Michael Shulman's Shared Notes

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Picture a computer taking a complex set of paragraphs, each paragraph representing an atomic thought or idea, that might be explicitly linked to some other related paragraphs. Some of those paragraphs are related hierarchically to other paragraphs, with those higher up more abstract and those farther down, more nuanced. For a computer to allow those paragraphs to be shown in multiple places, where an edit in one place propagates across all instances; to further place those paragraphs onto a two or three dimensional spatial plane that allows for rearranging and playing around; to allow the saving of multiple instances of those spatial planes; to offer visual libraries of drawings or icons to give representational anchors to ideas such that the human sees the icon and recalls the idea without reading; to seamlessly switch back and forth between spatial and more purely textual representations of ideas; to, in short, allow a human to play with and rearrange ideas in looking to compare, contrast, and find patterns across a large repository of thoughts - for a computer to do this is nothing. Nothing, in that it requires little effort on the part of the computer, but nothing too, in that it means nothing to the computer. No additional insight can be obtained by a computer by changing the abstraction, the representation of an idea. But a human that is given the power of such a computer sees a tool that allows for the generation of new ideas, insights that come from multiple representations of thought and the ready recall of information at unprecedented scale. This is the computer functioning as a tool for thought, as a tool that allows for more innovative and insightful human thought. Computers and humans each have powerful and unique sets of capabilities, and the computer as a tool for thought allows for a complementary synergy.

Scribbles on dimensions of technology