Despite common ancestry between humans and apes, humans have the ability to grow collective knowledge through the replication of memes.
Memes are ideas paired with behaviors. Replicating a meme means you’ve internalized the idea and behaviors to transmit them to others.
You can teach apes to open a nut using a tool and a process, but they are not replicating memes they are emulating the motions. Humans don’t learn through emulation but through explanation.
Creativity is required to replicate memes. The same creativity needed to acquire existing knowledge is the same thing needed to create new knowledge.
This also explains how vast collective knowledge can start from a static society that tries its best to inhibit any change or new ideas. It takes creativity to perfectly replicate existing knowledge and ideas.
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I remember when I first started working at Stripe I felt like the dumbest person in the room. I was amazed at how smart everyone seemed and the writing…gosh, the writing! If I wanted to be like that too, something needed to change.
An overlooked part of understanding information and not merely memorizing it, is to elaborate on the meaning of something you just learned. When taking notes, it’s easy to end up with a detailed list of things without actually understanding the content. Without connecting the ideas with what you already know, you can’t attach the ideas to any scaffolding that would be needed for generating new ideas later (or even recall them).
It’s striking how captivated the world is by LLMs and the latest techniques in AI. What if we were just as excited about progressing human knowledge and learning? Education doesn’t receive nearly the attention and hype it should yet we are far more capable.
Here’s how to write permanent notes based on How to Take Smart Notes.