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David Epstein, Range

I'm healthy enough to feel like studying or reading non-fiction again, and have started this book, on the nature of expertise, and arguing that generally breadth is better than overspecialization.

* Tiger Woods was a golf prodigy from like age 2, but Roger Pedersen came to tennis casually and late.
* Chess and golf are kind learning environments: clear rules, clear feedback, lots of repetitive situations. Tennis less so. Much of human life, even less so.
* Collaborative human-computer chess is apparently more fruitful than I knew. Humans can provide strategy and management that complements the computer's tactical genius. Even fairly inexperienced humans... whereas much of the work of becoming a grandmaster is becoming a tactical expert, something that is now entirely eclipsed by the computer.
* The more eminent a scientist, up through Nobel prize winners, the more likely they are to have artistic hobbies or other non-scientific interests.
* The Flynn effect -- the widespread rise in IQ scores -- is particularly pronounced in abstraction, like Raven's Progressive Matrices, or more abstract words in language-based IQ tests. Younger generations don't do better than older ones on concrete words.

* Luria studied peoples during the rapid modernization of the USSR and found that untouched remote villages were extremely concrete thinkers. They could learn from experience, sure, but categorically refused to answer questions outside their experience. They tended to group things oddly, compared to 'modern' people who would group items easily by color or material, or function (hunting tools vs. prey, say.)

Like a sample syllogism:
All bears in the far north are white.
Novaya is in the far north.
What color are the bears in Novaya?

Villager: "How can I know? I've never been to Novaya!"
Slightly modernized villager: "Going by your words, the bears there would be white."
Modern person: "White, duh."

Of course, syllogisms are at least 2300 years old, thanks Aristotle, so it's not literally a 'modern' thing, but something about education or social complexity.

On the flip side, the villagers were immune to some optical illusions where same-sized circles look different sizes based on what's around them.

Luria's results have been replicated since in other subsistence societies.

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Damien Sullivan

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