This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:
Not much new this week, besides a new DeFriday about the concept of "Ultra-Sound Money" and whether Ethereum could actually be more "sound" than Bitcoin.
Alright, on to the Medley.
I love this article about the "YouTube Revolution in Knowledge Transfer" so much. Just read this opening story:
"Growing up as an aspiring javelin thrower in Kenya, the young Julius Yego was unable to find a coach: in a country where runners command the most prestige, mentorship was practically nonexistent. Determined to succeed, he instead watched YouTube recordings of Norwegian Olympic javelin thrower Andreas Thorkildsen, taking detailed notes and attempting to imitate the fine details of his movements. Yego went on to win gold in the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, silver in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and holds the 3rd-longest javelin throw on world record. He acquired a coach only six months before he competed in the 2012 London Olympics — over a decade after he started practicing."
It talks about the importance of "tacit knowledge," knowledge on how to do things that does not translate well to writing or lecture. Normally, you need to be in-person with someone to pick up tacit knowledge. But video actually allows you to follow what they're doing and pick it up remotely in a way that wasn't widely accessible until the last few years.
I'd argue that there are very few cases where non-tacit (conceptual?) knowledge is more useful than tacit knowledge. But conceptual knowledge is much easier to teach in a lecture and at scale, so it makes sense that's what the education system has optimized around.
For anything you want to learn, there are now an endless supply of free and paid materials online to give you a world-class understanding of that topic. You could go to the olympics!
So why don't more of us take advantage of it? Access and cost is no longer the limiting factor. You'd definitely get a better education with 4 years of well-curated YouTube videos than any university can give you.
The big difference seems to be motivation. What you're paying for at university, and in a cohort-based-course, is not necessarily the education quality. You're paying for the motivation to complete it. Knowing you're being evaluated, or that you have finite time to complete the material, is a way to hack ourselves into following through.
But if we had extremely strong intrinsic motivation for learning, this wouldn't be necessary. We could all be world-class in our respective domains by absorbing as much knowledge as possible about the things we love to learn about.
Why don't we all have that motivation? I don't know. I think the pessimistic or fatalistic view would be that most people just aren't motivated, but I don't buy that. I think that conditioning people from a young age that learning is something externally motivated (school, music class, tutoring) and dull (civics, scales, worksheets) sours our taste for learning.
My optimistic view is that everyone is born with a natural love for learning. It's one of our main evolutionary advantages. But then it gets tamped out of us by being told we're interested in the wrong things, or learning the wrong way, or that learning video games is inferior to learning cursive.
I've only recently started to rediscover my love of learning. I was an absolute learning machine when it came to video games growing up, but never realized how closely that translated over to programming. I suspect everyone has something they couldn't stop learning about growing up that they eventually let go to focus on "practical" things.
Maybe if kids were just given the right resources and guard rails to maniacally pursue learning about their interests, they'd actually be better educated teens and adults. They'd certainly be a lot happier.
I liked all the little bits of advice in this roundup Emily Oster did on her blog. Here were a few fun ones that stood out:
And I actually laughed out loud at this one: "As one person put it: Your spouse is not the enemy; the baby is the enemy."
I put out an ask on Twitter if anyone knows any other physical traits that we have good evidence you can affect when someone is young.
The ones I included were:
And there were a couple others I forgot:
One responder pointed out that Myopia might actually be somewhat addressable later in life which is super cool.
I'll write these up sometime in the next weeks with the research, but have you heard of any others?
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Have a great week,