↑ comment by dxu ·
2014-11-16T03:00:10.092Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Memory certainly is improvable from what I've heard/read, and it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to accept that processing speed might be improvable as well. That being said, I'm a bit more skeptical of improving intelligence (maybe studying math does it, and maybe not), and I'm not quite sure what "ability to learn" entails--if we're using the phrase conventionally, I'd assume that "ability to learn" would simply be a combination of intelligence and memory--the former for understanding something in the first place, and the latter for retaining that understanding. If there's something about "ability to learn" outside of this, I'd be interested to hear about it.
In order of how much each aspect matters to me, personally, I'd probably rank intelligence as most important, followed by memory, then processing speed. (I'm not confident enough in my current understanding of "ability to learn" to attempt to rank it yet--see the above paragraph.) If you asked me why I care so much about intelligence... I honestly don't know, actually. To paraphrase HJPEV, it's such a fundamental theorem in my values system that it's hard to go about describing the actual proof steps. (Actually, to continue the analogy, this seems more like an axiom than a theorem, which is weird because I don't remember ever consciously deciding to terminally value intelligence.) This is a somewhat concerning realization for me, and suggests that I should perhaps consider my reasons for caring about stuff a lot more closely than I've been doing as of late.
Of course, this is very unfortunate for me, seeing as "intelligence" has always been considered fuzzy and hard to quantify... maybe that's why there's not a lot of academic material out there on it? I'm really good at math for a normal person, but a fair number of the more "mathy" discussions here on LW somehow manage to completely lose me (think "decision theory", and so forth), so I'm thinking that maybe "really good" is a bit of a premature designation. I probably wouldn't be the only one here in saying that LW is the first online discussion board in which I've felt completely outclassed intellectually--I'm generally used to be the smartest person in the proverbial "room", so being here is a simultaneously humbling and exciting experience for me.
Back onto the topic of whether math improves fluid intelligence: it has been my experience that people who are really good with math also tend to be really smart, but 1. that could easily be a selection effect, and 2. correlation does not imply causation. At this point, I'm basically just left hoping that studying math does have appreciable effects on fluid intelligence, but given the dearth of research on the subject, I have very little basis to say anything one way or another, which is rather frustrating for me personally. Alas...
(And now, reading through this again, I see I somehow managed to turn a discussion on improving mental capability into a dissertation on my own perceived problems... yeah, I think I should probably stop typing now.)
Replies from: zedzed, wedrifid
↑ comment by zedzed ·
2014-11-18T02:55:55.421Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
a dissertation on my own perceived problems
I found the Doidge book therapeutic.
Regarding "ability to learn": Ebbinghaus (famous for discovering forgetting curves which lead to Anki) showed that amount you learn is proportional to the amount of time you spend learning it; L(t) = at . Increasing "ability to learn" could be thought of like the constant of proportionality, a.
Learning = acquiring and retaining knowledge or skills. This definition comes from a book written by cognitive scientists coming off a decade of researching optimal learning recommended by Robin Hanson, which is also worth reading.
Obviously, there's values of time, t, for which this breaks down. I don't have the academic citations, but a professor I once had (who I trust) said that your brain's ability to learn can be saturated and marginal time spent learning won't help until you sleep.
However, I am aware of Walker et al. (2002) (pdf), which shows that you don't show improvements from practice until you sleep. In hierarchical situations, where every new thing you learn depends on something you've already learned, this implies you should sleep in between every new thing you learn. This effect is separate from distributed practice, which you should do anyway.
↑ comment by wedrifid ·
2014-11-16T04:21:51.995Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
If there's something about "ability to learn" outside of this, I'd be interested to hear about it.
Skills, techniques and habits are also rather important.
Replies from: dxu
↑ comment by dxu ·
2014-11-16T06:06:13.865Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I agree that these things are also important, but I'm not sure they should be classified as "basic" traits the way memory, processing speed, and intelligence are. Then again, I could be mistaken.