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Incremental Refinement

I’ve noticed that a great mechanism for learning and improving is via step-wise incremental refinement. I just want to record some of the places in which we can see this underlying (and powerful) approach:

Evolution.
Each generation represents a random perturbation from the current generation. The perturbation is incremental by the process of genetic recombination. Selection (artificial or natural) acts to remove the non-improved individuals.
Design.
Engineers begin with a ‘first-approximation’ solution, and act to improve on the existing design via small modifications and tweaks. Because of an understanding (however incomplete) of the defects of the current product, the next version sees deliberate incremental improvement.
Learning.
Insofar as understanding maps to having an accurate mental model of the world, that model is incrementally improved via exploration. Little kids constantly explore and fiddle, and so improve both their biomechanics and their intuitions for how physical objects behave. Likewise, their language grows with time and use, improving with each correction and observation.
Productivity and Self-help.
See Learning. Note that it works better to focus only on small, concrete, achievable changes, rather than large abstract goals. Make each change a habit before moving on to the next.
Literature.
See Design. Practice writing lots, but don’t just write volumes of the same stuff. Rather, perform different writing exercises, in an effort to deliberately challenge your current skill and comfort zone.
Software.
See Literature.

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