MaxG's Shortform

by MaxG4th Dec 20209 comments
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An idea about AI in medicine:

Fecal microbiota transplants have been gaining prominence as we discover that many diseases seem to have a relation with the gut microbiome. There seems to be therapeutic potential for certain gut infections, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and functional gastrointestinal disorders.

What if you could use new high-throughput sequencing techniques like Nanopore to figure out what kinds of bacteria constitute the microbiome of tens of thousands of people?

Combine this with tons of computational power and the latest machine learning algorithms to find relationships between certain illnesses and symptoms and those people's microbiome. Maybe this would allow finding the perfect fecal transplant donor to reverse the relevant symptoms.

Hey there, I was just wondering if there are any fellow EAs who are using SuperMemo?

Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS) have generally become more popular over the last years. As a medical student, I have personally read tons of stuff about effective learning and how to win the fight against forgetting. I have probably spent hundreds of hours with Anki, which might be more familiar to people.

For a few months now, I've been trying out SuperMemo ( Especially with the feature of Incremental Reading, I feel like many people in the EA community could benefit from using it.

Main features:

  • allows you to remember facts with the best Spaced Repetition Algorithm I know of
  • read hundreds of articles/papers "at the same time" by making incremental progress on each one
  • have all your reading sorted by priority and connected in a knowledge tree structure

Furthermore it can potentially be used for things like boosting creativity and incremental writing

The biggest hurdle to overcome when starting SuperMemo is the learning curve. For a beginner, it can be a bit unintuitive and many people initially dislike the UI.

Luckily, the community seems to be growing pretty well right now and there is more and more high quality information online (see There are even people who can help you get started and offer 1on1 teaching.

I'm just wondering if any of you have heard about SuperMemo or maybe have personal experience?

If anyone is interested, I'm highly willing to teach any EAs that want to learn how to use it, feel free to dm me (I'm the one that taught Max). Alone I think it takes probably at least a week or two to get the hang of it whereas with maybe ~2 hours of teaching you can get started immediately afterwords. 

Whenever I hear about a new memory tool, I struggle to figure out what I would do with it. I try to keep knowledge "on paper" as much as possible, rather than relying on memory. The skills I need for my work are ones I use almost every day already, so I feel like I'm not forgetting anything essential.

What have you personally found useful to practice remembering using SuperMemo?

I think looking for things that you want to memorize is the wrong approach: I think it's better for things you want to learn and be able to use long-term. 

The SRS part probably gives you the impression that most of your time is meant to be for memorizing things but the incremental reading component massively shifts most of the use of SuperMemo to being learning and then memorization/maintenance of knowledge when it's in a suitably refined form. 

For me personally, there have been lots of things that I've found useful to learn though it's hard to point at them too specifically since it's not easy to tell what I only remember because of SuperMemo. Likely some of the things that made the biggest difference for me were:

-learning about REBT (mainly the idea of musts. I'm sure other therapies would have been useful this is just one that I happened upon)

-Replacing Guilt by Nate Soares from creator of SM. There are lots of useful writings from here making it hard to point to specific one of most utility but probably my favorite is his one on the Pleasure of Learning

-discovery of Bloom's 2 Sigma Problem from entirely random article I likely otherwise would have not ended up getting around to without SM

There are lots of other things I have in SM that I think aren't directly applicable now but are likely to server as the foundation for bigger ideas (the more things you have in your head the more connections you can make thus increasing creativity). I don't think it's a good idea to assume that more knowledge is an implicit good (since actual effort needs to be made for things to be applicable in real life with formuationl) but I do think long-term knowledge can have a multiplicative effect and it only takes one good idea sparked by two things in memory to be worth the rest of the time you spend on the system,


Beyond that, I think it's just insanely valuable having a system where I can chuck in whatever I find interesting and then not have to spend brainpower thinking about how to manage having 100 tabs. It completely fixes that.


(I am writing this at midnight so sorry if it is not entirely coherent)

Hi Aaron, great question.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: For people who are still in university, in study-intensive subjects, it's a great advantage to use a Spaced Repetition System like SuperMemo. To me it feels empowering not to have to worry about forgetting. It's a common experience to feel very frustrated to study so much for an exam, only to forget most of it afterwards. This doesn't happen to me anymore, because I just know the algorithm will take care and as long as I do my daily repitions, my knowledge will get transfered into long-term memory. 

Another obvious use case is learning languages. An SRS can greatly help you to learn a language much faster and this seems to be the most common usage. 

One not so obvious advantage is about creativity/innovation. In my understanding, creativity has a lot to do with connecting ideas from different fields, ones you wouldn't initially notice as being related to each other. Imagine you study two different domains, e.g. Biology and Economics. Actively remembering important information from both of those might result in two at first glance disparate ideas appearing in your mind in close succession. This is what leads to creativity, you making the connection between those. This is less likely to happen if you store your information mostly externally, e.g. in Evernote. 

To answer your question more straightforward: So far, I have found it most useful for studying medicine in University and learning French/Spanish.

Does anybody have examples of pre-registered self experiments or thoughts about the usefulness of self experiments?

I am only aware of Alexey Guzey's experiment on sleep

Recently I have become quite interested in improving my running with heart rate training and read a lot about the related physiology. I would like to try out Zone 2 Training by using heart rate as a proxy and experiment with this in a structured way. 

The blogger gwern has many posts on self-experiments  here.

Cool! I knew gwern but wasn't aware of his experiments, thank you.