Subject: Re: Difference between LISP and C++
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 18 Oct 2002 00:46:31 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Wade Humeniuk
| People make observations of how easy it is for children to learn new
| things, this is partly because they do not resist change (in fact they
| have nothing to change from).  For an adult to change, with ingrained
| neural pathways, the choice needs to be made to subject oneself to
| situations where one can potentially come into conflict with how the
| brain is currently wired.

  If what one already knows is reasonably consonant with reality, learning
  should be so much faster when you know a lot.  For instance, a surgeon
  with 15 years' worth of experience regularly learns a new technique in
  one tutored session while a novice surgeon may require a dozen.  I think
  it all depends on whether you are "open for learning" or not, and this is
  a mental state that appear to require significant energy.  Evolutionarily
  unsurprising, since it should be effortless to use internalized knowledge
  (or as close to effortless as possible) and most things needing learning
  should be learnable only once.  Many animals, even insects, are touted as
  being particularly "intelligent" this way -- they learn from all mistakes
  and do not repeat them.  (E.g., my cat now knows all the prepartory steps
  I have not been fully aware that I took preceding a trip to the vet.  It
  now takes significant effort for me to be creative enough each time that
  I actually make the appointment.  She is even smart enough to become
  suspicious if I close off certain places with good hiding places and run
  hide elsewhere.)

| You have to choose to be uncomfortable (the insecurity of being a child
| again), and the faith that the brain/mind will adapt once again and
| everything will be fine.

  Quite.  The confidence that you most probably will end up better off, and
  certainly no worse off on the other side of the learning experience than
  you would if you did not engage in it must be established.  It usually
  works very well to artificially lower the predictable outcome of not
  learning, however, but some of the best ways to do this (such as grades
  and exams and making people feel bad for not knowing) unfortunately cause
  a minority of people to get stuck at the artificially lower level despite
  efforts to return it to normal.

| Marvin Minsky's draft section on Consciousness is an interesting read.

  Thanks for the pointer.

| To be able to change, one would surmise that you need a fairly secure
| environment (like a secure job) until the transition is complete (as one
| is fairly vulnerable during large changes), and some assurrance that you
| are making a good change (or at least a neutral one).  Also some mental
| image (imagination) of the desired outcome is needed to help motivate and
| spur change.

  I appears to me that there are some problems caused by the way children
  are encouraged to work in school that could need some improvement.  I do
  not think that one needs to motivate people to take small risks to get
  something better even with a low probability of success -- if that were
  the case, we would have serious problems with the sorts of things that
  are financed by the stupid tax, better known as "lotteries".  I think the
  only /really/ important task is to instill in children or others you care
  about personally a confidence that they will never be worse off for
  trying to learn something.  Even if they fail, they could not /possibly/
  be worse off than if they did not try, but for some reason, some people
  take failure personally and feel or actually believe they are measured by
  their failures, not by their successes.

Erik Naggum, Oslo, Norway

Act from reason, and failure makes you rethink and study harder.
Act from faith, and failure makes you blame someone and push harder.