My personal definition is the following:
Learning is the memorization of relationships between things in a context, enabling us to simulate things in our minds to generate predictable behavior.
When we learn, we enable ourselves to not only observe, but imagine how something works in our minds. We imagine and play with how different scenarios unfold through a model in our heads. These mental models are our minds best guesses about how things work based on our previous experience and observations of how things worked in the past.
There are two fundamental ways to learn things:
Analytical / Dissectional
- What does it contain?
- What is it made of?
- What is its sub parts?
Systemic / Relational
- What is it connected to?
- How is it affected by other things?
- How does it affect other things?
- How is it different from other things?
I’ve talked about Black boxes briefly in an earlier post. But if you are unfamiliar I’ll describe it quickly in this context: A Black box is a mental model about something with only systemic / relational information. What makes it “Black” is that it’s content isn’t observed.
- Stage 1 – “Unconscious” Incompetence.
- Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence.
- This is when you know that there is something specific that you can’t understand or can’t do.
- Example: “Oh people can solve Rubik’s cube. But I can’t.”
- In relation with the term Black box, this is equivalent of noticing or identifying a certain Black box.
- Stage 3 – Conscious Competence.
- This is when you are able to understand or do something, but it requires your full attention.
- Example: “I can solve Rubik’s cube when focusing with a lot of effort and with help from instructions.”
- In relation with the term Black box, this is equivalent of being aware of the inner workings of a Black box.
- Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence.
- This is when you are able to understand or do something without having to think about it consciously.
- “I don’t have to think about what I do to solve Rubik’s cube.”
- This is equivalent of knowing a black box by heart. In the book theory of fun this would be refereed to as grokking.