Cognitive science

The Extended Mind Book Cover

The Extended Mind: Reimagining the Nature of Intelligence

The conventional approach to intelligence has been to rely only on our own personal mental capabilities. We tend to assume that intelligence resides only in our skulls, the same way the computation of a computer is sealed inside its aluminum case. But in her book The Extended Mind (affiliate link) Annie Murphy Paul argues otherwise:…

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Artificial Time

We’ve been led to believe that we are at the precipice of an Artificial Intelligence explosion. Yet the progress in our digital assistants and self-driving cars seems to have stalled. Computers choke at even the simplest requests, and most of the digital world continues to be handcrafted by humans. But quietly, hidden in plain sight,…

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A Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind

In 2006, inventor Ray Kurzweil released the book The Singularity Is Near (Amazon Affiliate Link), with a bold prediction that by the year 2049 we’d enter a “technological singularity.” Around that time, he argued, the pace of improvement in technology would become a runaway phenomenon that would transform all aspects of human civilization. The word “singularity”…

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Progressive Summarization V: The Faster You Forget, The Faster You Learn

In Part I, I introduced Progressive Summarization, a method for easily creating highly discoverable notes. In Part II, I gave you examples and metaphors of the method in action. Part III included my top recommendations for how to perform it effectively. Part IV showed how to apply the technique to non-text media.

In Part V, I’ll show you how Progressive Summarization directly contributes to the ultimate outcome we’re seeking with our information consumption: learning.

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Supersizing the Mind: The Science of Cognitive Extension

You enter your kitchen for a quick lunch: how is it exactly that your brain solves the problem “prepare lunch as efficiently as possible”? Your brain effortlessly, almost instantaneously “assembles” a diverse mix of problem-solving resources on the spot. These “resources” can include knowledge, tools, or structures, and can be: Mental: knowledge, experience, intuition Physical:…

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The World Beyond Your Head: How Distraction Shapes Who We Are

Matthew Crawford’s book The World Beyond Your Head (Affiliate Link) is the most important book I’ve read in quite some time. It makes a sweeping argument about what it means to be an ethical, autonomous human in the digital age. Crawford draws a strong connection from the distractions buzzing on our phones, to the evolving…

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Mood as Extrapolation Engine: Using Emotions to Generate Momentum

I believe that moods (or less colloquially, states of mind) can be used not just defensively, making the best of whatever mood you’re in (as I described in Productivity for Precious Snowflakes). They can also be used offensively, to proactively create the conditions for rapid acceleration and value creation. Let’s begin with a simple question:…

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A Theory of Unlearning: Ecstasis, Anamnesis, Kenosis

A year ago in Productivity for Precious Snowflakes, I introduced the idea of Mood-First Productivity — that our moods, or unique states of mind, are fundamental drivers of creative knowledge work. But something was missing: how does one advance in the practice of Mood-First Productivity, besides noticing what mood you’re in at any given time, and trying…

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Experimental Habit Formation

A new framework for continuous learning One of the key challenges of living and working in the future will be continuous learning and experimentation. I’d like to propose a framework for this type of learning that is both feasible and focused on the individual: experimental habit formation. I believe it can help resolve one of…

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