I suspect it's more about trivial inconveniences and failure to "summon sapience". I was homeschooled and don't think I'm particularly traumatized about paper, and I love it when I remember to use it, but I have to stop and remember that it's a good idea, and then go get and use it, which doesn't always happen.

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Then don't use a giant open pad on your desk! Keep smallish heaps of almost-scraps that are perfectly nibbleable in strategic locations. My Mom's Telephone Table was a compact breathing nightmare, but it worked for her.

29habryka2yI want to show a lot of appreciation for being transparent about that. I also hope that eventually, for most things, we will have an explanation that combines motivation, koans/exercises and an accurate model of the situation. But it seems pretty sensible to start from any of those three points.
15alkjash2yWelcome to the dark side!

Paper Trauma

by Qiaochu_Yuan 1 min read31st Jan 201863 comments


Andrew Critch thinks people should be spending more time than they currently are using paper as a working memory aid while thinking, especially large paper (for even more working memory). It is really astonishing how helpful this can be. We consistently encourage people to do it at CFAR workshops nearly every time they learn a new technique or attempt to debug themselves or each other.

Paper is both very helpful and very easy to use - so why aren't people already using it all the time (including me)? I have a few vivid memories of times at CFAR workshops where I had to prod two people who were having a cognitively intensive conversation to use paper as shared working memory, and by "people" I mean CFAR instructors. It's harder than it looks.

My guess is that people have unresolved aversions to paper coming from school, where paper was how other people forced you to do things like homework and tests.

Really, it's horrifying to think about how much of what you've written down on paper was entirely forced on you.

So, you'll need to do some work if you want to reclaim the right to write whatever you want on paper, instead of whatever you've been trained to write. Good luck. Here are some words to take with you on your way.

Just because you are writing on paper does not mean you are still in school.

Nobody is going to grade you.

This is not homework. This is not a test.

This is your mind.

This is your life.