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Working Memory, and Getting Things Off Your Head

Excellent, excellent email here from Cristian Strat in response to last week's newsletter, "GSV#9: Get Things Off Your Head."

Here's Cristian -

Hey Sebastian! I was thinking about the impact of getting things off your head.

I'm not an expert but I was reading about Working Memory and the correlation between that and your general level of fluid intelligence and attention level. Apparently people can only hold about 5-7 bits of information at once for thought manipulations and reasoning. Apparently, being able to hold a few more things in your working memory makes a dramatic improvement in your thinking abilities. Consequently, a smaller capacity will make for an inferior thought process.

Now, when you try to keep things in your head (like "Don't forget to call mom at 4pm") while working, you effectively operate with a lower capacity Working Memory. You constantly have to refresh "Don't forget to call mom at 4pm". As an experiment, try to remember a 4 digit number while working on something.

How I Prioritize Books

Patri Friendman is one smart dude. He writes a lot of good stuff, he's got a ton of good insights, and he does prolific amounts of real-world work that changes that's got a strong chance of dramatically changing the course of history. There's not too many people I'd be excited to work for in a vizier-type role for empirebuilding, but he's one of them.

His blog is here. Today, we're talking about an entry he made on LessWrong titled "Rational Reading: Thoughts On Prioritizing Books."

Some choice excerpts -

A large element of instrumental rationality consists of filtering, prioritizing, and focusing. It's true for tasks, for emails, for blogs, and for the multitude of other inputs that many of us are drowning in these days[1]. Doing everything, reading everything, commenting on everything is simply not an option - it would take infinite time

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