I know that I know nothing

The phrase “I know that I know nothing” may sound familiar to you. That’s because, at some point, you must have either heard it from a friend or in school or read it somewhere. It’s a Socratic paradox.

The term, “Socratic paradox” refer to a self-referential paradox, originating in Socrates’s utterance, “what I do not know I do not think I know”, often paraphrased as “I know that I know nothing.”

The following are few of the so-called Socratic paradoxes:

  • What I do not know I do not think I know
  • No one desires evil
  • No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly
  • Virtue—all virtue—is knowledge
  • Virtue is sufficient for happiness

I know that I know nothing

The phrase (“I know that I know nothing”) originally comes from Latin “ipse se nihil scire id unum sciat”, which (if literally translated) means “to know that one thing he knows he himself is nothing”.

This does not make much sense if you just read the English translation.

This is because much is lost in the translation (Greek to Latin to back to Greek to English). Also, we have lost most of the historical context and nuances.

My personal opinion is two things are going on here:

1) Socrates is saying, “I know, I do not know things that I don’t know.” (This is factually correct for both Socrates and all of us, but whether you are aware of this fact of life is another topic.)

2) Socrates is saying, “I know, I don’t know anything (besides probably a few things and that too in a shallow sense)”. If you think deeply about it, this also seems to be true for him and as well as anyone of us.

Let us take a deep dive into what I mean by the above (point #2).

The Deeper Truth

We know that Socrates has been the bedrock of Western philosophy. So we can perhaps reverse engineer the foundation of western philosophy to gain some further insight into what actually was said or meant.

Socrates says all wisdom begins with wondering and thus admitting one’s ignorance.

Socrates’ dialectic method of teaching was based on that he as a teacher knew nothing, so he would derive knowledge from his students by dialogue.

There is also a passage by Diogenes Laertius in his work Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers where he lists, among the things that Socrates used to say:

“εἰδέναι μὲν μηδὲν πλὴν αὐτὸ τοῦτο εἰδέναι”

“that he knew nothing except that he knew nothing”
Again, closer to the quote, there is a passage in Plato’s Apology, where Socrates says that after discussing with someone he started thinking that:
τούτου μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐγὼ σοφώτερός εἰμι· κινδυνεύει μὲν γὰρ ἡμῶν οὐδέτερος οὐδὲν καλὸν κἀγαθὸν εἰδέναι, ἀλλ᾽ οὗτος μὲν οἴεταί τι εἰδέναι οὐκ εἰδώς, ἐγὼ δέ, ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ οἶδα, οὐδὲ οἴομαι· ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι.
I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.

What this tells us is that your knowledge of any subject is always incomplete. As you acquire more facts and truths about a matter, your knowledge increases, oftentimes eliminating previously held wrong assumptions or beliefs.

You are always learning, always seeking, always questioning, always wondering, always doubting, always keeping an open mind that you might be wrong. And as things turn out, you often are…wrong and/or incomplete.

So perhaps, Socrates did mean “I know that I know nothing” but not as an objective fact about himself but as a state of mind.

After all, in the grand scheme of things, none of us know anything that’s truly eternal, the absolute Truth!

One needs to be a forever student. You never stop learning.

Read Next

A (mathematical) way to think about Coronavirus: Covid19

There is a lot of chatter going on around coronavirus and its comparison to flu and whether all this panic is justified or moronic!

Well, my goal in this short post is to share a different perspective so we all can have more insights into what it is that we are dealing with and how they should personally approach it.

Let’s say there are two diseases: Disease X and Disease Y

Disease X infects 50 Million people in the world each year (and has been around for over a century)

Disease X kills 300,000 people in the world

0.6% dead (best case scenario)

Disease Y (which is like Disease X) has infected 121,747 people in the world

Disease Y has killed 4389 people

3.6% dead

Covid19 Maths

If Disease Y is not stopped, it has a similar or faster rate of spread compared to Disease X. Disease Y can also become endemic just like Disease X (and therefore returning every year).

The point is NOT “total deaths” BUT “total potential death”, if not stopped. The point is about stopping the spread.

Please wash your hand. Don’t handshake. Avoid unnecessary travel. Work from home, if not 100% well. Practice common sense. Stay safe and let’s keep everyone safe around us. 

If You Live in the US

Disease X infects 10-50 Million people in the US each year (and has been around for over a century)
Disease X kills 56,000 people in the US each year
0.5% dead (best case scenario)

Disease Y (which is like Disease X) has infected 1016 people in the US
Disease Y has killed 31 people
3% dead

Again, the point here is NOT “total deaths” BUT “total potential death” if not stopped. The point is about stopping the spread.

Ideal Education System: The Future of Education

Everyone feels that the current education system is broken and outdated. Throughout the history, we have had several forms of educations. Before we talk about the future of education or an ideal education system, let’s first look at our history.
 
In the ancient Greece city-states, for example, the purpose of education was to produce good and loyal citizens.
In ancient Egypt, education was not for the common citizens. Formal education was reserved mainly for the priestly caste and boys from the wealthier families. Girls rarely were taught in public. These ancient Egyptian kids started school at the age of 7 and were taught to read, write, and as well as mathematics.
 
In ancient India, kids at a very young age were sent to an ashram (similar to a private boarding school) where a child lived in close proximity to his guru (teacher) and was taught in person or group setting for up to 7 to 10 years. In some schools, the curriculum covered learning about medicine to martial arts.
In ancient China, formal schooling systems were established as early as 2000 BC. The curriculum covered reading, writing, basic mathematics, poetry, Confucianism, and interpreting I Ching. 
 
During the industrial revolution in England, the purpose of education was to the train future factory workers. However, times have changed. We are currently living in the age of superintelligent computers, rockets flying to the Mars, and self-driving cars.

The Future of Education

What should be the future of education? Can we design an education system that will be both well-rounded and meaningful for our future generations? A system that is compatible with both the spiritual and scientific aspects of our life. 
 
I believe every human child should be taught and trained in the following 11 disciplines. It is best to design and structure an education system in the following fields from grade 1 through 10. (That’s first 10 years of formal learning.)
 
Afterwards, each student (or seeker) can pick some of the fields to master for another 10 years. (This will be a combination of 10,000 hours and practical and experiential internships in any given field.)

Ideal Education System

An ideal education system and the future of education will be structured into the following 11 domains. It will cover all aspects of human life.
 
  • Language and Literature
  • Music (Instruments, Dance, Singing)
  • Martial Arts & Survival Skills
  • Mindfulness & Philosophy
  • Foundational Maths
  • Foundational Science
  • Computer & Machine Programming
  • Metalearning (Learning how to learn)
  • Entrepreneurship
  • World History
  • Human Rights & Social Governance

Let me know what you think of this structure? Would like me to expand on these 11 domains? Leave your questions or thoughts in the comments below. 

The Best Meta Learning Infographic

Meta Learning is about how we learn. Learn a new skill. Learn it fast. This Infographic is a guide to Rapid Learning and “Learning about Learning.”

Meta Learning 101

Read: The Best Meta Learning Methods, Templates, & Tools (Blog Post)

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Do you have a favorite meta learning method that you follow (or have followed in the past)? If you have tried the Naked Soul method, please share your success stories and how this has helped you learn a new skill faster. Any other comments, please feel free to share your thoughts with us.

What is Meta Learning? Strategies for Teaching Meta Learning or Learning It

Our brain, perception, and learning

For those who might not know the meaning of meta-learning, it simply means, “learning about the learning.”

Meta is a root word that comes from the Greek, which generally means beyond. (An example would be, metaphysics). Meta also means something that is “self-referencing”. (An example would be ‘meta-learning’.) It is almost symbolic as in where a Zen haiku says “the ocean is in the drop of water and the drop of water is in the ocean”.

The word “meta”, when used with a noun, takes the meaning of a simple object or process to a whole new level. For example, consider these two words: Meta-Data (data about the data) and Meta-learning (learning about the learning). Or, consider this: Meta-physics (beyond physics).

4HC Method

Tim Ferriss in his book The 4-Hour Chef (4HC) talks about DiSSS and CaFE. This is his prescribed formula and it is quite good. I have tried it myself and it works well for any skills (be it computer programming or martial arts).

DiSSS stands for Deconstruction, Selection, Sequence, and Stake.

CaFE stands for Compression, Frequency, and Encoding.

 

You can read about it more on a long-form blog post that I wrote a few weeks ago called, “Best Meta Learning | Rapid Learning| Accelerated Learning Template and Methods In The World.”

Teaching Meta Learning

Learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin. When you learn, you are actually teaching yourself something. Likewise, when you teach something (to others), you learn the material in new ways. Your nerve cells make new connections and new reference points which helps you in recalling the learned material faster at later a time.

I would break down the principle and process of Meta-Learning into 3 various phases.

1: The 80/20 rule

I am fascinated by the 80/20 rule. 80/20 rule basically reduces the learning material and shortens the learning curve of any skill. What this means is to attain mastery of any new skill, it may take a student 6 months to 2 years instead of a standard 10 years of practice.

An example:

The power of the human mind. Meta-learning is actually natural.

 

2: The Flow State

I am also endlessly fascinated by the process and mechanism of the creative-flow-state. I try to ask questions such as: How to achieve Flow state intrinsically? How to take creativity beyond the reach of few naturally gifted people to everyone by transforming creativity into a learned skill?

How to make education and learning process more fun, practical and approachable for most people? Questions like these keep me awake at night once a month or so. I then go on to research, experiment and apply the answers that I come up with or learn from others. Whatever sticks, I make that in the toolkit for daily/weekly/monthly practice.

3: Meta Learning

The last step is to follow a structured approach to meta-learning.  It is a more refined method of learning new skills at a much higher rate and with faster results.

I call it: DR. BevO, DaD, Me, MoM & our CAT, BiTS

You can read about it more on a long-form blog post that I wrote a few weeks ago called, Best Meta Learning | Rapid Learning| Accelerated Learning Template and Methods In The World.

 

In short, it means (the steps are):
D = Deconstruct

R = Reference (cross POV)
Bev = Bird’s Eye View
O = Order (sequence)
DaD = Draw Diagram
Me = Memorize
MoM = Mental Maps
C = Cheat Sheet (CliffsNotes)
A = Action  (& Practice)
T = Time it
B = Buddy (Partner)
T = Teach
S = Stakes (& Rewards)

You first work on DR. BevO.

D = Deconstruct
R = Reference (cross POV)
Bev = Bird’s Eye View
O = Order (sequence)

Then learn while practicing, and practice when learning by engaging in Dad, Me, MoM & our CAT.

DaD = Draw Diagram
Me = Memorize
MoM = Mental Maps
C = Cheat Sheet (CliffsNotes)
A = Action  (& Practice)
T = Time it

Consider this example of a mind-map:

Mental map for memory. Look at the use of various colors.

In the last phase, you can do all three or just one, it doesnâ€t matter. You get to pick. Pick one, two or all three of BiTS.
B = Buddy (Partner)
T = Teach
S = Stakes (& Rewards)

 

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Did you know about the free VIP pass offer to the Naked Soul Club? Subscribe your email address now and be part of this tight-knit community of lovers, readers, writers, adventures and other people just like yourself. I send great contents directly into your mailbox. Once a week. Sign up now and stay in touch!

Do you have a favorite meta learning method that you follow (or have followed in the past)?  If you have tried Naked Soul method or The 4-HR Chef’s (or Tim’s method) DiSSS and CaFE, please share your success stories. Any other comments or questions, please feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Best Meta Learning | Rapid Learning | Accelerated Learning Tools, Templates & Methods

Rapid learning is a skill that can be acquired by anyone. Likewise being highly efficient and productive is also a skill and lifestyle habit that can be learned and integrated into one’s life.

Let’s talk about productivity first before we get into the world of #MetaLearning.

How To Learn Like A Machine

Understanding Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Effectiveness is getting greater or equal output for a given input. Efficiency is having a superior process so that for a given input the output is always exponentially greater.

Productivity 101

80% result with 20% work

1. Create a morning ritual (the first 90 minute).
2. Establish a daily routine (daily structure).
3. Establish a weekly routine (weekly short term objective).
4. One postcard size to-do list (to be disposed at the end of day).
5. Keep a pen, dairy and a voice recorder always handy.
6. Do your most important task during your most productive hours (in terms of mental energy and freshness). Do your least important or auto-pilot work during your weakest hours (again speaking in regards to mental energy).
7. Practice Lucid dreaming and practice conscious dreaming to strengthen your visualization skills.
8. Sleep 8-9 hours. This sounds paradoxical but it’s true that sleeping 33% of your time keeps you super productive for the rest 66% of your waking hours.
9. Seek creative solutions to your complex problem in your dreams. Harness the power of your unconscious brain.
10. Master a ritual or routine that helps you to get into the “Flow state” faster. Get into the flow state as often as possible, and aim to stay there for as long as possible.

Meta Learning Explained

As with most things in life (or word), there is no one best thing or way. One technique might works for someone while another may prove helpful to another.

Also, ion our context of methods to learn faster, the best technique will also vary based on the subject at hand. For example, learning music or musical instrument is significantly different from learning investment strategies in the stock market.

The Word ‘Meta’

The word “meta” comes from Greek and it means “beyond” (or after). This is why we have words like Metaphysics (beyond conventional physics). Etc. Meta also means “self-referential”. In Computer Science, metadata means “data about data”. Metacognition means “cognition about cognition”.

 

Tim Ferriss and Josh Waitzkin

Tim Ferriss‘ DiSSS and CaFE is a good method for learning cognitive tasks such as Language learning, Computer Science as well as for physical activities such as Archery and Brazilian Jujitsu.

Tim’s method is external, dismantling and then rebuilding, and effectiveness driven. This is explored in depth in his new book The 4-Hour Chef.

Josh Waitzkin‘s art of learning (meta learning) focuses on integration, transformation and channeling. His method included conscious unlearning (instead of ignoring).

Josh’s method is systematic but creativity driven. Josh explores his ideas in his autobiographical book The Art of Learning.

Best Rapid Learning Tools and Methods

In my own experience, I have learned 5 languages so far and I am currently learning Nepali (my 6th language).

I am a published poet and I’ve worked as a coder and as well as solar panel plasma depositor.

I am a black belt in Shotokan Karate and at the same time a start-up guy. I am a blogger and also work a full-time job. I have traveled to all 50 US States and 32 countries so far (as of 2019). So how am I managing all this within the constraint of the 24 hours that we all have?

I have utilized both DiSSS, CaFE and Josh’s Art of Learning principle. Moreover, what has worked for me is a combination of everything plus my own experiments as outlined below.

I learned SQL and programming from nothing. I learned dancing from not knowing how to move. True that I had a background in martial arts (a form of dance-like art) and true that I studied engineering and took a few computer languages class. But, still, in my own mind, I was a zero. How did I do that?

Learn fast and have fun in the process

An Effective Meta Learning Template

 

DR. BevO, DaD, Me, MoM & our CAT BiTS

This can be further broken down into three layers (top, inner, and outer) of organized learning principles.

 

Layer 1 (The top layer): DR. BevO

Layer 2 (The inner layer): DaD, Me, MoM & our CAT

Layer 3 (The outer layer): BiTS

 

The top layer: DR. BevO

Step 1: Deconstruct and Dissect.

This step is all about methodically breaking down a body of knowledge in order to study its internal parts and complex interconnection.

What is the minimum useful unit of knowledge? For a foreign language, it would be a word. For a programming language, it would be a syntax.

 

Step 2: Reference framework (to not reinvent the wheel)
Pick a reference framework. To learn a new skill, find out what one you already possess and if you have to teach it to someone totally new, how would you structure your classes and why?

For example, if I have to teach someone Martial Arts, I’ll start with the four most common kicks among the top four schools/styles. Learning most common (& effective) four kicks will put you in top 10% of fighters.

SQL or Programming – Most common functions, syntax and/or statements
Learning most common syntax and statements will make you query work 80% of the time.

Think first and think deep.

 

Find and study the “normal (i.e average)” and the “experts/masters/anomalies”. Ask these questions and write down the answers.

Question 1. What do the average people do?

Question 2. What the experts or master do not do that the average do?

Doing this will help you to determine:
– List for quick reduction
– The goal is to not become a master or mimic a master but to simplify so that you can enter first and then go on to conquer.

 

Step 3: Bird’s Eye View (View from 30,000 ft)
Look at the extreme and center. Do this to filter out whatever intimidates you. You can always come back to the additional learning materials later. Compress the most important 20% or so into a 30,000 ft map (to be used later).

A bird’s eye view map. This step is related to navigation and to correctly size your problem. This step is also to get a reality check. Once you know what you are up against it is easy to fight it by breaking it down into smaller conquerable pieces.

 

Step 4: Order

Order is to sequencing your learning material into modules (linear and later overlapping). In other words, what’s the most effective order for learning these parts that you broke down in step 1 – 3?

 

The inner layer: DaD, Me, MoM & our CAT

This is the second layer of learning. Here it is all about putting the pieces together. This is the battleground. In layer one, you have done all the planning and you have made your strategies. Now, time for the action. Are you ready?

 

Step 1: Draw diagrams
Draw as many diagrams as many you can. Connect the dots. Connect the concepts together. Find correlation. Find overlap. Find opportunities for integration. Find the opportunity for improvements. Question and find the gaps.

The more you draw and trash and draw better knowledge diagrams, charts, and maps, the more efficient you will become at the application of your newly acquired knowledge. This will also help you with the next step.

An example:

Memory mindmap

 

Step 2: Memorization
Memorize the map. Memorize 20%. Memorize the syntax. Memorize the kicks. Memorizing in this step is about rapid memorization.

If some of the things do not make sense, still memorize. Slowly, slowly, you’ll learn to connect the dots. Do not worry about understanding the full theory here, just remember the most basic units of your learning material.

 

Step 3: Mental Maps

Creating mental maps is going a step further than drawing knowledge charts and diagrams. Mental maps are where you start to connect the dots between what you have understood so far. Mental maps also take advantage of your 30,000 ft view to help you understand what you need to do next to reach your ultimate goal. This map is the map for your beginning to end the journey.

Note, mental maps will keep refining as you get better in the application of what you have learned and when you start to understand what you have bluntly memorized.

 

Step 4: Cheat sheet (no bigger than one page)
This is to be made by you. Irrespective of how small or big this gets, you alone must create this. Again, as with the whole theory behind this method, you’ll keep refining your cheat sheet.

A cheat sheet is what you have learned. This contains mostly what you have not memorized and the essence of what you have memorized already. You can also prepare CliffsNotes of any books, articles, etc that deals with the skill that you are trying to learn.

An example of using a diagram to organize information

 

Step 5: Action (& Practice)
Action means to practice in real-time. This is where you get comfortable with the hands-on phase of any skill acquisition. This means real-time coding. This means kicking high. When in action phase, you are NOT to learn new things unless and until you have mastered the things that you have broken down so far.

(You can, however, dig deeper into what you are practicing if time permits.)

Remember iteration is the key concept. If you are learning SQL selects (for one database table) with group by, order by, and all the other basic SQL commands then until you are master in all the variations of select, do not jump to joins (selecting data from two or more database tables).

Practice with the diagrams you have drawn and the cheat sheet. Refine your diagram and cheat sheet as you make mistakes in action/practice phase. Also, needless to say, you are also modifying and improving your mental maps.

 

Step 6: Time it (Distributed learning)
Two things to do in this last phase. Time your learning window and then test yourself. By failing to remember or do something you’ll feel that internal kick which will make your brain in super-receptive mode. Remember, sometimes real learning happens when you have failed a test. So fail many times in mock tests before the real test comes.

Secondly, distribute your learning sessions. Rather than sitting whole night or two days straight, split your session. Do something fun in between or you may even play with something totally different. It is better to keep the primary focus on one difficult thing at once but you can surely have fun with something that does not require high cognitive energy.

Note, you learn well when you are enjoying your subject. That’s how you get into that flow state. And to enjoy your subject, you need that mental energy. You do not want to be fatigued.

 

The outer layer: BiTS

This is the third layer of learning. You need only one of the following three. If you can do more than one, even better. But you must have at least one of these to keep you in accountable and interested in the game. Make learning fun, make it a game.

 

Step 1: Buddy system
Having a buddy whether it is programming or martial arts helps you quiz one another, challenge one another and therefore learn faster. The more fun a new adventure is, the faster you master it.

 

Step 2: Teaching
Find someone whom you can teach what you have learned and what you might not have learned. Teaching others is one the fastest way to learn something yourself. If you cannot find someone to teach, teach yourself. Play a mind game with yourself. Quiz yourself and answer to yourself.

 

Step 3: Stakes

This is all about staying in the game long enough to reap rewards for your hard work. Too many people quit a new skill after some trying because they feel it is not worth it. First thing to note here.

1. Are you motivated by negative outcome (fear) or positive outcome (anticipation of reward)?

If you are the fear type then you need to find out what psychological and social mechanisms can you set up for maintaining your inner discipline?

For example, you can publicly share your goal with your friends so that you feel accountable. On the other hand, if you are internally motivated, perhaps, set up a reward for yourself if and when you achieve a milestone (or mini-goal).

 

Summary:

D = Deconstruct
R = Reference (cross POV)
Bev = Bird’s Eye View
O = Order (sequence)
DaD = Draw Diagram
Me = Memorize
MoM = Mental Maps
C = Cheat Sheet (CliffsNotes)
A = Action  (& Practice)
T = Time it
B = Buddy (Partner)
T = Teach
S = Stakes (& Rewards)

 

Hope this helps in reaching and achieving your goals. Please feel free to leave me your thoughts in comments below.

 

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Did you know about the free VIP pass offer to the Naked Soul Club? Subscribe your email address now and be part of this tight-knit community of lovers, readers, writers, adventures and other people just like yourself. I send great contents directly into your mailbox. Once a week. Sign up now and stay in touch!

Do you have a favorite meta learning method that you follow (or have followed in the past)? If you have tried Naked Soul method, please share your success stories and how this has helped you learn a new skill faster. Any other comments, please feel free to share your thoughts with us.