once again, it is easy to learn fast if you are smart and you learn smart (with or without SuperMemo).