Of one thing there's no doubt: Fankfurt is a smart dude. His essays are crisp, clear, and relevant - at least, as relevant as one can reasonably expecOf one thing there's no doubt: Fankfurt is a smart dude. His essays are crisp, clear, and relevant - at least, as relevant as one can reasonably expect a collection of philosophical essays to be.
Don't get me wrong: this is not an easy read. "The Importance of What We Care About" tackles some difficult issues: moral responsibility, determinism, and the notion of self, among others. Fankfurt's analysis of these topics is nuanced and incisive: there are no muddy thoughts here. He always narrows the scope of his investigations, so you never feel like you're drowning in unfamiliar terminology or wadding through an overabundance of underdeveloped ideas. Frankfurt's writing is neither difficult nor pretentious. That said, every sentence counts: be prepared to focus.
The payoff is well worth it. Frankfurt tackles some of the go-to questions of philosophy - mentioned above - and he does so admirably. His answers are often unorthodox, but always sensible. More than once, I found myself wondering: "how could anyone have ever thought otherwise?"
As interesting as these standard topics are, the real treat are the essays about issues philosophers almost never discuss. In 'the importance of what we care about,' he asks: why do we care about some things more than others? In 'on bullshit': what is bullshit, and why is there so much of it? In 'necessity and desire': when does needing something take precedence over desiring something? And so on.
These essays are well-written, and the often-unusual topics are ones you'll be able to relate to. If you don't like philosophy, 'The Importance of What We Care About' won't convince you otherwise. If, however, you like thinking for its own sake, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. It's terrific. ...more
More of an overview than an analysis, so it starts to drag in places. Doesn't really address bogusness that isn't 'in the name of science' (astrology,More of an overview than an analysis, so it starts to drag in places. Doesn't really address bogusness that isn't 'in the name of science' (astrology, etc), but a couple of chapters are worthwhile. Flat earth theorists in particular cracked me up, and ESP is debunked convincingly. Read the parts that interest you, and skip the rest...more
A fine exposition on the importance of the scientific way of thought. Sagan urges us to be both skeptical and curious; he warns against pseudoscience,A fine exposition on the importance of the scientific way of thought. Sagan urges us to be both skeptical and curious; he warns against pseudoscience, confronts the world of superstition, and altogether argues against unrestrained credulity. Hallucinations, alien abductions, and faith healing are among the many topics examined in an intelligent and (nearly) unbiased manner. I felt like Sagan could have spent a bit less time on aliens, and some of the later chapters start to feel a bit random, but these are but trifling complaints. This book is awesome....more
Jeff Hawkins presents his 'memory-prediction framework' of intelligence, which roughly states that "prediction, not behavior, is proof of intelligenceJeff Hawkins presents his 'memory-prediction framework' of intelligence, which roughly states that "prediction, not behavior, is proof of intelligence". He rejects the common (implicit) assumption that intelligence is defined by intelligent behavior (think: the Turing test of AI). Instead, Hawkings implores us to better examine the brain.
The brain, he argues, doesn't compute the answers to problems - it retrieves them from memory, where memories are stored in a memory hierarchy. Our brain stores invariant representations of the world, which means that relative attributes of the world, not absolute ones, are what matter. As an example, consider that the star spangled banner is invariant with respect to key - we recognize the song whether its in A sharp or D flat.
As an example of how the memory hierarchy works, consider the processing of sensory input. Sensory input is received by the lower regions of the hierarchy, and gets filtered up to the higher regions of the brain. Here processed data is matched to an 'invariant representations' of the world. This higher region of the brain, then, uses this representation of the world to make a prediction regarding future sensory input. A correct prediction constitutes understanding.
Hawkins' attempt to gleam understanding by examining the brain is valiant, but when it comes down to some of the gritty details, it gets a little confusing. I was left with the impression that Hawkins should either have skipped the technicalities, or gone to greater length to make the develop them.
Fortunately, the above complaint only pertains to a a brief twenty pages. The rest of the book is terrific. It's still too early to say whether or not Hawkins theory is correct, but I'm convinced that he's on to something. He does a great job of explaining his central thesis and fostering an intuition for it. It's all very concrete, and the implications are practical. A refreshing read, and you're left with a fuller understanding of how you tick....more
An awesome compilation of essays on consciousness, cognition, and the soul. There's a nice mix of serious philosophical essays and more accessible ficAn awesome compilation of essays on consciousness, cognition, and the soul. There's a nice mix of serious philosophical essays and more accessible fictional stories - no selection feels out of place. Each piece is followed by a thoughtful reflection by either Dennet or Hofstader. It's interesting to read about their reactions, in contrast to one's own, and you'll appreciate each piece that much more because of it. The end result is an anthology that is both thought-provoking and unsettling, and altogether definitely worth the read....more
A a brief and well-composed discussion of 'constructive philosophy' - Russell tackles philosophical questions he believes we have definitive answers tA a brief and well-composed discussion of 'constructive philosophy' - Russell tackles philosophical questions he believes we have definitive answers to. The first two chapters - on 'appearance and reality' and 'the existence of matter' are especially well-written and accessible. Some of the later chapters rely a bit too heavily on juggling definitions, and the discussion about universals gets a bit dense. Otherwise, a very readable and surprisingly comprehensive overview....more
A solid collection of science writing, though not without its flaws. I have two primary complaints: the collection is organized rather arbitrarily, anA solid collection of science writing, though not without its flaws. I have two primary complaints: the collection is organized rather arbitrarily, and it's heavily weighted towards biology. A better title might have been 'The Oxford book of Richard Dawkins' favorite science writing'.
That said, none of the selections are excessively long, and most make for a good read. Dawkins' keeps his comments to a minimum - a paragraph or two with each selection - and on the whole these are both eloquent and interesting.
There's a small subset of this book I'd recommend strongly. As a whole, it's still worth checking out....more
Popper is brilliant. He's a terrific writer - his thoughts are original, yet is prose is clear and straightforward. With the exception of one or two bPopper is brilliant. He's a terrific writer - his thoughts are original, yet is prose is clear and straightforward. With the exception of one or two boring essays, this collection is the shit. Check it out...more
It's unclear that Ramachandran ever completes his 'quest for what makes us human', though he certainly develops some profound insight along the way. HIt's unclear that Ramachandran ever completes his 'quest for what makes us human', though he certainly develops some profound insight along the way. His account is not without its flaws, but when all is said and done, this is a journey worth taking.
The best parts of 'The Tell-Tale Brain' are, without a doubt, the numerous crazy neurological case studies Ramachandran explores and explains. You'll learn about Apotemnophilia, a condition where a patient feels as if a body part doesn't belong, and desires its amputation; Capgras syndrome, where a person is convinced that close relatives are imposters; synesthesia, where people quite literally 'see' colors in numbers of 'taste' certain shapes - among others.
However, interesting as these conditions are in and of themselves, what is truly captivating is the manner in which Ramachandran relates them to the brain, and uses them to shed light on the role of the brain in defining who we are. It's important to note that, while some of the conclusions are very speculative in nature, most of the presented findings are supported by sound scientific investigation.
That said, the speculation does get too heavy towards the end of the book. For instance, the author ponders about the evolution of language, and presents, at length, his theory of the 'universal laws of beauty'. While some of these musings are insightful, they feel misplaced, and detract from the otherwise objective findings that constitute the rest of the book.
The Tell-Tale Brain is by no means a perfect book. It sometimes loses focus, and on occasion struggles with balancing the conflicting demands of technical detail and readability. Nonetheless, these issues to little to detract from the fascinating and provocative core of the work, which consists of Ramachandran's extraordinary neurological case studies and his provocative and absolutely convincing analysis of them. You'll never think of your brain the same way again, and on this account, 'Tell-Tale Brain' is absolutely worth a read....more
'How the Mind Works' is an ambitious book. Pinker addresses an insane medley of topics: if it pertains to the mind in any way whatsoever, it's fair ga'How the Mind Works' is an ambitious book. Pinker addresses an insane medley of topics: if it pertains to the mind in any way whatsoever, it's fair game. This variety of topics discussed is the books greatest strength, but also it primary weakness.
Firstly, the bad: this book isn't clearly connected by an overarching thesis. I suppose everything has to do with 'the mind' - though this is debatable, as there are long stretches where you'll be prone to forget this book is supposed to be about 'how the mind works'. If each of the 8 chapters (some of which span upwards of a 100 pages) had been published as a self-contained book, no one would have been the wiser. In this sense, some cohesion would have been nice. The material is presented in a somewhat haphazard manner.
Now then, onto the good: the material presented is totally awesome. Pinker is a terrific writer, and just about everything covered in 'How the Mind Works' was intensely interesting. And cover a lot he does: you'll read about your brain's insane ability to make sense of visual input; about the importance of 'irrational' emotions (and why they're not so irrational after all); and about the evolutionary underpinning of sexuality, to name a few topics of interest. I didn't agree with everything said, and some of his opinions, presented as fact, are decidedly controversial. But most importantly, all of the topics were interesting, and his conclusions are almost always well supported. 'How the Mind Works' was never boring, and that's high praise for a book of this scope.
Should you read this book? Maybe. It's pretty ambitious, and unless you're fairly stoked about the material, you might be better of finding something more focused and concise. But if you're willing to take the plunge, you're in for a treat - How the Mind Works is an intellectual tour de force....more
Matter and Consciousness is a terrific introduction to the philosophy of consciousness, and a surprisingly light read. Churchland's writing is clear,Matter and Consciousness is a terrific introduction to the philosophy of consciousness, and a surprisingly light read. Churchland's writing is clear, concise, and fresh - that is to say, not boring.
The first half of the book investigates the phenomenon of consciousness, discusses it's philosophical difficulties, and covers the main philosophical theories of consciousness. The second half is dedicated to investigating intelligence in general, and Churchland explains how science (namely, AI and Neuroscience) is involved in this investigation.
This balance of philosophy and science makes the book readily accessible, and will appeal to a broad audience. Comprehensive yet concise, Churhland's book is the perfect introduction to the trippy world that is conscious thought. ...more
Review “The Dragons of Eden” is a delightful exploration of intelligence – an examination of its evolution, its function, and its ethical implications.Review “The Dragons of Eden” is a delightful exploration of intelligence – an examination of its evolution, its function, and its ethical implications. Carl Sagan explores a wide swath of topics: the informational content of both brains and genes; the evolution of the brain and its functional structure; animal intelligence; the evolutionary explanation for sleep and dreams; and the role of intelligence in determining the “sanctity of life.” Much of what is said is speculative, but Sagan is always crisply clear on distinguishing between speculation and science. His enthusiasm is contagious, and his prose is lucid. “Dragons of Eden” is the most accessible and enlightening books on intelligence I’ve ever read, and altogether a delightfully smart read. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.
Summary No Dualism Here Sagan makes it clear from the get go that his “fundamental premise about the brain is that its workings - what we sometimes call the mind - are a consequence of its anatomy and its physiology, and nothing more.” Some argue for dualism by pointing to the fact that we have been unable to localize the ‘higher brain functions’. Sagan offers a nice response: “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” This is a book about science, and not philosophy.
On Memory How, and where, are memories ‘stored’ in the brain? Here’s an interesting study that sheds light on the question of ‘where’. Certain patient undergoing brain surgery reported visceral flashbacks of memory when certain parts of their brain underwent targeted electrical stimulation. Interestingly, when these portions of the brain were removed, the memories didn’t simply disappear. This indicates there’s a certain redundancy of memory storage in the brain, or at the very least that memories are distributed, and not simplistically localized.
As far as the ‘how’ is concerned, there are – or rather were – two competing theories. The ‘dynamic’ hypothesis suggests our brain is similar to computer RAM, where information disappears the instant power is turned off. The alternative theory suggests our brain functions rather more like a hard disk, where information persists even in the absence of an electrical current. It turns out there is strong evidence that the latter is true. In one experiment, researchers taught hamsters to run a maze, and then froze them to a point where all electrical activity in the brain disappeared. The hamsters were then thawed, and it turned out they still remembered the maze. This indicates that brains store static traces of memory, instead of simply holding everything ‘dynamically.’
The Triune Brain The ‘triune brain’ model holds that our brain consists of three interconnected but evolutionarily discrete sections: The R-complex, the Limbic System, and the Neocortex.
The R-complex, it seems, we share with our reptilian ancestors, and is responsible for much of our bodies’ unconscious regulation. Interestingly, it is also the part of our brain associated with ritualistic and hierarchical tendencies.
Next, there’s the limbic system, which wraps around the R-complex, and enters the scene with the advent of mammals. The limbic system seems to be the source of altruism, emotion, and religious inclinations (those I’m a bit skeptical as to how that might be measured). Interestingly, it is here that many psychotic drugs are activated.
Finally, we have the neocortex – that uniquely ‘human’ part of the brain (though to be fair, most mammals have a neocortex. The point is that in humans, it’s so much more developed that we can regard it as its own module). The neocortex is the seat of deliberation, of spatial perception, and interestingly, of bipedal posture - among other, vaguer functions. It seems there’s a striking separation of function in the neocortex – brain damaged patients can write, but not read; read letters, but not numbers, and so forth – despite the fact that we’d otherwise thing of these as very similar activities.
Are Animals Intelligent? Yes, Sagan argues. He points out that there are chimps with working vocabularies of 100-200 words, and that some of these monkeys have gone so far as to invent their own words and phrases. Primate tribes also seem to develop and foster culture. Note that his is significant in that ‘culture’ is too fleeting a thing to encode in a genome. Culture must be transmitted extragenetically – in this case, from one brain to another.
Sagan muses about the implications: “the cognitive abilities of chimpanzees force us, I think, to raise searching questions about the boundaries of the community of beings to which special ethical considerations are due.” I’m inclined to agree.
Why Sleep? Our brains force us to sleep. Why? Conventional wisdom suggests that sleep has a restorative effect, but there is very little scientific evidence to support this view. Sleep is evolutionarily perplexing. It greatly increases an animal’s vulnerability, seemingly without any compensating benefit. It’s a lot easier for a predator to snatch a sleeping meal. Sagan turns this quandary on its head and suggests that the function of sleep is, actually, to decrease an animal’s vulnerability. It’s also a lot harder for a predator to find a sleeping meal.
Sagan suggests that sleep evolved to immobilize the early mammals during the daylight hours. Presumably, mammals were able to obtain all necessary calories at night - a time when cold-blooded predatory dinosaurs were necessarily inactive. During the day, mammals were better off hidden, asleep and completely immobilized, than if they had been hidden awake – conscious, and instinctively skittish. Only after the extinction of dinosaurs, Sagan suggests, did mammals move to daytime ecological niches. It’s an interesting theory, though it’s (as the author readily admits) quite speculative.
Why Dream? When it comes to dreams, Sagan again admits to speculation, and again his musings are fascinating. Here he suggests that “dreams are a spillover of unconscious processing of the days experience.” Sagan notes that dreams occur in the ‘subconscious’ regions of the brain - dreams have much more to do with the R-complex and the limbic system than they do with the neocortex. Note that reptiles, whose brain consists entirely of the R complex, do not dream. Another suggestion is that the dream state allows the R-complex – otherwise suppressed during the day in mammals – to roam (though I’m not sure why this would be either necessary or evolutionarily beneficial).
Sagan concludes this section by wondering “if the waking state of the other mammals is very much like the dream state of humans… where we can recognize signs… but have an extremely limited repertoire of symbols… where we encounter vivid sensory and emotional images and active intuitive understanding, but very little rational analysis,” and where we experience “most of all, a very feeble sense of individuality or self.” A pretty crazy thought.
Right Brain vs. Left Brain There is a genuine difference between the two sides of our brain. Some crazy examples involve split brain patients, for whom sides of the brain can’t ‘share’ information. There are times these patients will see something they cannot convey in speech, but can in writing, and vice versa – altogether, pretty crazy stuff.
And while the distinction between “left vs right brain thinking” is perhaps overemphasized in common discourse, Sagan confirms that to some extent, the right brain does indeed engage in intuitive thinking, whereas the left brain moreso performs critical thinking. He also notes that both ‘sides’ of the brain are valuable. The right brain extract patterns, real or imaginary; the left brain distinguishes between patterns and paranoia. The right brain provides creative insight; the left brain is distinguishes between genius and insanity. Indeed, the two sides have a sort of complementary survival value, and it makes no sense to make any normative claims about which is ‘better’ and which is ‘worse.’
Ethical Issues: Death and Abortions This might be the most interesting and relevant part of the book. Firstly, Sagan speculates about a philosophical definition death, and relates the sanctity of human life to the presence of human intelligence. In particular, he suggest that a patient otherwise alive but exhibiting no signs of neocortical activity might be said to be dead. Under this interpretation, to be ‘brain dead’ means ‘to be dead as a human.’
Sagan elaborates and examines the implication of this line of thinking by considering abortion. He readily admits that there is no question that legalized abortion would “avoid the tragedy and butchery of illegal and incompetent ‘back alley’ abortions,” as well as serve an important social need by slowing uncontrolled population growth. But then again “infanticide would solve both problems… yet by our laws and mores, is murder without question.” The question, then, is: what does it mean “to murder?”
With respect to the other side of the abortion debate, Sagan points out that the phrase ‘right to life’ is a popular buzzword “designed to inflame rather than to illuminate.” We kill animals, destroy forests, and ruin ecosystems. Clearly, then, when we claim there’s a ‘right to life’, we really mean to say there’s a ‘right to human life’ – but even then, the wars we wage are starkly at odds with this presumed principle. Similarly, Sagan disregards the claim that ‘the potential to be human’ is sacred. After all, a single ejaculation contains enough sperm for hundreds of millions of human beings, and we’re almost at the point where we can clone a human from a single skin cell. Surely we shouldn’t outlaw masturbation and the shedding of skin cells?
Sagan says “the key practical question is to determine when a fetus becomes human. This in turn rests on what we mean by human.” Again, here is Sagan’s proposal: the essential quality that makes us human is our intelligence. And if so, “the partial sanctity of human life can be identified with the development and functioning of the neocortex.” Along this line of reasoning, then, the cutoff for abortion lies somewhere near the end of the first trimester and the beginning of the second. I must admit I find this a compelling argument.
Quotes “The main conclusion arrive at in this work, namely that man is descended from some lowly life form, will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many… For my own part, I would as soon be descended from [a] monkey… as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.”
“The receipt of a message from an advanced civilization will show that there are advanced civilizations, that there are methods of avoiding the self-destruction that seems to real a danger of our present technological adolescence.” ...more
Review Not Another Lame Self-Improvement Book As a rule of thumb, “self-improvement” books are pretty shitty. They tend to have solely motivational valuReview Not Another Lame Self-Improvement Book As a rule of thumb, “self-improvement” books are pretty shitty. They tend to have solely motivational value – that is, they help you care. I’d go so far as to say that, in general, self-help books are not a cause of personal improvement, but rather an effect: you must want to improve or change in the first place, at which point you are already nine-tenths of the way there. Either vague or obvious (and usually both), such books rarely tell you anything you didn’t already know.
This is absolutely not the case with “Your Memory: How It Works and How To Improve It.” Mnemonic techniques have been empirically tested, and they work. Highbee does a terrific a job both conveying that mnemonics work and explaining how they're used. Mnemonics are the most powerful, tangible way to ‘improve yourself’ I’ve encountered, and Highbee’s book is a terrific exploration of the topic.
How Your Memory Works… The first part of the book is largely an educational exploration of memory. Highbee does a good job summarizing a wide swath of memory-related scientific literature, and answers our most basic questions: what is memory, and how does it work? In particular, he discusses the difference between short term and long term memory, the various ways memory is “measured,” the distinction between recall and recognition, the ‘stages’ of memory (encoding, storage, and retrieval), theories on why we forget, and so. This first half of the book is fascinating in its own right, and will whet your appetite for the lessons to come.
… And Tools to Better Use It Where the first half of the book is mostly educational, the second half is primarily instructional. In particular, Highbee introduces mnemonics, and examines a variety of mnemonic techniques. On a high level, mnemonics can be defined as “memory aids.” In short, mnemonic techniques impose meaning or structure where there otherwise is none. They are memory tools that leverage the power of meaningfulness, organization, visualization, and attention. And they are concrete and specific – not nearly as vague as my explanation here would indicate.
No Bullshit More on that later. For now, it suffices to say that if you have any interest at all in improving your memory – I mean, dramatically improving your memory - pick up this book. I hate how stereotypically self-helpy that sounds, but I’m dead serious: mnemonics are the shit, and Highbee’s book is the ideal introduction. His evidence based approach is refreshing, his exploration of literature is fascinating, and his instructions are terrific. I will concede Harry Lorayne’s “Memory Mastery” is probably a better teaching tool, and is somewhat more practical; Highbee’s approach is more academic, and his instructions are somewhat brief. But I thought this made for a much more educational, much easier read. Read one book or the other – or better yet, read them both. But whatever you do, learn about mnemonics. Your memory will blow your mind.
Summary: About Mnemonics The Link System The simplest mnemonic technique is called “the link system,” and it is a way to memorize an ordered list of items. The premise is simple: take each item, and associate it with the next item in line in a vivid, absurd, and visual way.
Ninjas and Dishwashers: An Example So, let’s say you need to memorize the following list: tie, ninja, moon, rope, dishwasher. Now, the first item always is the hardest to remember, since, a priori, you have nothing to associate it with. Generally, I associate the first word with the ‘source’ of the memorization task. In this case, you should associate it with me, since I’m giving you this list to memorize. Let’s now walk through how you would use the link system to remember this list.
First, associate me with "tie" in some absurd, memorable way. For instance, imagine me walking down the street, with a tie on, when suddenly the tie start to constrict me, of its own volition – my face gets beet red – and pop! my head falls off. Now, the key is to literally visualize this scene, as vividly as you can. Picture it in your mind’s eye – close your eyes if need be. Got it?
Alright, next word is “ninja,” which we have to associate with “tie” (at this point, you can totally ‘forget’ about the old association – don’t worry, your brain’s got it locked down). Perhaps you can imagine yourself walking down the street, when hundreds of ninjas appear on the surrounding rooftops and start throwing thousands of tie’s instead of shuriken. Visualize those ninjastar ties, rotating in the air, piercing you from all sides. Got it? Next: “ninja” and “moon.” Imagine looking up at the moon, which suddenly spouts forth thousands of ninjas, which stream down to earth: see them shooting straight out of the moon, and crashing down and slicing you silly (if you can’t tell, I find that violence makes scenes more memorable).
And so on. I implore you to actually take the time and make the remaining associations. Once you’ve made your way through the list just once, you’re good to go. I’m serious. You’ve as good as memorized the list. What was the first item? It had to do with me, since I’m giving you the test – ah! Tie constricts, head pops off – “tie”! Next: something to do with ties – ah! Ninja’s bombarding you with spinning tie projectiles – “ninja”! Next: something else to do with ninjas – ah! Ninja’s streaming from the moon - "moon"! And so on.
Try It With a Friend Of course, a list of five items isn’t very impressive, so you should actually test this system with a longer list of words. Find a friend, and ask him to come up with 20 concrete nouns. Then, have your friend read them aloud to you, pausing for ten seconds in between words to give you enough time to form your own vivid and absurd associations. Once you’ve heard this list once, you’ll almost certainly be able to recite the entire thing back to your friend – forward or backwards, at that. Seriously: try it out.
The Peg System Of course, the link system is limited in that you have to memorize a list in order. Thus, to retrieve, say, the 7th item, you first need to step your way through the first 6. The peg system is a more general mnemonic technique that overcomes these limitations. However, it comes at a price - a onetime, initial investment of effort.
The basic premise of the peg system is this: first, you pre-memorize a set of "peg words" - one for each of the numerals from 1 to 20 (this is the initial investment of effort).
Then, to memorize a numbered list of, say, 20 items, you associate each item with the corresponding "peg word." For instance, let’s say you have the following peg words: 1 = soda, 2 = sun, 3 = swim, and so on.
Let’s now use these pre-memorized pegwords to help us learn our earlier list of items. First, item number 1 is “tie”: what’s the peg for the number 1? “Soda.” So, associate “tie” with “soda.” The 2nd item is “ninja,” and the pegword for 2 is “sun,” so associate “ninja” with “sun.” The 3rd item on the list is “moon,” and our pegword here is “swim,” so associate these two… and so on.
Let’s say we’ve done this with a list of twenty items, and at the end, your friend asks you: what was the 3rd item on the list? Well, you think to yourself, my third peg is “swim.” What did I associate with “swim”? Ah – “moon,” you answer. Easy as pie. Note also that you don't have to memorize the 20 items in order - it's perfectly OK to first memorize the 19th item, and then the 12th item, and so on: one you've "hung" an item on its appropriate a peg, it'll wait for you until retrieval. The order of hanging doesn't matter, because all your "pegs" are numbered.
Note that the peg system works on the same principle as the link system: you memorize words by using absurd, active, visual associations. Notice that mnemonics make the material memorable, they help you organize it, they force you to visualize it, and by their very application, they force you to pay attention. They create structure and meaning where there otherwise is none, and somehow, your brain takes care of the rest.
Limitations of Mnemonics Note that all of my examples so far have involved memorizing concrete nouns, for this is where mnemonics are most effective. Abstract words are much harder to memorize using mnemonics - largely because the visual element is often missing - but it certainly can be done.
For instance, back when I had to memorize vocab words, I would take each word, find the first concrete noun it reminded me of, and then visually associate that noun with the meaning of the vocab word. For instance, “dilatory” made me think of “dildo”. Since “dilatory” means “causing delay,” I imagined myself running away from an alien and running into a huge dildo. It was in my way, and I had to limbo under it to get past. This slowed me down, allowing the alien to catch up... and eat me, of course. Then, when I saw "dilatory" on the test, I'd think: dildo - aliens - running - limbo - ah! "to slow down."
Mnemonics take more mental effort than rote memorization, it's true: you actually have to consciously apply yourself and think in the store phase. But the extent to which mnemonics are more effective and efficient than mindless memorization is absolutely insane. And the memories last much longer - you no longer have to cram and count on your short term memory to pull you through.
Another limitation of mnemonics is the fact that they don’t help you “remember to remember.” Take the familiar example of ‘losing’ your keys. “I forgot where I put them!” you cry. But really, what happened is that you never 'stored' the memory in the first place. In other words, this is a ‘storage’ problem, and not a ‘retrieval’ problem.
If you had set your keys down consciously – took note of the action, perhaps said out loud, “I’m an consciously placing my keys here,” you’d be able to later remember where you placed them, mnemonics or no. Mnemonics work by helping you more effectively ‘store’ items in memory, which they then help you retrieve. If you don’t didn’t ‘store’ something in the first place, mnemonics won’t help you one bit. In other words, mnemonics don't cure absentmindedness.
Conclusion: Tools You Must Choose To Use By now it should now be clear that mnemonics don’t transform your memory: they simply teach you how to better use it. Your memory won’t start to magically ‘remember things better’. Your participation is required, and it takes mental effort.
This is why “Your Memory” is so unlike most self-improvement books. It doesn’t vaguely promise to transform you, only to lather you with banal bullshit. Rather, this book presents non-obvious tools that work. These techniques don’t magically change you or your brain; rather, they change what you can do with your brain - if you so choose to use them. So, my friend, what's your choice? Seems like a no-brainer to me....more