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24 Dec 2011

Quite often in movies such as the matrix or in people’s daydreams they wish that knowledge could just be poured automagically into their head. But some basic reasoning should show why that might not be possible or useful. If you were to simply pour the information into your brain all you would be doing would be little better than rote memorization and no more useful than a database. There would be no real learning going on.

Without too much loss in generality, learning can be considered compression. You are distilling a concept into its most basic parts that you can use to rebuild the necessary details later. This would suggest that the entropy in your brain is being increased and heat is being generated. As such the rate at which you learned would suggest how much energy you were spending. At too high a rate your brain would literally melt. So there is a bandwith problem where the brain must compress and encode the information. Learning may be faster with the visual, emotional and other pathways bypassed but it would not be much quicker, you still had to search the space of concepts to find which basis sets most represent them.

One could figure theoretical maximums on rate when considering the amount of information and the energy used by the learner. But what if the information was already compressed? Then the brain will still have to encode the information and increase its entropy. Doing this too quickly will still literally melt the brain. It would be a faster way than learning manually or even directly beaming but there is a chance that understanding might be lessened.

The process of search could generate its own memories that act as markers and aid in recall while adding richness to the concept space, simply directly encoding the knowledge would make it dry and not likely to be used creatively due to not being linked to wide variety of other related or not so related concepts.

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