There is no magic — deconstructing "genius"

“Genius” was an idea that the layman would marvel at, an incomprehensible leap in human mind that seemed more surreal than relatable. Like much of science, this too has now been daintily plucked from the “magical mystery” basket and gently placed in the “oh that makes sense” zone. We now understand that the third ingredient, raw analytic intelligence, is necessary only as a dough, but it is relentless curiosity and a surplus of mentors and encouraging peers which decides how many theorems the recipe makes, and how delicious they taste.

The first two things can be selected for when building a team environment, with the environment itself set up to provide the third.

Are you good at propositional calculus? How about at making Bobby eat his brussels sprouts?

In the world of propositional calculus, there's absolutely no difference between a rule about traveling to Boston by plane and a rule about eating vegetables to get dessert. But in our brains, there's an enormous difference: the first is a arbitrary rule about the world, and the second is a rule of social exchange. It's of the form "If you take Benefit B, you must first satisfy Requirement R."

Our brains are optimized to detect cheaters in a social exchange.

Study hacks: the art of learning well in technical courses

Here’s what I commonly observe: the students who struggle in technical courses are those who skip the insight-developing phase. They capture concepts in their notes and they study by reproducing their notes. Then, when they sit down for the exam and are faced with problems that apply the ideas in novel ways, they have no idea what to do. They panic. They do poorly. They proclaim that they are “not math people.” They switch to a philosophy major.

Without insight you can’t do well.