Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Forgetting and unlearning

Forgetting and unlearning have a close similarity, and also a huge difference. Forgetting is never permanent. Despite actively forgetting someone, our (bad) memories can easily be reactivated. Example: when someone asks you: “How is [xyz]?” Hence, I assume that unlearning is only hypothetical.

Recently, AeonPsyche published this article: Must you forget to forgive? A scientist tests the relationship. Actually, I doubt there is a sequential relationship between forgetting and forgiving. Both are about (non) acceptance. Acceptance (with or without forgiving) will help forgetting.

To some extent, forgetting is a stage towards (hypothetical) unlearning (in Dutch: ontleren). Breaking a habit (in Dutch: afleren) is another stage. Not practicing something, like a foreign language, is helpful in forgetting what you had learned (in Dutch: verleren). Still, forgetting is never permanent.

Some medical health situations may result in amnesia, which comes (very) close to unlearning:

Amnesia is a deficit in memory caused by brain damage or brain diseases, but it can also be temporarily caused by the use of various sedatives and hypnotic drugs. The memory can be either wholly or partially lost due to the extent of damage that was caused.”

A quote from amnesia from Wikipedia

Many examples and/or quotes on unlearning are actually about (human) forgetting rather than (machine) unlearning. For example this interesting quote by Murat Durmus:

“Unlearning is not about erasing knowledge but reevaluating and restructuring what we think we know. It’s a philosophical detox, a spring cleaning of the mind.”

A quote from the 2023 Medium article: The Art of Unlearning.

Several articles on unlearning will mention a quote by the ancient Greek philosopher Antisthenes (c.446-c.366 BCE):

“Not to unlearn what you have learned is the most necessary kind of learning.”

A quote by the Greek philosopher Antisthenes

Obviously, there was no artificial intelligence (AI) and/or robotics – let alone machine unlearning – in the days of Antisthenes.

Forgetting (2010) by David Gray
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-artist, Wiki-album+song

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.


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