Zettelkasten Forum

Object Level and Meta Level Abstraction Distinction Applied to ZK

I was watching a YouTube video by George Hotz @ 49:00. He introduced the distinction of object vs meta level knowledge. He altered it a little to describe it as learning from people vs learning from nature, arguing in favour of spending your time learning from nature.

In a programmers context, he argued spending your time learning React, Javascript etc. is less valuable than learning meta knowledge. Object skills help get a job, but are not timeless like statistics, math, algorithm analysis, physics (ok physics isn't timeless but it is until a better theory comes along or assumptions are falsified) etc.

I googled this distinction and came across a LessWrong article titled Object level and Meta level. The topic introduces a distinction between knowledge: the object level and the meta level.

There have been a few threads over the years regarding what should go into a Zettelkasten. Just knowledge? TODO's? Diary entries? Aren't TODO's knowledge? etc.

These conversations have been pretty interesting, touching on meta level distinctions and object level ones. One thread touched on how The Archive is not designed for TODO's but it is possible to manage them in The Archive. Other software like Trello might suit TODO management better as the features of the software are designed to support the process of managing TODO information, like using cards and board metaphors to categorise TODO's, as well as communicating TODO's to other people.

I think of TODO's as being object level, and since more suited software exists for TODO management, these two reasons are why I keep them outside my ZK.

Ultimately I view my ZK at its base layer as meta level knowledge. This layer is divided into two layers: observations at the base, then theories above it. Data is data; singular. But many theories may exist based on the data.

On top of these meta level abstractions are tools and recipes (as Sasha introduced) which I use to act in the world. Tools and recipes are object level; the product of meta knowledge.

So basically the structure explained in the article Three Layers of Evidence.

The distinction is also what the literature notes / permanent notes distinction is based on.

I hope this post introduces an explicit name for the distinction. We have already made this distinction implicitly in previous threads.

Post edited by JoshA on

Zettelkasten is love. Zettelkasten is life.


  • @JoshA said:
    Ultimately, I view my ZK at its base layer as meta level knowledge.


    Thanks so much for the kick-starter idea. I have not been following George, and what little I have seen he seems a genuine smart anarchist.

    Here is my zettel/idea/note that sprang into being tonight. It has become part of an initially small chain of ideas in the attached zip. These are the Level 0 linked zettel in markdown.

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”

  • edited August 20


    1. Here is the zettel thread I referred to above. Six small markdown files are linked to in the above zettel. Meta Level ZK.
    2. George Hotz is a big thinker with pachydermous ideas.
    3. I welcome object-level (formatting) and meta-level discussions, critiques, and suggestions.

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”

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