The Hamming Ambiguity (among other things)
September 13, 2012 8:50 AM   Subscribe


 
I refuse to accept that 10,000 hours are only necessary to become great, not sufficient. I am going to become a great virtuoso at this violin no longer how long I have to hit it with these drumsticks.
posted by nanojath at 9:09 AM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


FTA: becoming excellent is not the result of a well-behaved tallying of hours, it instead emerges out of a swamp of roiling ambiguity
    IMO this is very related to the advice people give in the vein of "forge your own path", and "be unique". Ambiguity is the teasing middle between a deterministic set of steps and a random walk. On one side, your work can't be completely random or you'll have no focus and get nothing done--but on the other, doing what everyone else is doing will never make you great since not everyone can be great.
I am going to become a great virtuoso at this violin no longer how long I have to hit it with these drumsticks.
    But you will become the best violin drummer in the world, and people will pay to see that. :)
posted by hanoixan at 9:13 AM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fooling aside this blog is a great find and this is a very interesting article (I just read Gladwell's Outliers and have been thinking a lot about what I do and don't so much agree with about it, so it was great timing for me.)
posted by nanojath at 9:23 AM on September 13, 2012


Yay! Everything is even more complex than I imagined.
Seriously.

I read this like I read the latest revelations as to just how big the Universe really is (it just keeps getting even bigger). Daunting as it may seem, it's also kind of reassuring. Embrace ambiguity. Learn to love paradox. It's as if life/the-universe/everything genuinely doesn't want its key secrets known, so you know you're getting close to something when the evidence suddenly pulls a strange loop on you. The trick is not to go mad with frustration, but to surf the turmoil, see where it takes you -- maybe some continent you never knew existed.
posted by philip-random at 9:59 AM on September 13, 2012


Interesting article, thanks for posting.

The big takeaway for me is the observation that successful people spend more time each day being productive. Kind of a no-brainer, but it is important to remember.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:02 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


To be fair to Gladwell and Ericsson (the author of the study the 10,000 hour rule is based on), I believe their thesis is that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is necessary (not sufficient) for greatness. It's 10,000 hours of the right kind of practice, with instruction and correction as required. By saying that those "10,000 hours have to be invested in the right things" he's essentially restating the 10,000 hours theory.
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:22 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


The big takeaway for me is the observation that successful people spend more time each day being productive.

This "being productive" of which you speak. That has something to do with chatting on Metafilter, right?
posted by yoink at 10:27 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


4. Seek Resistance: At the core of getting better is deliberate practice — stretching yourself beyond your current capability. This work is hard and draining, but also necessary. Seek this mental resistance. If you’re not regularly experiencing long stretches of mind-melting hard focus, then you’re wasting your time.
So true. Just the other week I was grumbling to myself that I feel like I haven't been learning anything in the process of doing my current graphic novel; I learnt some stuff in the first 4-5 chapters, but now I'm on 9 and I feel like the only challenge is focusing myself enough to keep up with my schedule.
posted by egypturnash at 10:35 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


75% of the way to mastering mindlessly surfing the internet. Must not give up now.
posted by samhyland at 10:39 AM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


6. Loosen up a little.
posted by polymodus at 10:49 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Hamming starts by emphasizing courage: “Once you get your courage up and believe that you can do important problems, then you can.”"

Aren't you think this sentence is so true? It reminds me an experience days ago on a waterpark (http://www.noahsarkwaterpark.com/). There was an item named "no return point," where a vertical tube of 50-100 meters was erected, and you just lay down there and fell down from the tube. However, I did not even have a thought of giving myself a try.

The courage or self-confidence that we can do something important is at least crucial to me.
posted by onkyo at 10:52 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


samhyland Pfft! Lightweight. I have at least 20k hours under my belt. When did you start surfing the web? Last month?
posted by hot_monster at 11:04 AM on September 13, 2012


Based on this article, I find that the author has useful ideas for becoming a virtuoso. None of them are new, and the six rules-of-thumb can be summarized as: "nurture your learning-orientation skills".

The problem is that this style of self-help advice is completely uncritical of its sociopolitical biases, assumptions, premises. #4 is laced with circular logic: to succeed, work long and hard. That is not news. So is #1: most people are small minded and they fear the unknown, and you should separate yourself from them. Really? What kind of privileged, male nerd logic is this?

Hamming did not by any means have the whole picture, and to interpret the flaws in his talk as some sort of performative argument "[elegantly] capturing a crucial truth") is yet again lionizing a guru rather than seeing the imperfect human behind a human endeavor.
posted by polymodus at 11:05 AM on September 13, 2012


Thus, the ambiguity of it all, which itches and scratches those whose fields of expertise tend towards minimizing the same.
posted by infini at 11:08 AM on September 13, 2012


By saying that those "10,000 hours have to be invested in the right things" he's essentially restating the 10,000 hours theory.

No, what he's saying is that what you work at matters. If I spend 10,000 hours working very deliberating on inventing calculus, I might succeed in inventing calculus, but no one will talk about "how great" I am because Newton and Leibniz already did that.
posted by jb at 12:10 PM on September 13, 2012


On the other hand I appreciate his thoughts on passion; my approach has been to try and think myself into meaningful work (i.e. "I am going to make this important to me, and commit the rest of my life to it"). I'd never considered that what has meaning for me only arises from my having put myself -- my effort, my time -- into something. So his suggestion to build up a "rare and valuable skill" seems like a sensible way to move forward.

I guess I just need to decide now what the hell that skill is.
posted by onwords at 12:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


>The big takeaway for me is the observation that successful people spend more time each day being productive.

This "being productive" of which you speak. That has something to do with chatting on Metafilter, right?


Well, yeah.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2012


This, like the 10,000 Hour Rule, John Cleese's lecture (all over the Net) (in which he recommends #6: lighten up a little and spend time daydreaming, essentially, in a OPEN mode before getting into a CLOSED or intense time of creativity), and John Cage's suggestions:

All good.
posted by kozad at 2:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


By saying that those "10,000 hours have to be invested in the right things" he's essentially restating the 10,000 hours theory.

Well, yeah. I mean, this is kind of the way things work, as I see it:
  1. Useful message gets introduced.
  2. Useful message gets simiplified for popular transmission.
  3. Difficult parts of useful message get progressively stripped away as people re-transmit the parts
  4. they find palatable, producing a straw-man version that still uses the same name as the original.
  5. Useful message is re-introduced in the form of a condemnation of the straw man.
posted by lodurr at 6:30 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


6. web-developer practices so much that he forgets how to copy & paste at the end of a line instead of in the middle.
posted by lodurr at 6:31 AM on September 14, 2012


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