Paul Graham - «The Lesson to Unlearn»: some citations

When I was in college, a particularly earnest philosophy grad student once told me that he never cared what grade he got in a class, only what he learned in it.

Nearly all tests given to students are terribly hackable.

If you merely read good books on medieval history, most of the stuff you learned wouldn't be on the test. It's not good books you want to read, but the lecture notes and assigned reading in this class.

Anyone who cares about getting good grades has to play this game, or they'll be surpassed by those who do. And at elite universities, that means nearly everyone, since someone who didn't care about getting good grades probably wouldn't be there in the first place.

But wasting your time is not the worst thing the educational system does to you.
The worst thing it does is to train you that the way to win is by hacking bad tests.

So I would explain that what makes a startup promising, not just in the eyes of investors but in fact, is growth.
Ideally in revenue, but failing that in usage.
What they needed to do was get lots of users.

The way you get lots of users is to make the product really great.
Then people will not only use it but recommend it to their friends, so your growth will be exponential once you get it started.

One of the most striking things about startups is the degree to which you win by simply doing good work.

I never understood how much of my dislike of big companies was due to the fact that you win by hacking bad tests.

Instead of looking at all the different kinds of work people do and thinking of them vaguely as more or less appealing, you can now ask a very specific question that will sort them in an interesting way: to what extent do you win at this kind of work by hacking bad tests?

Tests can be divided into two kinds: those that are imposed by authorities, and those that aren't.
Tests that aren't imposed by authorities are inherently unhackable, in the sense that no one is claiming they're tests of anything more than they actually test.

Tests imposed by authorities are usually proxies for something else. A test in a class is supposed to measure not just how well you did on that particular test, but how much you learned in the class.

When I was a kid, you could either become an engineer and make cool things, or make lots of money by becoming an "executive." Now you can make lots of money by making cool things.

Hacking bad tests is becoming less important as the link between work and authority erodes.
The erosion of that link is one of the most important trends happening now, and we see its effects in almost every kind of work people do.

If the final exam consisted of a long conversation with the professor, you could prepare for it by reading good books on medieval history.
A lot of the hackability of tests in schools is due to the fact that the same test has to be given to large numbers of students.