Piotr A. Wozniak, BIODATA

Updated: Jan 2, 2014

New article by Dr. Piotr Wozniak: The true history of spaced repetition
e-mail: woz YEAR AT supermemo DOT org
Please remove spaces and replace YEAR with the current YEAR, replace AT with the @ sign, and DOT with a dot (see: Apology)

Born: March 1962, Milanowek near Warsaw, Poland

Primary schools: (1969-1976): 8, 36, 72 and 30 in Poznan

Secondary school: (1976-1980): 9-th general education school, specialization: chemistry, biology and English

University education:

Doctoral degree:

Current research interests:

Spaced repetition:

  • the author of first computer algorithms for spaced repetition (commercially known as SuperMemo)(1982-present)
  • co-founder of SuperMemo World, July 1991
  • President and Head of R&D at SuperMemo World (1991-1997)
  • founder of SuperMemo Research, an independent R&D unit at SuperMemo World (1997-present)
  • author of the first implementations of SuperMemo (incl. SuperMemo 1.0 for DOS, 1987, and SuperMemo 7.0 for Windows, 1992)
  • currently working primarily on the concept of incremental reading and incremental learning in general. Incremental learning is an extension of spaced repetition into knowledge processing and management

Publications

Hobbies

  • incremental reading: the world's best invention for learning!
  • winter swimming: the world's best invention for good overall health and immunity!
  • (association) football
  • (barefoot) marathon
  • in-line skating
  • black funk

Apology

I apologize for my shortcomings that make it hard to communicate and work together on important projects. In particular, I apologize:

  • My e-mail replies can be intermittent, delayed, chaotic or none! To process mail, I use incremental mail processing that is similar to incremental reading in SuperMemo. This makes it possible to prioritize individual pieces, focus on most important messages, work on messages creatively, and delay most of the remaining mail (often indefinitely). The process is partly stochastic, and I may stop working on threads even if my usual enthusiasm seems to indicate their priority is high enough. I may respond in minutes or in months even on important subjects within the same thread. I almost never decide not to reply, and the delay is occurring without a conscious decision. My poor reaction time comes from the insufficient ratio of time allocated to mail volume. I realize this makes all co-operation extremely difficult. If you write on a subject that is extremely important and still get no reply, you may re-send. Some pieces of mail get lost in transit.
  • I do not take on new projects. My schedule seems closed for years to come. My capacity to add more work hours per day has been exhausted a decade ago. If you have new ideas about projects related to SuperMemo, you would better write to Krzysztof Biedalak (The Boss). Almost daily I get lovely mail with great visions about what SuperMemo might become. However, my work over incremental reading or over the links between sleep and learning fills my days to the brim. I love to read all inspiring mail, esp. if it touches my favorite areas of research. Unfortunately, it would take an extraordinarily interesting idea to shunt my train to new tracks. Please keep writing nevertheless.
  • I disappear for months at a time. When I work on an important project, I often cut off all my links with the outside world. This works wonders for focused work on a single subject. Naturally, this can be exasperating for everyone else, esp. that I send no notifications and all my mail is redirected to a colleague. The privacy level in my communications is dismal.
  • I do not attend conferences or business meetings. In short, I do not travel. In this modern electronic world, I considering travelling an unnecessary risk, as well as a waste of energy and time. All my work can now be done over the Internet. I have never been aboard a plane. My last conference and the last business meeting took place 14 years ago (1999). My last train trip took place a decade ago (2004). It is now two years that I have not even stepped into a car. I have no driving license.
  • I do not have a cell phone. I design my schedule around my circadian cycle using the Plan feature of SuperMemo. Phone calls at unpredictable moments of time make the execution of the schedule difficult, and for some slots, impossible. For the same reason, I do not use Internet telephony. I am not a Luddite. I will use a phone for learning at some point in the future. However, I am still waiting for the right kind of SuperMemo that will make that worthwhile.

Considering the above, you may ask if I even like or care about other people. With all my work I hope to contribute to a better world. I love people! Love is often a problem. I need rational methods to temper and organize my enthusiasm for people, projects and ideas. I believe my attitude will be increasingly prevalent in creative professions. It is not dictated by lack of concern for others. It is dictated by efficiency! I apologize to anyone who feels offended.

Philosophy

I would like to recapture the idealized image of pre-industrial scientist who could focus entirely on his research pursuits. Like Newton in plague years, or Darwin on Beagle, or Darwin in his later years when he was writing the Origin of Species. Modern scientists justifiably complain of the need to juggle family life, administration, travel and commute, publish-or-perish pressures, battling for grants, student supervision, lecturing, information overload and Inboxes bursting at the seams. Contrast this with Darwin's work in his study, walks in nature, time for family, and pacing himself slowly to write the text that changed the world.

This ideal is supposed to be served by the drastic measures I take: creative vacation, ditching the cell phone and travel, using mostly e-mail for communication, working on one project at a time, blogging as opposed to rigorous publishing, using bare feet rather than a car, etc. Not only does simplicity serve the efficiency, it is also a good formula for a happy life.

I regret that my e-mail communication is erratic. There are countless interesting people in the world. I would love to know them all and learn about their lives, habits, their learning and their sleep, their creative habits and methods, the way they raise their kids, etc. and yet I need to squeeze this all in a reasonable time slot. Hence incremental e-mail processing that isn't great for continuity and yet it is best for extracting long-term value from communication. Quality should take precedence over Quantity. Please stay in touch independent of my shortcomings.

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