Goodhart’s law states that:
When a metric becomes the goal, it stops being a good metric
A classic example would be grades in the school. In theory, the goal of school is “learning”. The way we measure if a student is learning or not is by using a test. The problem is that the test becomes the goal itself, and the student simply focuses on achieving a high score (which does not necessarily mean learning. Many times a high score can be obtained by memorizing without any understanding of the subject).
Here in WaniKani, our real goal (for most of us I guess), is to learn Japanese. One of the unavoidable aspects of learning Japanese is learning Kanji, and WaniKani is an amazing tool for that… I will write another post about how thankful I am to the WaniKani developers, but that’s not the right moment (that will be in level 60). Right now the topic of this posting is reflecting on Goodhart’s law and WaniKani
WK is so well designed that learning Kanji becomes a game, and the goal of that game is completing the 60 levels. Reaching level 60 must feel like killing the final boss, but there is a problem with this. I feel most of us are too obsessed with levelling up, and it is easy to forget that this is not the real goal. I wonder how many of the people who made it to level 60 remembers just a small fraction of all kanjis a few months later after finishing WK. The real goal is reading Japanese, not reaching level 60!
For this reason, I feel there is something missing in WaniKani: A button that allows you to erase a word from the system because you don’t want to learn that word. Why is that? Because there are many words that I will probably never ever use in Japanese, many of them are just leeches that keep coming to me and waste my time. Just an example (but there are many others): I don’t think I will ever need this: 造園. If ever come across this word in the real world, I am happy to look for the meaning at that moment. But having to fight against this word, again and again, feels like a purposeless task. I wonder, is there any third party app doing this specific thing, removing a word from the system?
I know some people might think that this would be cheating: if you want to really FINISH WaniKani you have to do all the words etc. But I have to disagree for the reasons explained above. At this point, I keep doing WaniKani but still need to spend a solid 1h-2h everyday here doing my reviews, and when a lot of really weird words appear, I feel I am a bit wasting my time and I should be instead studying Japanese in a different way.