Four super powers of Jeremy Howard

Jeremy shared in Sources & Methods podcast interview a few key things he has learned over the years. This blogpost is a brief summary of key points from that podcast.


Kurian Benoy


April 4, 2023

About Podcast interview

I recently stumbled upon a podcast interview with Jeremy Howard hosted by one of my friends Alex Strick van Linschoten, around 4 years back. I am a big fan of watching interview featuring Jeremy and some unique question were asked by the interviewer which I haven’t seen anyone asking.

I would defenitely recommend everyone to give a watch to the podcast interview. In this interview, Jeremy shared four super powers which he learned over the years. I am going to briefly summarize them.

Jeremy Howard

Jeremy Howard

Four super powers

  1. Spaced Repetition and learning how to learn

Alex was very curious about how Jeremy learned chinese and his approach to learning. Jeremy answered as following:

I started learning Chinese not because I had any interest in Chinese, but because I was such a bad language learner in highschool. I did six months of French, I got 28% and I quit. When I wanted to dig into machine learning, I thought one of the things that might be better to understand was human learning, so I used myself as a subject. A hopeless subject. If I can come up with a way that even I can learn a language, that would be great. And to make sure that was challenging enough, I tried to pick the hardest language I could. So according to according to CIA guidelines, Arabic and Chinese are the hardest languages for people to pick up. Then I spent three months studying learning theory, and language learning theory, and then software to help me with that process.

It turns out that even I can learn Chinese. After a year of this - by no means a full time thing, an hour or two a day - I went to China to a top language learning program and based on the results of my exam got placed with all these language PhDs, and I thought wow. Studying smart is important. It’s all about how you do it.

Spaced repetition is such an easy thing that anyone can do, for free, you can start using it.Jeremy’s amazing Anki talk

If you’re not using Anki, you’re many orders of magnitude less likely to remember a piece of vocab. So you come away like I did, thinking you can’t learn a language. But once you learn vocab, the rest is really not that hard. Don’t try to learn grammar, just spend all your time reading.

Recently, Rachel Thomas wrote a blog post about How to remember anything.

  1. Doing Regular exercises

Ten years back Jeremy suffered a injury because of which he lost almost 6 months. After that he is doing regular yoga and exercises.

  1. Note taking

Lot of times Jeremy have seen whenever someone is discussing about a particular topic, or issue. Those who take the notes on the topic immediately are the one to follow up even later and perform much better. Exceptional people take a lot of notes. Less exceptional people assume they’re going to remember.

Taking notes in class is kind of a waste of time. I don’t really see the point of going to class most of the time honestly, it’s probably being videotaped

  1. Tenacity

People who are successful practitioners in deep learning are the ones who have highest level of tenacity. He has found lot of people stopping midway and people who are world-class practitioners are always tenatious.

Two critical skills in AI era

The two critical skills going forward is:

  • One is knowing how to use machine learning.
  • And the other is knowing how to interact with it and care for human beings.

Because the latter one can’t be replaced by AI. The former one will gradually replace everything. Back in the early days of the commercial internet, being an internet expert was extremely useful and you could have a job as an internet expert and be in a company of internet experts, and sell yourself as an internet expert company. Today, very few people do that, because on the whole the internet is what it is, and there’s a relatively few number of people who need such a level of expertise that they can go in and change the way your router operates and such. I think we’re going to see the same thing with AI.

Thanks to Alex Strick van Linschoten who posted it in forums and for writing wonderful show notes, some of which I have used in this post.