Weeknote for 9/6/2020



It’s time for some changes. My motivation has been waning lately. Last week I couldn’t summon the drive even to make a time block schedule, let alone follow it. And despite the importance of my math project, I didn’t have much energy for that either. I think it’s a combination of tiredness and the sameness of my life at home, probably some other factors too. So I’m thinking of adding some variety by doing some housework and getting out more.



A controlled English format for note-taking. I didn’t catch up on my prealgebra notes like I’d hoped, but in the process of trying I opened an interesting line of thought to explore. One of my quests in note-taking is to find a somewhat rigorous way to format them that will make them easy to write and powerful to use through automation. RemNote takes care of some of the automation. But I’m still working out how to use RemNote’s format while balancing rigor, ease of writing, and ease of reading. Since math is so algorithmic, I thought about trying to write my notes like a program. But this made them hard to read.

My little epiphany was that for the flashcard-oriented format of these notes, the programming paradigm I needed was probably a rules engine, where the “conditions” are the memory cues (Descriptors in RemNote) and the “actions” are the items to recall. I also need an English-like syntax using words like “is” rather than symbols like “==”. In other words some type of controlled English.

But this week starts Thinkulum project month September, and I’ve decided to take a break from math for at least a couple of months. More on this in the next section.



This month I’m returning to my mnemonic substitute dictionary. I worked on this back in March but then put it on hold for math. Lately mnemonics has come up again a few times, and I think I’d like to try to finish the first release of this project by the end of the year. Other than setting up a new app with Cement, I’ll start by looking at classifying the concreteness of English words using data from Wiktionary.



I listened to Stuart Russell’s Human Compatible, a book about keeping AI on our side. Here’s a video interview covering some of his ideas. The book is an exceptional discussion of the issues with a promising proposal for a solution. I highly recommend it. I wondered if it would just be a repeat of Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence, but Scott Alexander’s book review convinced me to buy it.

I’m listening through The Lex Fridman Podcast. It consists of his interviews with important people in AI and related fields. Every episode has been good so far. Other than getting to know the field, my reason for listening is that I recently joined his Discord server, and I figure the podcast will make me a better participant, assuming I can get myself to participate. I’m kind of bad at group interaction.

There are around 120 episodes, and I don’t want to get burned out, so I’m going to take breaks. My plan is to listen through the Kai-Fu Lee interview and then listen to Lee’s book AI Superpowers. Then I’ll find a new stopping point for another break.



My family took another stab at remote Go Fish. We had our bi-weekly family Zoom call, and this time we played Go Fish online via PlayingCards.io. It took a little figuring out, but it worked well and was fun. My sister won again.

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