Learning, Knowledge, Intelligence, Mastery, Anki—TYHTL post 2

Hi all!

Following on from my recent posts re: my current project www.teachingyouhowtolearn.com (aiming to (a) advocate for meta-learning and (b) act as knowledge sharing hub /​​ flash card repo for EA), I’m excited to announce that the “Key Ideas Guide 2: Learning, Knowledge, Intelligence, Mastery, Anki” website post has just been published (it’s 10 to midnight in England, I’ve been in serious flow). Link here.

I’d really appreciate any feedback, and also if you know anyone to share it/​ the project with that’d be great!

Copy paste of the intro below:


With this website, I’m aiming to share the essentials of “meta-learning”, the field of learning about learning, in order to help empower people to increase their ability to learn and form knowledge. I used to feel incredibly daunted by new fields, but now feel completely empowered to gain deep understanding of new topics at a much improved pace to my old methods. Meta-learning also ensures that you retain your learnings over the long run, meaning you can engage in “cumulative” learning, which is a huge gain from the “sand spilling from your hands” feeling I had re: learning during University.

In the field of meta-learning there are a bunch of empirically demonstrated methods for how to learn, how to retain information, and how to gain deep understanding. The shocking and literally thrilling thing is that the free & open source tool Anki contains most if not all of these techniques. I feel silly in a way with how much I talk about Anki and how it’s really all I think you need to supercharge your learning, but it really is. Onwards!

See the footnotes for this post here

“Anki is just for learning facts”

For those who have heard of Anki but haven’t used it, I believe there’s a common thought (based on conversations with friends, comments on the internet, and feedback I received when first sharing this website with people) that Anki is good, but it’s really only for memorising things, for learning static facts, etc. We live in a time where memorisation/​ learning by rote either just isn’t part of what we’d consider part of the toolkit of learning, or something that is actively looked down upon. As briefly argued in my first post (and heavily supported by the science and meta-learning practitioners), memorisation is actually one of vital components of learning, knowledge formation and intelligence.

I’m therefore here to argue that Anki is actually the most powerful way to improve knowledge, understanding, and even what constitutes intelligence. It’s a profound example of a tool for thought that allows us to greatly increase our capacity to learn via the use of computers.

I’m going to be pulling heavily from the book Make It Stick as well as my own experience of using Anki for years.

A note re: my learning workflow: I also use a tool called Obsidian (similar to Roam Research but open source and (whisper it) better) which is the other vital part of my learning framework. However, Anki is where the vast majority of true learning & knowledge consolidation occurs (whereas Obsidian is more for note taking and acting as a “second brain”). The two represent the “inert vs activated information” idea that I’ll touch on later.

This article is going to be an attempt to collect all the relevant topics/​ concepts in a semi-structured narrative: whilst I’d love to take the time to really hone the ideas, I a) have limited free time outside of work and b) really want to get this stuff written down in relatively coherent but unpolished way to let me move onto other parts of this project (you should see the to do list for this site!!). There are loads of relevant things to cover. It’s worth saying that none of this is my own research: I’m just synthesising a few sources[1] into one guide along with my own experiences and learnings. The fact that I’m so excited about sharing this stuff is a testament to just how profoundly powerful I think this all is, and I’d really encourage you to give it a try.

A really quick (< 1000 words) primer on Anki

Before getting too deep into the weeds, here’s a really quick view on what Anki is and how you use it, just to give some context for what will follow.

(see page for full post)