"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
Improving the mnemonic medium: making better cards2 Improving the mnemonic medium: making better cardsImproving the mnemonic medium: making better cardsHow can we develop transformative tools for thought？2020-10-18Journal
A helpful comparison is to the sentence in written prose. For the beginning writer it's tempting to treat sentences casually. But in the hands of a great writer – say, a Nabokov – sentences can be developed into a virtuoso artform. What would it take to achieve virtuoso skill in writing the cards of the mnemonic medium?
It's not obvious a priori that writing cards is such a rich activity. One of us wrote 17,000- and 6,000-word essaysMichael Nielsen, Augmenting Long-term Memory (2018), and Michael Nielsen, Using spaced repetition systems to see through a piece of mathematics (2019). whose subject was in large part understanding how to write good cards. He didn't realize that was going to be the subject when he began writing; it only became clear in retrospect how rich card writing is. It turns out that answering the question “how to write good cards?” requires thinking hard about your theory of knowledge and how to represent it, and your theory of learning. The better those theories, the better your cards will be. Small wonder it's a rich, open-ended problem!