80 Matching Annotations
  1. Last 7 days
    1. The paradox of hoarding isthat no matter how much we collect and accumulate, it’s neverenough.

      How is the paradox of hoarding related to the collector's fallacy?

      Regardless of how much you collect, you can't take it with you. So what's the value? - Having and using it to sustain you while you're alive. - Combining it in creative ways to leave behind new ideas and new innovations for those who follow you. - others?

    2. send off your draft or beta orproposal for feedback. Share this Intermediate Packet with a friend,family member, colleague, or collaborator; tell them that it’s still awork-in-process and ask them to send you their thoughts on it. Thenext time you sit down to work on it again, you’ll have their input andsuggestions to add to the mix of material you’re working with.

      A major benefit of working in public is that it invites immediate feedback (hopefully positive, constructive criticism) from anyone who might be reading it including pre-built audiences, whether this is through social media or in a classroom setting utilizing discussion or social annotation methods.

      This feedback along the way may help to further find flaws in arguments, additional examples of patterns, or links to ideas one may not have considered by themselves.

      Sadly, depending on your reader's context and understanding of your work, there are the attendant dangers of context collapse which may provide or elicit the wrong sorts of feedback, not to mention general abuse.

    3. This standardized routine is known as the creative process, and itoperates according to timeless principles that can be foundthroughout history.

      If the creative process has timeless principles found throughout history, why aren't they written down and practiced religiously withing our culture that is so enamored of creativity and innovation?

      As an example of how this isn't true, we've managed to lose our commonplace tradition and haven't really replaced it with anything useful. Even the evolved practice of the zettelkasten has been created and generally discarded (pun intended) without replacement.

      How much of our creative process is reliant on simple imitation, which is a basic human trait? It's typically more often that imitation juxtaposed with other experiences which is the crucible of innovation. How often, if ever, is true innovation in an entirely different domain created? By this I mean innovation outside of the adjacent possible domains from which it stems? Are there any examples of this?

      Even my own note taking practice is a mélange of broad imitation of what I read combined with the combinatorial juxtaposition of other ideas in an attempt to create new ideas.

    4. the time you sit down tomake progress on something, all the work to gather and organize thesource material needs to already be done. We can’t expectourselves to instantly come up with brilliant ideas on demand. Ilearned that innovation and problem-solving depend on a routine thatsystematically brings interesting ideas to the surface of ourawareness.

      By writing down and collecting ideas slowly over time, working on them in small fits and spurts, when one finally comes to do the final work on their writing project or other work, the pieces only need minor shaping to take their final form. This process allows for a much greater level of serendipity, creativity, and potential sustained genius of connecting ideas across time to take shape in a final piece.


      How does this relate to diffuse thinking? How can slow diffuse thinking be leveraged into this process?

      Writing down fleeting notes while walking around can be valuable as one's ideas brew slowly in the mind (diffuse thinking) in combination with active combinatorial creativity, thus a form of Llullan combinatorial diffusion.


      Many business books seem so shallow and often only have one real insight which is repeated multiple times, perhaps to drive the point home or perhaps just to have enough filler to seem being worth the purchase of a book.

      Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich is an example of this, though it shows a different form of genius in expanding the idea from a variety of perspectives so that eventually everyone will absorb the broader idea which is distilled to great effect into the title.

    1. For Jerome Bruner, the place to begin is clear: “One starts somewhere—where the learner is.”

      One starts education with where the student is. But mustn't we also inventory what tools and attitudes the student brings? What tools beyond basic literacy do they have? (Usually we presume literacy, but rarely go beyond this and the lack of literacy is too often viewed as failure, particularly as students get older.) Do they have motion, orality, song, visualization, memory? How can we focus on also utilizing these tools and modalities for learning.

      Link to the idea that Donald Trump, a person who managed to function as a business owner and president of the United States, was less than literate, yet still managed to function in modern life as an example. In fact, perhaps his focus on oral modes of communication, and the blurrable lines in oral communicative meaning (see [[technobabble]]) was a major strength in his communication style as a means of rising to power?

      Just as the populace has lost non-literacy based learning and teaching techniques so that we now consider the illiterate dumb, stupid, or lesser than, Western culture has done this en masse for entire populations and cultures.

      Even well-meaning educators in the edtech space that are trying to now center care and well-being are completely missing this piece of the picture. There are much older and specifically non-literate teaching methods that we have lost in our educational toolbelts that would seem wholly odd and out of place in a modern college classroom. How can we center these "missing tools" as educational technology in a modern age? How might we frame Indigenous pedagogical methods as part of the emerging third archive?

      Link to: - educational article by Tyson Yunkaporta about medical school songlines - Scott Young article "You should pay for Tutors"


      aside on serendipity

      As I was writing this note I had a toaster pop up notification in my email client with the arrival of an email by Scott Young with the title "You should pay for Tutors" which prompted me to add a link to this note. It reminds me of a related idea that Indigenous cultures likely used information and knowledge transfer as a means of payment (Lynne Kelly, Knowledge and Power). I have commented previously on the serendipity of things like auto correct or sparks of ideas while reading as a means of interlinking knowledge, but I don't recall experiencing this sort of serendipity leading to combinatorial creativity as a means of linking ideas,

  2. Jun 2022
    1. Third, sharing our ideas with others introduces a major element ofserendipity

      There is lots of serendipity here, particularly when people are willing to either share their knowledge or feel compelled to share it as part of an imagined life "competition" or even low forms of mansplaining, though this last tends to be called this when the ultimate idea isn't serendipitous but potentially so commonly known that there is no insight in the information.

      This sort of "public serendipity" or "group serendipity" is nice because it means that much of the work of discovery and connecting ideas is done by others against your own work rather that you sorting/searching through your own more limited realm of work to potentially create it.

      Group focused combinatorial creativity can be dramatically more powerful than that done on one's own. This can be part of the major value behind public digital gardens, zettelkasten, etc.

    2. Our creativity thrives on examples

      This pulls into question our zeal for innovation. Most thought is created and honed against other pre-existing thought.

      Some of the fun of note taking is not only rewriting an idea in one's own words for potential understanding, but expanding upon it to extend the ideas, sometimes based on our pre-existing world view and knowledge. The rest is linking this idea into place with our other knowledge and then combining an permuting it with that knowledge to create new knowledge.


      This seems to be a building block of the broader idea of "combinatorial creativity".

      link to: - Annie Murphy Paul's contention that imitation > innovation - Lee Vinsel's The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession with the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most

      can imitation lead to innovation?

      innovation is the use of combinatorial creativity to make new things... rarely, if ever?, is true innovation made from whole cloth, there is always(?) something used as a base which is extended.

    3. Your efforts to capture content for future use will be tremendouslyeasier and more effective if you know what that content is for.

      Within the P.A.R.A. framework it's helpful if you know what your note capture is meant for, but it's wholly against a lot of note taking for things which may simply spark joy. This may be helpful for the work-a-day productivity person, but is painfully out of sync with keeping notes as a means of generating new ideas. Many of these sorts of notes will be hidden away in an archive and thus broadly unusable in the long run.

      Sorting ideas into folders is still an older classical way of thinking instead of linking an idea to related things that make it imminently more usable. Cross linked ideas seem wholly more interesting, vibrant and more useable to me.

    4. Tharp calls her approach “the box.”

      In The Creative Habit, dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp has creative inspiration and note taking practice which she calls "the box" in which she organizes “notebooks, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me”. She also calls her linking of ideas within her box method "the art of scratching" (chapter 6).

      related: combinatorial creativity triangle thinking


      [[Twyla Tharp]] [[The Creative Habit]] #books/wanttoread

    1. Real learning cannot happen in a vacuum. Connecting oneself and one’s new ideas with others across classrooms, across the curricula, and into the community build confidence , deepens experience, and maximizes success.
    1. Mixup Method of Synthetic Idea Generation: Write out 3 sentences from past notes. Write a new sentence made of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd part of each respective sentence. Repeat total of 3 times. Now look at the 3 synthesized lines & ask if wrong or right and why. Clarifies a lot.

      —Marshall Kirkpatrick

      Mixup Method of Synthetic Idea Generation: Write out 3 sentences from past notes. Write a new sentence made of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd part of each respective sentence. Repeat total of 3 times. Now look at the 3 synthesized lines & ask if wrong or right and why. Clarifies a lot.

      — Marshall Kirkpatrick (@marshallk) June 14, 2022
      <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
    1. d. She puts the ideas together and tries to broker a deal for theconglomerate to acquire a radio network. At the end, she’s challenged to describehow she came up with the plan for the acquisition. It’s a telling scene. She has justbeen fired. On her way out of the building, with all her files and personal itemspacked in a box (a box just like mine!), she gets a chance to explain her thoughtprocess to the mogul:See? This is Forbes. It’s just your basic article about how you were lookingto expand into broadcasting. Right? Okay now. The same day—I’ll never forgetthis—I’m reading Page Six of the New York Post and there’s this item on BobbyStein, the radio talk show guy who does all those gross jokes about Ethiopiaand the Betty Ford Center. Well, anyway, he’s hosting this charity auction thatnight. Real bluebloods and won’t that be funny? Now I turn the page to Suzywho does the society stuff and there’s this picture of your daughter—see, nicepicture—and she’s helping to organize the charity ball. So I started to think:Trask, Radio, Trask, Radio.... So now here we are.He’s impressed and hires her on the spot. Forget the fairy-tale plot; as ademonstration of how to link A to B and come up with C, Working Girl is a primerin the art of scratching.

      The plot twist at the end of Working Girl (Twentieth Century Fox, 1988) turns on Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) explaining her stroke of combinatorial creativity in coming up with a business pitch. Because she had juxtaposed several disparate ideas from the New York Post several pages from each other in a creative way, she got the job and Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) is left embarrassed because she can't explain how she came up with a complicated combination of ideas.

      Tess McGill (portrayed by a big 80's haired Melanie Griffith) packing a brown banker's box with her office items and papers leaving her office and her job. Is this Tess McGill's zettelkasten in the movie Working Girl?

      Tess McGill has slips of newspaper with ideas on them and a physical box to put them in.

      slips with ideas+box=zettelkasten

      Bonus points because she links her ideas, right?!

    1. graphic designer Paula Scher likens creativity to a slot machine that aligns the seemingly random jumble of stuff in our heads into a suddenly miraculous combination
    2. There is, of course, a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical concepts. It is also clear that the desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of this rather vague play with the above-mentioned elements. But taken from a psychological viewpoint, this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought — before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others.

      ==combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought==<br /> —Albert Einstein in a 1945 response to Jacques Hadamard's survey of famous scientists' mental processes which was published in An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field.

      Hadamard's essay was inspired by Henri Poincaré's The Foundations of Science.

    3. what we call “intuition” is based on the unconscious application of this very mental faculty.

      Intuition is a form of combinatorial creativity that has fuzzy edges and potentially incoherent physical links between ideas.

    4. Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press embodied this combinatorial creativity

      She actively uses the phrase "combinatorial creativity"!

    5. Stephen Jay Gould maintained that connecting the seemingly unconnected is the secret of genius;
    6. T. S. Eliot believed that the poet’s mind incubates fragmentary thoughts into beautiful ideas
    7. Arthur Koestler’s famous theory of “bisociation” explained creativity through the combination of elements that don’t ordinarily belong together
    8. creativity is combinatorial

      Others have noticed!

    1. Marshall’s method for connecting which he calls Triangle Thinking (26:41)

      Marshall Kirkpatrick describes a method of taking three ostensibly random ideas and attempting to view each from the others' perspectives as a way to create new ideas by linking them together.

      This method is quite similar to that of Raymond Llull as described in Frances Yate's The Art of Memory (UChicago Press, 1966), though there Llull was memorizing and combinatorially permuting 20 or more ideas at a time. It's also quite similar to the sort of meditative practice found in the lectio divina, though there ideas are generally limited to religious ones for contemplation.

      https://content.blubrry.com/thrivingonoverload/THRIVING_013_Marshall_Kirkpatrick.mp3#t=1559,1745

      Other examples: - https://hypothes.is/users/chrisaldrich?q=%22combinatorial+creativity%22 - https://hypothes.is/users/chrisaldrich?q=%22Llullan%20combinatorial%20arts%22

    1. If Luhmann’s notebox system was not dynamic and fluid and not one of pure order, either, how can one think of Luhmann’s notebox system? In my experience using an Antinet Zettelkasten, I find it to be more organic in nature. Like nature, it has simple laws and fundamental rules by which it operates (like the laws of thermodynamics in physics); yet, it’s also subject to arbitrary decisions. We know this because in describing it, Luhmann uses the word arbitrary to describe its arbitrary internal branching. We can infer that arbitrary, means something that was decided by Luhmann outside of some external and strict criteria (i.e., strict schemes like the Dewey Decimal Classification). (12)12 This arbitrary, random structure contributes to one of its most distinctive aspects of the system–the aspect of surprises. Because of its unique structure, the Antinet is noted as “a surprise generator,” and a system that develops “a creativity of its own.” (13)

      There's some magical thinking involved here. While the system has some arbitrary internal branching, the surprises come from the system's perfect memory that the human user doesn't have. This makes it appear that the system creates its own creativity, but it is really the combinatorics of the perfect memory system with use over time.

      Link to: serendipity of systems based on auto-complete

    1. Perhaps it may be helpful to dramatically reframe the question of how to keep a zettelkasten? One page blog posts from people who've only recently seen the idea and are synopsizing it without a year or more practice themselves are highly confusing at best. Can I write something we don't see enough of in spaces relating to zettelkasten? Perhaps we should briefly consider the intellectual predecessor of the slip box?

      Start out by forgetting zettelkasten exist. Instead read about what a commonplace book is and how that (simpler) form of note taking works. This short article outlined as a class assignment is a fascinating way to start and has some illustrative examples: https://www.academia.edu/35101285/Creating_a_Commonplace_Book_CPB_. If you're a writer, researcher, or journalist, perhaps Steven Johnson's perspective may be interesting to you instead: https://stevenberlinjohnson.com/the-glass-box-and-the-commonplace-book-639b16c4f3bb

      Collect interesting passages, quotes, and ideas as you read. Keep them in a notebook and call it your commonplace book. If you like call these your "fleeting notes" as some do.

      As you do this, start building an index of subject headings for your ideas, perhaps using John Locke's method (see: https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/john-lockes-method-for-common-place-books-1685).

      Once you've got this, you've really mastered the majority of what a zettelkasten is and have a powerful tool at your disposal. If you feel it's useful, you can add a few more tools and variations to your set up.

      Next instead of keeping the ideas in a notebook, put them on index cards so that they're easier to sort through, move around, and re-arrange. This particularly useful if you want to use them to create an outline of your ideas for writing something with them.

      Next, maybe keep some index cards that have the references and bibliographies from which your excerpting and note taking comes from. Link these bibliographical cards to the cards with your content.

      As you go through your notes, ideas, and excerpts, maybe you want to further refine them? Write them out in your own words. Improve their clarity, so that when you go to re-use them, you can simply "excerpt" material you've already written for yourself and you're not plagiarizing others. You can call these improved notes, as some do either "permanent notes" or "evergreen notes".

      Perhaps you're looking for more creativity, serendipity, and organic surprise in your system? Next you can link individual notes together. In a paper system you can do this by following one note with another or writing addresses on each card and using that addressing system to link them, but in a digital environment you can link one note to many multiple others that are related. If you're not sure where to start here, look back to your subject headings and pull out cards related to broad categories. Some things will obviously fit more closely than others, so be more selective and only link ideas that are more intimately connected than just the subject heading you've used.

      Now when you want to write or create something new on a particular topic, ask your slip box a question and attempt to answer it by consulting your index. Find cards related to the topic, pull out those and place them in a useful order to create an outline perhaps using the cross links that already exist. (You've done that linking work as you went, so why not use it to make things easier now?) Copy the contents into a document and begin editing.

      Beyond the first few steps, you're really just creating additional complexity to a system to increase the combinatorial complexity of juxtaposed ideas that you could potentially pull back out of your system for writing more interesting text and generating new ideas. Some people may neither want nor need this sort of complexity in their working lives. If you don't need it, then just keep a simple commonplace book (or commonplace card file) to remind you of the interesting ideas and inspirations you've seen and could potentially reuse throughout your life.

      The benefit of this method is that beyond creating your index, you'll always have something useful even if you abandon things later on and quit refining it. If you do go all the way, concentrate on writing out just two short solid ideas every day (Luhmann averaged about 6 per day and Roland Barthes averaged 1 and change). Do it until you have between 500 and 1000 cards (based on some surveys and anecdotal evidence), and you should begin seeing some serendipitous and intriguing results as you use your system for your writing.

      We should acknowledge that that (visual) artists and musicians might also keep commonplaces and zettelkasten. As an example, Eminem keeps a zettelkasten, but it is so minimal that it is literally just a box and slips of paper with no apparent organization beyond this. If this fits your style and you don't get any value out of having cards with locators like 3a4b/65m1, then don't do that useless work. Make sure your system is working for you and you're not working for your system.

      Sadly, it's generally difficult to find a single blog post that can accurately define what a zettelkasten is, how it's structured, how it works, and why one would want one much less what one should expect from it. Sonke Ahrens does a reasonably good job, but his explanation is an entire book. Hopefully this distillation will get you moving in a positive direction for having a useful daily practice, but without an excessive amount of work. Once you've been at it a while, then start looking at Ahrens and others to refine things for your personal preferences and creative needs.

    1. The addressing system that many digital note taking systems offer is reminiscent of Luhmann's paper system where it served a particular use. Many might ask themselves if they really need this functionality in digital contexts where text search and other affordances can be more directly useful.

      Frequently missed by many, perhaps because they're befuddled by the complex branching numbering system which gets more publicity, Luhmann's paper-based system had a highly useful and simple subject heading index (see: https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_SW1_001_V, for example) which can be replicated using either #tags or [[wikilinks]] within tools like Obsidian. Of course having an index doesn't preclude the incredible usefulness of directly linking one idea to potentially multiple others in some branching tree-like or network structure.

      Note that one highly valuable feature of Luhmann's paper version was that the totality of cards were linked to a minimum of at least one other card by the default that they were placed into the file itself. Those putting notes into Obsidian often place them into their system as singlet, un-linked notes as a default, and this can lead to problems down the road. However this can be mitigated by utilizing topical or subject headings on individual cards which allows for searching on a heading and then cross-linking individual ideas as appropriate.

      As an example, because two cards may be tagged with "archaeology" doesn't necessarily mean they're closely related as ideas. This tends to decrease in likelihood if one is an archaeologist and a large proportion of cards might contain that tag, but will simultaneously create more value over time as generic tags increase in number but the specific ideas cross link in small numbers. Similarly as one delves more deeply into archaeology, one will also come up with more granular and useful sub-tags (like Zooarcheology, Paleobotany, Archeopedology, Forensic Archeology, Archeoastronomy, Geoarcheology, etc.) as their knowledge in sub areas increases.

      Concretely, one might expect that the subject heading "sociology" would be nearly useless to Luhmann as that was the overarching topic of both of his zettelkästen (I & II), whereas "Autonomie" was much more specific and useful for cross linking a smaller handful of potentially related ideas in the future.

      Looking beyond Luhmann can be highly helpful in designing and using one's own system. I'd recommend taking a look at John Locke's work on indexing (1685) (https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/john-lockes-method-for-common-place-books-1685 is an interesting source, though you're obviously applying it to (digital) cards and not a notebook) or Ross Ashby's hybrid notebook/index card system which is also available online (http://www.rossashby.info/journal/index.html) as an example.

      Another helpful tip some are sure to appreciate in systems that have an auto-complete function is simply starting to write a wikilink with various related subject heading words that may appear within your system. You'll then be presented with potential options of things to link to serendipitously that you may not have otherwise considered. Within a digital zettelkasten, the popularly used DYAC (Damn You Auto Complete) may turn into Bless You Auto Complete.

  3. May 2022
    1. As told in Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman byJames Gleick

      Forte cleverly combines a story about Feynman from Genius with a quote about Feynman's 12 favorite problems from a piece by Rota. Did they both appear in Gleick's Genius together and Forte quoted them separately, or did he actively use his commonplace to do the juxtaposition for him and thus create a nice juxtaposition himself or was it Gleick's juxtaposition?

      The answer will reveal whether Forte is actively using his system for creative and productive work or if the practice is Gleick's.

    2. new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to seewhether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, andpeople will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”

      You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a

      Gian-Carlo Rota, Indiscrete Thoughts (Boston: Birkhäuser Boston, 1997), 202.

      Richard Feynman indicated in an interview that he kept a dozen of his favorite problems at the top of his mind. As he encountered new results and tricks, he tried applying them to those problems in hopes of either solving them or in coming up with new ideas. Over time by random but combinatorial chance, solutions or ideas would present themselves as ideas were juxtaposed.

      One would suspect that Feynman hadn't actually read Raymond Llull, but this technique sounds very similar to the Llullan combinatorial arts from centuries earlier, albeit in a much more simplified form.

      Can we find evidence of Feynman having read or interacted with Llull? Was it independently created or was he influenced?

      I had an example of this on 2022-05-28 in Dan Allosso's book club on Equality in the closing minutes where a bit of inspiration hit me to combine the ideas of memes, evolution, and Indigenous knowledge and storytelling to our current political situation. Several of them are problems and ideas I've been working with over years or months, and they came together all at once to present a surprising and useful new combination. #examples

      Link this also to the idea of diffuse thinking as a means of solving problems. One can combine the idea of diffuse thinking with combinatorial creativity to super-charge one's problem solving and idea generation capacity this way. What would one call this combination? It definitely needs a name. Llullan combinatorial diffusion, perhaps? To some extent Llull was doing this already as part of his practice, it's just that he didn't know or write explicitly about the diffuse thinking portion (to my knowledge), though this doesn't mean that he wasn't the beneficiary of it in actual practice, particularly when it's known that many of his time practiced lectio divina and meditated on their ideas. Alternately meditating on ideas and then "walking away" from them will by force cause diffuse thinking to be triggered.

      Are there people for whom diffuse thinking doesn't work from a physiological perspective? What type of neurodiversity does this cause?

    3. If you’ve ever played the word-tile game Scrabble, you know thebest way to come up with new words is to mix up the letters indifferent combinations until a word jumps out at you

      Strategies for playing Scrabble are similar to those of Raymond Llull's combinatorial arts.

      I've done this with other games as well...

    1. the Llullian combinatory was not really different: by rotating and re-rotating wheels, the user always got the same combinations. One who had mastered this complicated mechanism would have nothing new to learn, despite the astonishing number of possible combinations. This machine was designed to

      repeat the known rather than to explore the unknown; therefore, it functioned as an engine of redundancy rather than as an engine of variety. 53

      1. This distinction is drawn from Blair, Too Much to Know, 236, who uses it with respect to early modern reference books.

      I'm not sure that I agree with this as the number of combinations can quickly become incredibly large.

    2. In §§ 4–5, I examine the socio-evolutionary circumstances under which a closed combinatory, such as the one triggered by the Llullian art, was replaced by an open-ended combinatory, such as the one triggered by a card index based on removable entries. In early modernity, improvement in abstraction compelled scholars to abandon the idea that the order of knowledge should mirror the order of nature. This development also implied giving up the use of space as a type of externalization and as the main rule for checking consis-tency.

      F*ck! I've been scooped!

      Apparently I'm not the only one who has noticed this, though I notice that he doesn't cite Frances A. Yates, which would have certainly been the place for having come up with this historical background (at least that's where I found it.)


      The Llullian arts can be more easily practiced with ideas placed on moveable index cards than they might be with ideas stored in one's own memory. Thus the index card as a tool significantly decreases the overhead and provides an easier user interface for permuting one's ideas and combining them. This decrease in mental work appearing at a time of information overload also puts specific pressure on the older use of the art of memory to put it out of fashion.

    1. I suspect that rather than being totally dreary, this transcribing step can also be a creative step, and I will see patterns of thought, generate new ideas…

      On the value of revising and revisiting notes. Similar to Raymond Llull's combinatorial creativity, but in a different form which doesn't require memory the same way.

    1. The aim of these books wasn’t regurgitation but rather combinatorial creativity. People were encouraged to improvise on themes and topics. Gathering raw material alone — in this case, information — is not enough. We must transform it into something new. It is in this light that Seneca advised copying the bee and Einstein advised combinatorial play.

      I was really hoping for so much more in this essay on the combinatorial creativity, espcially since the author threw the idea into the title. The real meat must be in the two linked articles about Seneca and Einstein.

      There is a slight mention of combinatorics in the justaposition of pieces within one's commonplace book, and a mention that these books may date back to the 12th century where they were probably more influenced by the combinatoric creativity of Raymond Lull. It's still an open question for me just how far back the idea of commonplaces goes as well as how far back Lull's combinatoric pieces go...

    1. suggested by Gessner for bibliographical units on slips of paper in subject or alphabetical order, for the generation of new texts through recombination.

      This sort of recombination is also seen in the work of Raymond Llull, though there he did it in a specific combinatorial way and implemented it in his memory rather than on paper.

    1. This art of method was understood by Ramus and Ramists as its own efficacious art of memory. InScholae in liberales artes, Ramus is explicit about his disdain for the visual mnemonic rules suggested byclassical sources.“The art of memory,”he counters,“consists entirely in division and composition. If weseek then an art which will divide and compose things, we shall find the art of memory”(qtd. in Yates 233).Ramus thus enfolds the fourth canon into his methodical framework, linking memorization of content withits“division and composition,”that is, with its organization.

      Arrangement and organization definitely have their place and can be helpful. However they may also tend to become too rigid to the point that one's thinking begins to lack creativity and invention. Where is the space for the Llullist arts of combinatorial thought here?

    1. In the case ofLévi-Strauss, meanwhile, the card index continued to serve inimportant ways as a ‘memory crutch’, albeit with a key differencefrom previous uses of the index as an aide-memoire. In Lévi-Strauss’case, what the fallibility of memory takes away, the card index givesback via the workings of chance. As he explains in an interview withDidier Erebon:I get by when I work by accumulating notes – a bitabout everything, ideas captured on the fly,summaries of what I have read, references,quotations... And when I want to start a project, Ipull a packet of notes out of their pigeonhole anddeal them out like a deck of cards. This kind ofoperation, where chance plays a role, helps merevive my failing memory. (Cited in Krapp, 2006:361)For Krapp, the crucial point here is that, through his use of indexcards, Lévi-Strauss ‘seems to allow that the notes may either restorememory – or else restore the possibilities of contingency which givesthinking a chance under the conditions of modernity’ (2006: 361).

      Claude Lévi-Strauss had a note taking practice in which he accumulated notes of ideas on the fly, summaries of what he read, references, and quotations. He kept them on cards which he would keep in a pigeonhole. When planning a project, he would pull them out and use them to "revive [his] failing memory."


      Questions: - Did his system have any internal linkages? - How big was his system? (Manageable, unmanageable?) - Was it only used for memory, or was it also used for creativity? - Did the combinatorial reshufflings of his cards provide inspiration a la the Llullan arts?


      Link this to the ideas of Raymond Llull's combinatorial arts.

    1. For the combinatorial logics used to make book catalogues at this time, see Garberson, ‘Libraries, Memory and theSpace of Knowledge’. See also Chapter 8, ‘The Library Catalogue’, in W. Clark, Academic Charisma and the Origins ofthe Research University (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

      What influence, if any, would the ideas of Raymond Llull have had here?

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    Annotators

    1. In explaining his approach, Luhmann emphasized, with the first stepsof computer technology in mind, the benefits of the principle of “multiple storage”: in the card index itserves to provide different avenues of accessing a topic or concept since the respective notes may be filedin different places and different contexts. Conversely, embedding a topic in various contexts gives rise todifferent lines of information by means of opening up different realms of comparison in each case due tothe fact that a note is an information only in a web of other notes. Furthermore it was Luhmann’s intentionto “avoid premature systematization and closure and maintain openness toward the future.”11 His way oforganizing the collection allows for it to continuously adapt to the evolution of his thinking and his overalltheory which as well is not conceptualized in a hierarchical manner but rather in a cybernetical way inwhich every term or theoretical concept is dependent on the other.

      While he's couching it in the computer science milieu of his day, this is not dissimilar to the Llullan combinatorial arts.

    1. To produce meaningful work, and then forget about it, so you can move on to another and hopefully greater act of linear will.

      This completely loses the fact that two different areas of work can be used fruitfully in combinatorically creative ways to expand insight and knowledge. While you can loosely forget what is in your notes, the fact that they exist and are interlinked helps you resurface and reuse them. If you're not reusing and constantly linking them, then you're failing.

    1. This is all too correct. Sadly the older methods for writing, note taking, thinking, and memory have fallen by the wayside, so most literate moderns don't have the tradition most of (elite educated) Western culture has had for the past 2000+ years. The long tradition of commonplace books and their related versions including waste books, florilegium, sudelbücher, scholia, glossae, notebooks, anthologies, sylvae, table books, vade mecum, memoranda books, diaries, miscellanies, pocket books, thesauruses, etc. underlines your thesis well. The Zettelkasten, exactly like almost all of these others, is simply an iteration of the commonplace book instantiated into index card form. One of the reasons that Umberto Eco's advice on writing seems so similar to the zettelkasten method is that he was a medievalist scholar who was aware of these long traditions of writing, note taking, and memory and leveraged these for himself, though likely in a slightly different manner. Would anyone suggest that he didn't have a voluminous output or an outsized impact on society and culture? If one really wants to go crazy on the idea of backlinks and the ideas of creativity and invention, perhaps they ought to brush up on their Catalan and read some Ramon Llull? He was an 11th century philosopher and polymath who spent a lot of time not only memorizing much of his personal knowledge, but who invented combinatorial creative methods for juxtaposing his volumes of information to actively create new ideas. I guarantee no backlinking system held a match to his associative methods. Now if someone wanted to mix some mysticism into the fray, then perhaps there might be a competition... Many who are now writing so positively about Zettelkasten or backlinks are doing so in much the same way that humanist scholars like Desiderius Erasmus, Rodolphus Agricola, and Philip Melanchthon did when writing about and re-popularizing commonplace books in the 1500s. The primary difference being that the chance that they leave as lasting a legacy is much smaller. Worse many of them are crediting Luhmann for the actual invention of the Zettelkasten when his is but one instantiation on a long evolution of many note taking devices over literal millennia. I'm still waiting for folks to spend more time talking about Carl Linnaeus' revolutionary invention and use of the index card. Or John Locke's system for creating a new indexing system for commonplace books. Generally we don't talk about these innovations because their users spent more of their time using their systems to get other more important things done for their legacies. In the end, the message seems clear, anyone can be incredibly productive; most of it boils down to having some sort of system of reading, thinking, note taking, and new production and sticking with it for a while. Have a system; use your system; evolve it slowly to work well for you and the way you think and work.

  4. Apr 2022
    1. one of those powerful things that any musician can do like take this song [Music] and you could basically cut out little loops from that

      An easy way of creating new music is to take a short length of music and break it down into smaller constitutive parts and then loop them and potentially then build them back up into longer pieces.

    2. it starts with 00:32:31 this one kind of thing called single finger and these are all just variations or practice styles [Music] 00:32:45 and then octave double stop skills [Music] and you know just down the list but you know these things are all developed 00:32:59 through the practice the daily practice but then once once they've been developed then i can just plug them into songs and and create so that's just i'm really excited about this form like the fiddle wrong is because

      Jason Kleinberg takes basic tunes and then has a list of variations of practice styles which he runs through with each one (eg. single-finger, octave double stops scale, old-time, polkafy, blues, etc.) and he plays those tunes in these modified styles not only to practice, but to take these "musical conversations" and translate them into his own words. This is a clever way of generating new music and potentially even new styles by mixing those which have come before. To a great sense, he's having a musical conversation with prior composers and musicians in the same way that an annotator will have a conversation in the margins with an author. It's also an example of the sort of combinatorial creativity suggested by Raymond Llull's work.

    1. A filing system is indefinitely expandable, rhizomatic (at any point of timeor space, one can always insert a new card); in contradistinction with the sequen-tial irreversibility of the pages of the notebook and of the book, its interiormobility allows for permanent reordering (for, even if there is no narrative conclu-sion of a diary, there is a last page of the notebook on which it is written: its pagesare numbered, like days on a calendar).

      Most writing systems and forms force a beginning and an end, they force a particular structure that is both finite and limiting. The card index (zettelkasten) may have a beginning—there's always a first note or card, but it never has to have an end unless one's ownership is so absolute it ends with the life of its author. There are an ever-increasing number of ways to order a card index, though some try to get around this to create some artificial stability by numbering or specifically ordering their cards. New ideas can be accepted into the index at a multitude of places and are always internally mobile and re-orderable.

      link to Luhmann's works on describing this sort of rhizomatic behavior of his zettelkasten


      Within a network model framing for a zettelkasten, one might define thinking as traversing a graph of idea nodes in a particular order. Alternately it might also include randomly juxtaposing cards and creating links between ones which have similarities. Which of these modes of thinking has a higher order? Which creates more value? Which requires more work?

    2. In his practice, Leiris wrote,Duchamp demonstratesall the honesty of a gambler who knows that the game only has meaningto the extent that one scrupulously observes the rules from the very out-set. What makes the game so compelling is not its final result or how wellone performs, but rather the game in and of itself, the constant shiftingaround of pawns, the circulation of cards, everything that contributes tothe fact that the game—as opposed to a work of art—never stands still.

      particularly:

      but rather the game in and of itself, the constant shifting around of pawns, the circulation of cards, everything that contributes to the fact that the game--as opposed to a work of art--never stands still.

      This reminds me of some of the mnemonic devices (cowrie shells) that Lynne Kelly describes in combinatorial mnemonic practice. These are like games or stories that change through time. And these are fairly similar to the statistical thermodynamics of life and our multitude of paths through it. Or stories which change over time.

      Is life just a game?

      there's a kernel of something interesting here, we'll just need to tie it all together.

      Think also of combining various notes together in a zettelkasten.

      Were these indigenous tribes doing combinatorial work in a more rigorous mathematical fashion?

    1. Furthermore,combinatorial logic dictates that the card index is also the wellspringof creativity insofar as it permits expansive possibilities for futureintellectual endeavours (see Hollier, 2005: 40; cf. Krapp, 2006:367).
    2. the card indexis the quintessential structuralist tool in that it simultaneouslycombines the paradigmatic (selection) with the syntagmatic(combination) in one mechanism.
    3. As Calvetexplains, in thinking through the organisation of Michelet, Barthes‘tried out different combinations of cards, as in playing a game ofpatience, in order to work out a way of organising them and to findcorrespondences between them’ (113).

      Louis-Jean Calvet explains that in writing Michelet, Barthes used his notes on index cards to try out various combinations of cards to both organize them as well as "to find correspondences between them."

    4. The filing cards or slipsthat Barthes inserted into his index-card system adhered to a ‘strictformat’: they had to be precisely one quarter the size of his usualsheet of writing paper. Barthes (1991: 180) records that this systemchanged when standards were readjusted as part of moves towardsEuropean unification. Within the collection there was considerable‘interior mobility’ (Hollier, 2005: 40), with cards constantlyreordered. There were also multiple layerings of text on each card,with original text frequently annotated and altered.

      Barthes kept his system to a 'strict format' of cards which were one quarter the size of his usual sheet of writing paper, though he did adjust the size over time as paper sizes standardized within Europe. Hollier indicates that the collection had considerable 'interior mobility' and the cards were constantly reordered with use. Barthes also apparently frequently annotated and altered his notes on cards, so they were also changing with use over time.


      Did he make his own cards or purchase them? The sizing of his paper with respect to his cards might indicate that he made his own as it would have been relatively easy to fold his own paper in half twice and cut it up.

      Were his cards numbered or marked so as to be able to put them into some sort of standard order? There's a mention of 'interior mobility' and if this was the case were they just floating around internally or were they somehow indexed and tethered (linked) together?

      The fact that they were regularly used, revise, and easily reordered means that they could definitely have been used to elicit creativity in the same manner as Raymond Llull's combinatorial art, though done externally rather than within one's own mind.

    1. Reviewing The Original of Laura, Alexander Theroux describes the cards as a “portable strategy that allowed [Nabokov] to compose in the car while his wife drove the devoted lepidopterist on butterfly expeditions.”

      While note cards have a certain portability about them for writing almost anywhere, aren't notebooks just as easily portable? In fact, with a notebook, one doesn't need to worry about spilling and unordering the entire enterprise.

      There are, however, other benefits. By using small atomic pieces on note cards, one can be far more focused on the idea and words immediately at hand. It's also far easier in a creative and editorial process to move pieces around experimentally.

      Similarly, when facing Hemmingway's White Bull, the size and space of an index card is fall smaller. This may have the effect that Twitter's short status updates have for writers who aren't faced with the seemingly insurmountable burden of writing a long blog post or essay in other software. They can write 280 characters and stop. Of if they feel motivated, they can continue on by adding to the prior parts of a growing thread. Sadly, Twitter doesn't allow either editing or rearrangements, so the endeavor and analogy are lost beyond here.

    1. In the example below you will save time if you use a personal reference rather than trying to paint a picture that would aptly illustrate the question

      More closely associating new ideas to one's own personal life helps to create and expand the context of the learning to what one already knows.

      Within the context of Bloom's Taxonomy, doing this shows that one understands and is already applying and even doing a bit of creating, at least internally.


      Should 'understanding' come before 'remembering' in Bloom's taxonomy? That seems more logical to me.


      Bloom's Taxonomy mirrors the zettelkasten method

      (Recall Bloom's Taxonomy: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create)

      One needs to be able to generally understand an idea(s) to be able to write it down clearly in one's own words. Regular work within a zettelkasten helps to reinforce memory of ideas for understanding and retention. Applying the knowledge to other situations happens almost naturally with the combinatorial creativity that occurs within a zettelkasten. Analysis is heavily encouraged as one takes new information and links it to prior knowledge and ideas; this is also concurrent with the application of knowledge. Being able to compare and contrast two ideas on separate cards is also part of the analysis portions of Bloom's taxonomy which also leads into the evaluation phase. Finally, one of the most important reasons for keeping a zettelkasten is to use it to generate or create new ideas and thoughts and then write them down in articles, books, or other media in a clear and justified manner.

  5. Mar 2022
    1. Powerful tools can support creativity: Innovation can be facilitated by powerful tools that supply templates and support exploratory processes such as brainstorming (offering links to related concepts), state-space expl oration (trying out all permutations), idea combining (systematic pairings), rapid prototyping, and simulation modeling.

      State-space exploration and idea combining (systematic pairings) are just modern reimaginings of ideas going back to Raymond Llull and possibly earlier.

  6. Feb 2022
    1. Purple Numbers are a clever hack because you can work them into many existing kinds of systems. You don’t have to reinvent the document format, or cut it up into many pieces. You just stick a few ID tags in useful places. It’s like dog-earing the page of a book to find your way back.

      As permanently identified paragraph level locations, purple numbers might allow one to combinatorically rearrange sets of notes or facts in a variety of different ways.

      This pattern might be seen in earlier instantiations of note taking tools like the German zettelkasten.

      Documents might be generated by creating playlists of purple numbers in particular (useful) orders.

    1. his suggests that successful problem solvingmay be a function of flexible strategy application in relation to taskdemands.” (Vartanian 2009, 57)

      Successful problem solving requires having the ability to adaptively and flexibly focus one's attention with respect to the demands of the work. Having a toolbelt of potential methods and combinatorially working through them can be incredibly helpful and we too often forget to explicitly think about doing or how to do that.

      This is particularly important in mathematics where students forget to look over at their toolbox of methods. What are the different means of proof? Some mathematicians will use direct proof during the day and indirect forms of proof at night. Look for examples and counter-examples. Why not look at a problem from disparate areas of mathematical thought? If topology isn't revealing any results, why not look at an algebraic or combinatoric approach?

      How can you put a problem into a different context and leverage that to your benefit?

    2. As proper note-taking is rarely taught or discussed, it is no wonderthat almost every guide on writing recommends to start withbrainstorming. If you haven’t written along the way, the brain isindeed the only place to turn to. On its own, it is not such a greatchoice: it is neither objective nor reliable – two quite importantaspects in academic or nonfiction writing.

      Brainstorming can be a miserable way to start a creative process. Without a pre-existing source of ideas (one's own notes) it can be the only place to start, but it suffers from being unreliable and having no objectivity. It is tremendously difficult to plumb the depths of one's memory for great ideas, questions, or interesting places to start an endeavor, but if you've been collecting these for ages, it becomes much easier to span a space and see tangential spaces.

    3. a system is neededto keep track of the ever-increasing pool of information, which allowsone to combine different ideas in an intelligent way with the aim ofgenerating new ideas.

      The point of good tools of thought is to allow one to keep track of the ever increasing flood of information that also allows them to juxtapose or combine ideas in novel and interesting ways. Further, this should provide them with a means of generating and then improving upon their new ideas.

    1. The third way I interact with my notes is a mechanism I’ve engineered whereby they are slowly presented to me randomly, and on a steady drip, every day.I’ve created a system so random notes appear every time I open a browser tabI like the idea of being presented and re-presented with my notations of things that were interesting to me at some point, but that in many cases I had forgotten about. The effect of surprise creates interesting and productive new connections in my brain.

      Robin Sloan has built a system that will present him with random notes from his archive every time he opens a browser tab.

    1. As much as I automate things, though,none of my thinking is done by a tool.Even with plugins like Graph Analysis, I never feel like I'm being presented with emergent connections — tho this is what the plugin is intended for, and I believe it works for other people.

      At what point could digital tools be said to be thinking? Do they need to be generative? It certainly needs to be on the other side of serendipitously juxtaposing two interesting ideas. One can juxtapose millions of ideas, it's the selection of a tiny subset of these as "better" or more interesting than the others and then building off of that that constitutes this sort of generative thought.

  7. Jan 2022
    1. Serious reading will require just as much effort as it has always required.

      Reading is hard to disrupt.

      Speeding up and dramatically improving the reading process is incredibly difficult. No one has yet made really huge strides in this space. Google has made it imminently more accessible to the masses, but it still requires a lot of physical work and processing on our part.

  8. Dec 2021
    1. In fact, the methodical use of notebooks changed the relationship between natural memory and artificial memory, although contemporaries did not immediately realize it. Historical research supports the idea that what was once perceived as a memory aid was now used as secondary memory.18

      During the 16th century there was a transition in educational centers from using the natural and artificial memories to the methodical use of notebooks and commonplace books as a secondary memory saved by means of writing.

      This allows people in some sense to "forget" what they've read and learned and be surprised by it again later. They allow themselves to create liminal memories which may be refreshed and brought to the center later. Perhaps there is also some benefit in this liminal memory for allowing ideas to steep on the periphery before using them. Perhaps combinatorial creativity happens unconsciously?

      Cross reference: learning research by Barbara Oakley and Terry Sejnowski.

  9. Oct 2021
    1. sometimes you de- yelop a whole passage, not with the intention of completing it, but because it comes of itself and because inspiration is like grace, which passes by and does not come back.

      So very few modern sources describe annotation or note taking in these terms.

      I find often in my annotations, the most recent one just above is such a one, where I start with a tiny kernel of an idea and then my brain begins warming up and I put down some additional thoughts. These can sometimes build and turn into multiple sentences or paragraphs, other times they sit and need further work. But either way, with some work they may turn into something altogether different than what the original author intended or discussed.

      These are the things I want to keep, expand upon, and integrate into larger works or juxtapose with other broader ideas and themes in the things I am writing about.

      Sadly, we're just not teaching students or writers these tidbits or habits anymore.

      Sönke Ahrens mentions this idea in his book about Smart Notes. When one is asked to write an essay or a paper it is immensely difficult to have a perch on which to begin. But if one has been taking notes about their reading which is of direct interest to them and which can be highly personal, then it is incredibly easy to have a starting block against which to push to begin what can be either a short sprint or a terrific marathon.

      This pattern can be seen by many bloggers who surf a bit of the web, read what others have written, and use those ideas and spaces as a place to write or create their own comments.

      Certainly this can involve some work, but it's always nicer when the muses visit and the words begin to flow.

      I've now written so much here in this annotation that this note here, is another example of this phenomenon.

      With some hope, by moving this annotation into my commonplace book (or if you prefer the words notebook, blog, zettelkasten, digital garden, wiki, etc.) I will have it to reflect and expand upon later, but it'll also be a significant piece of text which I might move into a longer essay and edit a bit to make a piece of my own.

      With luck, I may be able to remedy some of the modern note taking treatises and restore some of what we've lost from older traditions to reframe them in an more logical light for modern students.

      I recall being lucky enough to work around teachers insisting I use note cards and references in my sixth grade classes, but it was never explained to me exactly what this exercise was meant to engender. It was as if they were providing the ingredients for a recipe, but had somehow managed to leave off the narrative about what to do with those ingredients, how things were supposed to be washed, handled, prepared, mixed, chopped, etc. I always felt that I was baking blind with no directions as to temperature or time. Fortunately my memory for reading on shorter time scales was better than my peers and it was only that which saved my dishes from ruin.

      I've come to see note taking as beginning expanded conversations with the text on the page and the other texts in my notebooks. Annotations in the the margins slowly build to become something else of my own making.

      We might compare this with the more recent movement of social annotation in the digital pedagogy space. This serves a related master, but seems a bit more tangent to it. The goal of social annotation seems to be to help engage students in their texts as a group. Reading for many of these students may be more foreign than it is to me and many other academics who make trade with it. Thus social annotation helps turn that reading into a conversation between peers and their text. By engaging with the text and each other, they get something more out of it than they might have if left to their own devices. The piece I feel is missing here is the modeling of the next several steps to the broader commonplacing tradition. Once a student has begun the path of allowing their ideas to have sex with the ideas they find on the page or with their colleagues, what do they do next? Are they being taught to revisit their notes and ideas? Sift them? Expand upon them. Place them in a storehouse of their best materials where they can later be used to write those longer essays, chapters, or books which may benefit them later?

      How might we build these next pieces into these curricula of social annotation to continue building on these ideas and principles?

  10. Jul 2021
    1. The point of Zettelkasten is to digest each thing you read well so you don’t need to go back to look at it again.

      I don't agree with this viewpoint. Just like Heraclitus' river, the information in an article or book may not change, but there is a contextual change in the reader, in their thinking, their circumstances, and their time that may give them a different reading or perspective of the same material at later dates.

      Of course not all material is actually worth reading more than once either. But for some material a second or third reading may help them create new ideas and new links to prior ideas.

    1. Feature Idea: Chaos Monkey for PKM

      This idea is a bit on the extreme side, but it does suggest that having a multi-card comparison view in a PKM system would be useful.

      Drawing on Raymond Llull's combitorial memory system from the 12th century and a bit of Herman Ebbinghaus' spaced repetition (though this is also seen in earlier non-literate cultures), one could present two (or more) random atomic notes together as a way of juxtaposing disparate ideas from one's notes.

      The spaced repetition of the cards would be helpful for one's long term memory of the ideas, but it could also have the secondary effect of nudging one to potentially find links or connections between the two ideas and help to spur creativity for the generation of new hybrid ideas or connection to other current ideas based on a person's changed context.

      I've thought about this in the past (most likely while reading Frances Yates' Art of Memory), but don't think I've bothered to write it down (or it's hiding in untranscribed marginalia).

  11. May 2021
    1. “but I how will I be able to find stuff later on?”. Good question we’ll answer later. A part of the answer is simply by re-reading. If you don’t re-read what you’ve written, nothing will ever happen with it. So, if you intent to simply write down thoughts in order to feel a temporary moment of relief, fine. But if you intent to change your life, that won’t suffice.

      One needs to re-read and reprocess things from time to time. This is a part of the combinatorial creativity that having notes is for.

      This is reminiscent of the CAA addage: "If you read something and then don't tell anyone about it, you may as well not have read it in the first place."

    1. Markus Krajewski reminds us that Luhmann’s choice of interlocutor has a precedent in an 1805 piece by the novelist Heinrich von Kleist (see the chapter “Paper as Passion” in this collection).

      <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'>Daniela K. Helbig </span> in  Ruminant machines: a twentieth-century episode in the material history of ideas - JHI Blog (<time class='dt-published'>05/12/2021 21:27:02</time>)</cite></small>

    1. Lichtenberg’s quips: “Oh how many ideas aren’t hovering dispersed in my head! Quite a few pairs among those could provoke the greatest discovery if only they came together. But isolated from one another they lie, just like the sulphur from the city of Goslar lies isolated from East Indian nitre and from Oaksfield coal dust when jointly they could produce gunpowder!”

      Lichtenberg teasing around the idea of combinatorial creativity.

  12. Oct 2020
    1. What if the best tools for thought have already been discovered? In other words, perhaps the 1960s and 1970s were an unrepeatable golden age, and all we can expect in the future is gradual incremental improvement, and perhaps the occasional major breakthrough, at a decreasing frequency?

      Many have been, but they've been forgotten and need to be rediscovered and repopularized as well as refined.

      Once this has happened, perhaps others may follow. Ideas like PAO are incredibly valuable ones that hadn't previously existed, but were specially built for remembering specific types of information. How can we combinatorially use some of these other methods to create new and interesting ones for other types of tools?

    2. I want creativity!

      For this one need look no further than Ramond Lull...

    1. While calling memory “the store-house of our ideas,” John Locke recognized its limitations. On the one hand, it was an incredible source of knowledge. On the other hand, it was weak and fragile. He knew that over time, memory faded and became harder to retrieve, which made it less valuable.

      As most humanists of the time may have had incredibly well-trained memories (particularly in comparison with the general loss of the art now), this is particularly interesting to me. Having had a great memory, the real value of these writings and materials is to help their memories dramatically outlive their own lifetimes. This is particularly useful as their systems of passing down ideas via memory was dramatically different than those of indigenous peoples who had a much more institutionalized version of memory methods and passing along their knowledge.

    2. Commonplace books, during the Renaissance, were used to enhance the memory. Yeo writes, This reflected the ancient Greek and Roman heritage. In his Topica, Aristotle formulated a doctrine of ‘places’ (topoi or loci) that incorporated his ten categories. A link was soon drawn between this doctrine of ‘places’ (which were, for Aristotle, ‘seats of arguments’, not quotations from authors) and the art of memory. Cicero built on this in De Oratore, explaining that ‘it is chiefly order that gives distinctness to memory’; and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria became an influential formulation. This stress on order and sequence was the crux of what came to be known as ‘topical memory’, cultivated by mnemonic techniques (‘memoria technica’) involving the association of ideas with visual images. These ideas, forms of argument, or literary tropes were ‘placed’ in the memory, conceived in spatial terms as a building, a beehive, or a set of pigeon holes. This imagined space was then searched for the images and ideas it contained…. In the ancient world, the practical application of this art was training in oratory; yet Cicero stressed that the good orator needed knowledge, not just rhetorical skill, so that memory had to be trained to store and retrieve illustrations and arguments of various kinds. Although Erasmus distrusted the mnemonic arts, like all the leading Renaissance humanists, he advocated the keeping of commonplace books as an aid to memory.

      I particularly love the way this highlights the phrase "'placed' in the memory" because the idea of loci as a place has been around so long that we tacitly use it as a verb so naturally in conjunction with memory!

      Note here how the author Richard Yeo manages not to use the phrase memory palace or method of loci.Was this on purpose?

    3. “In his influential De Copia (1512),” writes Professor Richard Yeo, “Erasmus advised that an abundant stock of quotations and maxims from classical texts be entered under various loci (places) to assist free-flowing oratory.” Arranged under ‘Heads’ and recorded as ‘common-places’ (loci communes), these commonplace books could be consulted for speeches and written compositions designed for various situations — in the law court, at ceremonial occasions, or in the dedication of a book to a patron. Typical headings included the classical topics of honour, virtue, beauty, friendship, and Christian ones such as God, Creation, faith, hope, or the names of the virtues and vices.
    4. Neither ought anything to be collected whilst you are busied in reading; if by taking the pen in hand the thread of your reading be broken off, for that will make the reading both tedious and unpleasant.

      This is incredibly important for me, though in a more technology friendly age, I've got tools like Hypothes.is for quickly highlighting and annotating pages and can then later collect them into my commonplace book as notes to work with and manage after-the-fact.

  13. Jun 2020
    1. This argument is reinforced by the fact that, at the individual level, we meet many brilliant people who are fascinated by (and often working on) tools for thought, but who nonetheless seem to be making slow progress.

      Ideas have sex: the trouble in a dramatically increasing landscape of information that we've experienced over the last century alone is that the combinatoric interactions of all the ideas is also much slower, so the progress on this front may seem to slow while the body of knowledge and interactions is continually growing. This might make for an interesting graph.

  14. May 2020
    1. The Loeb Classic Library collection of Seneca’s Epistles in three volumes (1-65, 66-92, and 92-124), should be read by all in its entirety. Of course, if you don’t have time to read them all, you can read a heavily curated version of them.
    2. cull the flowers

      definitely reminiscent of the idea of floriligeum (or anthology)

    1. “Extraordinary Commonplaces,” Robert Darnton
    2. Early compilations involved various combinations of four crucial operations: storing, sorting, selecting, and summarizing, which I think of as the four S’s of text management. We too store, sort, select, and summarize information, but now we rely not only on human memory, manuscript, and print, as in earlier centuries, but also on computer chips, search functions, data mining, and Wikipedia, along with other electronic techniques.
  15. Apr 2020
    1. It is a much simpler exercise than the combinatorial wheels, but it struck me as similar: both break down the thinking process into a set of discrete, distinct aspects, and our attention is directed to a specific focus area of focus in sequence. One might think this would limit creativity, but in some ways increases it, as you are enabled to let your mind generate thought around many more specific points than if you were to think in a free-form manner about the topic all at once (not that this replaces daydream-style sessions of thought.) But focal points concentrate power