"Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination."
-- Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge
Avoid orphan cards:2 Avoid orphan cards:Avoid orphan cards:Improving the mnemonic medium: making better cardsHow can we develop transformative tools for thought？2020-10-18Journal
Ultimately, we'd like to distill out a set of useful practical principles and idioms to help write good cards and, more generally, good mnemonic essays. Aspirationally, such a set of principles and idioms would work much like The Elements of Style (or some similar book of prose advice), and would help other people learn to write high-quality mnemonic essays.
When we first described Quantum Country above we explained it using a simple model of spaced repetition: increased consolidation strength for memories leading to increased time intervals between reviews. This is a helpful simple model, but risks creating the misleading impression that it's all that's going on in the system. In fact, for the mnemonic medium to work effectively, spaced repetition must be deployed in concert with many other ideas. The three ideas we just described – atomicity of questions and answers, making early questions trivial, avoiding orphan cards – are just three of dozens of important ideas used in the mnemonic medium. We won't enumerate all those other ideas here – that's not the purpose of this essay. But we want to emphasize this point, since it's common for people to have the simplistic model “good memory system = spaced repetition”. That's false, and an actively unhelpful way of thinking.