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Episode from the podcastMade You Think

54: Never Forget Anything. Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

Released Tuesday, 11th September 2018
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Dom DeLuise, celebrity fat man (and five of clubs), has been implicated in the following unseemly acts in my mind’s eye: He has hocked a fat globule of spittle (nine of clubs) on Albert Einstein’s thick white mane (three of diamonds) and delivered a devastating karate kick (five of spades) to the groin of Pope Benedict XVI (six of diamonds). Michael Jackson (king of hearts) has engaged in behavior bizarre even for him. He has defecated (two of clubs) on a salmon burger (king of clubs) and captured his flatulence (queen of clubs) in a balloon (six of spades). Rhea Perlman, diminutive Cheers bartendress (and queen of spades), has been caught cavorting with the seven-foot-seven Sudanese basketball star Manute Bol (seven of clubs) in a highly explicit (and in this case, anatomically improbable) two-digit act of congress (three of clubs).
In this episode of Made You Think, Neil and Nat discuss Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. It is a fun book episode about how Joshua Foer came from nowhere to win the US memory championship with the challenge and coaching of Ed Cook. In the book Josh shows how to train our brain memory “muscle” and remember everything.
We cover a wide range of topics, including:
  • Why and how poetry, religion, and epics are interconnected because of memory
  • Mnemonic techniques to remember numbers, names, cards, everything
  • How to hack our brain to “live longer”
  • Incredible memory stats
  • How to impress your crush and make your dates memorable


And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer!
If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our fun episodes on Emergency by Neil Strauss, a book for preppers, as well as our recent episode on How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff, a short an easy book that shows how media can be manipulated.
Be sure to join our mailing list to find out about what books are coming up, giveaways we're running, special events, and more.

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Show Topics

3:12 – Extreme memory is not innate, comes from training. Until books became affordable, there were no easy means to record and keep information. We had to use our brains and information was passed down orally. There is no need of crazy photographic memory or some innate ability, but just training the "muscle".
7:50 – How many phone numbers do you remember? If you don't have to struggle to remember it, you'll not remember it. For efficiency your body doesn't want to do anything more than needed. Poetry and religion and epics are connected to memory training.
11:20 – The story of how Josh learnt the techniques of extreme memory. First technique: remembering names. Associating name sounds with a vivid image. Remembering not westernized names. What names can you remember with these images? Nailing down in front of a Playstation. A lion's son being chased by an gnat. A wizard dealing cards to Freud. When introducing someone to your friends, name your friends a lot so the new comer can remember their names.
19:04 – Practicing these techniques on Twitter or LinkedIn. Challenges in the competition. Remembering participants' attributes in a fake dinner, cards, string of numbers, and a poem.
20:33 – Second technique. Chunking. Remembering in chunks is easier than in smaller bits. In reduces the pieces of information. Example: string of 12 numbers chunked into the two big surprise attacks on American soil. Combining large chunks numbers into bigger images. Keeping the order of numbers by keeping a path to your memory palace.
25:41 – The time you need to dedicate each day is pretty small compared to its ROI. Remembering cards by associating 3 of each each time. These tactics were used for a long long time, even thousands of years ago. The importance of context. A big part of why this works is because we are good at remembering things in context but not when it's random information. Chessmasters examples.
31:03 – Increased perceived longevity. Nuances and quantity of experiences increases perceptual time. Life seems to speed up as we get older just because life gets less memorable, more repetitive. Monotony collapses time and novelty unfolds it. Downside of the idea of flow. Time experience is based on what we can remember.
37:15 – Tips to make a date memorable. Tips for planning parties. Plan 3 phases of a party, for example move the party in different rooms, different drinks, and change activities. It will feel like a longer party even if it took the same amount of time. It's kind of narrative fallacy used to our advantage.
41:05 – Memory images. Creating images for everything. Our brain prefers visual information and novelty. Collect numbers wandering in your house. The funnier, the looter, the more bizarre images, the better. Our brain takes 20% of our energy consumption. We forget dreams because our brain thinks it's junk data.
44:26 – Make images dirty and sexual. Use multiple senses too. Include smells, feelings, multi-sensory experiences. How we can remember songs even if we don't listen them for 10 years. Write your feelings and thoughts at the end of each book you read. Very useful if you are getting into speed reading or want to remember what the book was about, snippents will give you cues to remember it. Nat's book notes are efficient to remember core parts of a book. Neil's tactic to give attention to books’ concepts.
50:53 – Repetition. Nat's 3 layers strategy: pull out all important sections, bold important parts of sections, then highlight the most important part of the bolded part. Layer 4: adding a summary.
53:02 – The Method of Loci. Using memory images based on your environment. If you have to remember a speech, visualize the points you want to talk about at specific places. You can remember your speech by looking at specific parts of the auditorium or walking through the stage. Useful to remember dance movements. Advantages of the memory palace vs the Loci method.
55:59 – Remembering numbers. The PAO system: Person, Action, Object. First, associate an image to numbers going from 0 to 99. Remembering a 6 digit number can be done mixing the person of the first pair of digits, with the action of the second, and object of the third.
1:01:00 – Tangents. Memory training companies.
1:03:20 – Learning advice. How to get further the OK plateau. Experiments on memorizing. How the early University experiments on memory looked like. Reaching the peak of memory training is not about the hours put in, but the quality of those hours.
During the first phase, known as the “cognitive stage,” you’re intellectualizing the task and discovering new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently.
During the second “associative stage,” you’re concentrating less, making fewer major errors, and generally becoming more efficient.
Finally you reach what Fitts called the “autonomous stage,” when you figure that you’ve gotten as good as you need to get at the task and you’re basically running on autopilot.
You could call it the “OK plateau”, the point at which you decide you’re OK with how good you are at something, turn on autopilot, and stop improving.
Breaking up the OK plateau. When you deliberately want to get better at something, you may get initially worse. Sometimes you need to go down to get at a higher point later. It's not enjoyable in the short term. You have to deliberately make yourself uncomfortable to break the plateau. Changing variables to find where the weaknesses are. The 10.000 hours rule.
1:14:18 – Other books and resources about memory training.
1:18:48 – Get the story part reading the book! If you want to listen the bonus material, get the book note we use for the show, go to our Patreon page. There you can comment about the book too after they come out. You can also join our monthly hangout. On our first hangout we have a very interesting conversation for an hour and a half. You can support the show in additional ways buying stuff on our Support page.
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Find us on Twitter @Neil Soni (@TheRealNeilS) and @Nat Eliason (@nateliason).
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