Meet the Meerkats

Meerkats eat scorpions. Baby meerkats need to learn to eat them too; but scorpions are tough! Parent Meerkats bring a live scorpion to their puppies, and when it's clear they cannot eat it, they maim the scorpion a bit and offer it again. If the puppy makes progress, but still struggles, more maiming ensues. A few iterations and the puppy eats the scorpion. Yummy!

For a puppy, eating a scorpion is not an easy task. This is not a problem where the solution is in front of you and you just have to walk towards it. A programmer swimming in web tutorials has only a vague idea of the desired end result: That he will be competent in that language or technology. Vague. Hard.

The puppy didn’t start eating - say - beetles to ‘train’. He could have spent weeks on beetles and not being better at actually eating scorpions. Which is the whole point, as scorpions is what’s around to eat!

How did the adult meerkats go about the problem? They started with something that was challenging even for them, and made it less challenging little by little. If they simplify too much, say with a dead scorpion, no learning happens.