The Throughput of Learning

Early in life, the bottleneck is the amount of information you have access to -> You soak up everything like a sponge because you are open and there is relatively little to absorb.

When you take home a few giant textbooks in elementary school, the bottleneck suddenly moves to ways of structuring and contextualizing the information.

In high school, you learn a variety of methods to structure information — outlines, diagrams, underlining and highlighting, reports, essays, notebooks, and binders. The bottleneck is your ability to synthesize this information and turn it into new ideas.

In college, the bottleneck moves to insight generation. You start questioning the world as given and find that the juiciest intellectual rewards are ideas that shift how you view it. You start hunting for the revolutionary, the controversial, steering your learning toward the red pills of paradoxes and contradictions.

If you are lucky enough to go beyond this, the bottleneck moves once again: to your assumptions. They constrain your view, what you are allowed to see, and thereby the thoughts and actions available to you. You start getting a kick out of unearthing new assumptions, shining a light on blindspots that, by definition, you didn’t know you didn’t know about. This process is unbounded because, with enough examination, all your beliefs are revealed to be assumptions.


This happened to me. I realized so many things I had been taught or assumed were wrong, which gave me new insights and broad viewpoints.

Modern learning is not a process for maximizing the throughput of insights, but for maximizing the throughput of learning process improvements. The best assumptions to invalidate in our quest for learning are assumptions about learning itself.

- Tiago Forte

Our design problem is to optimize our mental environment for a maximum throughput of invalidated assumptions.
This would accelerate the learning process to the point where the rules break, leading to the surfacing of even more assumptions.
We can then exploit these assumptions to improve our learning process further.

The deepest assumptions can only be revealed through experience and stories, not by reading books or having intellectual arguments.
We do these things through the same old lens and thus cannot examine the lens. Which means we are searching for our assumptions with our assumptions. It takes another free mind, reaching up and taking off our spectacles to show us the cracks and the foggy areas.
At some point, this way of listening becomes a way of thinking as you apply it to your thoughts. Unmoored from your own certain beliefs, you step back from what seemed just a moment ago to be your very identity, only to find that it is just a mental object.
With each step backward, you distinguish yourself one by one from bodily sensations, emotions, opinions, thoughts, principles, values, systems, and goals. They are all tools to be removed and put down again when no longer needed.

This backward movement, if we are not afraid to embrace it, even accelerate it, starts to take on a pattern of its own once again. It consumes itself, emerging inward into a deeper, more complex flow. Moving backward with increasing speed, we feel like we’re falling, the former selves flying by like the floors past a runaway elevator. There is no way to look down, to see where we’re going, only where we’ve been. But this provides just enough information to allow us to steer toward discomfort, toward fear, toward our best guess of where the next bottleneck may lie.


Analyse your and others' experiences through the lens of a third person without any assumptions (the 5 Why model may help here) and question them. Then, find the bottleneck and optimize it.

Reference and Source

Thoughts 🤔 by Soumendra Kumar Sahoo is licensed under CC BY 4.0