Automating creativity, making knowledge accessible and raising smart children

Hey squad :)

I’m writing this in London, where we’re currently in lockdown 😩

🧠 On making knowledge accessible

The internet has democratised access to a lot of knowledge. We can find great information freely (or if not, cheaply) through blogs, videos and online courses.

But what information still has significant barriers to access?

One of the biggest that comes to my mind is scientific research.

Firstly, it’s hard to access the papers, as they’re kept behind paywalls. People with affiliations from academic institutions can circumvent this, but for the rest this can be prohibitively expensive.

When I had my daughter, I wanted to read the latest research on different nutrients and their impact on development. Thankfully, I was able to access the latest research through my UCL affiliation. Many would not be so privileged.

Dr Rohan Francis made a great video on this subject, and the use of ‘Sci-Hub’ to get around it.

Secondly, there is the challenge of digesting the content of academic research. Again, I’m in a privileged position, having learnt to read and write academic papers through an academic medical degree. Many haven’t go through this initiation process.

This led me to set out on a mission with some friends to democratise access to information within medical research. We’ve started ‘ExplainThisPaper’, to explain the latest research in simple terms - making it accessible to all.

We’re still in beta, but you can check out the site here and can sign up for email notifications if interested. Also, if you’d be interested in contributing to the project, just hit ‘reply’ to this email. We’d love to have you!

🖌 On automating creativity

This week I read ‘How to take Smart Notes’. It points out that the first stage of non-fiction writing is actually making notes, rather than the writing itself, and then shares some ways to improve note-taking and organisation.

This reiterated a lot of the ideas that Thiago Forte shares in Building a Second Brain, which I wrote about in this newsletter previously. In particular, about how we can design our digital information systems to encourage creativity and make writing much easier.

When I wrote my book on study techniques, by the end it had become a bit of slog. From talking to Josh Case, who recently published a book on learning to code for medicine, he had a similar experience.

In the past, I’ve structured my notes in a fairly segregated manner, and seen writing projects as something that starts when I sit down to write. A personal project for the coming months is going to be to re-structure these notes based on what I’ve read, and see what impact it can have.

🚸 On raising smart children

I’ve been reading about what we can do as parents to raise smart children. In particular, I’ve enjoyed the book “Brain Rules for Baby”, which is aimed at 0-5 year olds.

I came across an interesting case study of the Polgar sisters. These were three sisters who became the world’s three greatest female chess players, after their parents decided from age 0 to train them for this.

The father wrote a book called “Svako Dete Je Genije” (raise a genius), where he aims to ‘distill’ his insights. I didn’t read the full book, but from what I read, this Slate Star Codex review seems to cover the main takeaways.

Some of the most consistent themes I’ve seen on the subject of raising smart children are:

  • Praise effort not achievement (which encourages a Growth Mindset)

  • Play (particularly social play) is really important (some great stuff about this by Ana Lorena Fabrega)

  • Avoid passive digital consumption for as long as possible (TV, social media infinite scrolls)

That’s everything for this week!

Have a great one :)


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About Me

Hi! I’m Chris Lovejoy, a Junior Doctor and Data Scientist based in London.

I’m on a mission to improve healthcare through technology (particularly AI / machine learning), but along the way I want to share learnings that are relevant no matter your career choice or background.

In this weekly newsletter, I share my top thoughts and learnings from each week, as well as links to the best things on the internet that I come across.