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Frictionless learning

Imagine if we could get rid of all of the overhead associated with learning. What does a frictionless learning environment look like?

Shamay Agaron
Shamay Agaron
. 2 min read

Most people think about think about memory as something largely out of their control, left to chance. But what if there was another way?

Spaced repetition is a powerful system to make memory a choice. It combines two principles from cognitive science:

  • testing effect: when you test your memory of a detail, that strengthens your memory of the detail.
  • spacing effect: by spacing out the testing over time (rather than cramming), you’ll remember the material more reliably in the long term.

Here’s a simple graphic to illustrate how likely you are to forget something after learning it the first time. Reviewing it multiple times helps #flattenthecurve and solidifies the memory:

Spaced repetition - Osmosis Video Library

So think back to school for a minute. As a student, it’s your responsibility to do the readings and remember it for tests. Obviously, this takes some effort.

Teachers try to help with this process by assigning homework with the readings, but what if the student misses a concept? They would have to go back to the first reading to review it before answering the homework for this week. This is time consuming and adds friction to the learning experience.

Imagine if we could get rid of all this overhead. What does a frictionless learning environment look like?

Introducing Quantum Country, a primer on quantum computing written by Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen. It’s interface is fundamentally unique - it has spaced repetition built in, so that it’s almost effortless to remember what your read.

As you’re reading, there are little breaks with simple questions that check whether you’ve retained what you just read (testing effect). If you don’t remember the answer, the question will resurface at the next break, along with new questions.

When you get a question right, you don’t have to review it for a while and it moves on to the next level (five days). After five days, you are sent an email reminder to review the questions again. If you get it right, it moves to the next level again (two weeks).

Each level is at a larger and larger interval from the present (spacing effect). Ultimately, this ensures that you retain the memory long term, without you ever having to manually go back and review the material yourself.

School would have been so much easier with this… all you would have to do is read and answer the questions every few days!

If you’re curious to learn more, you can dive into the vast maze of 📖 Andy’s notes 📖. He write openly about the ideas behind Quantum Country, which is essentially an experiment to test out this new medium with spaced repetition built-in.