04 December 2015

A Web of Thoughts

Thinking, getting to the bottom of something, researching and contemplating ideas - these processes are often likened to mentally forming a graph. A network of interconnected facts, questions and conjectures, varying over time. New strands form and merge with others. Some die off, some develop and ultimately become a published paper, an algorithm, a business, or material for late-night conversation.

As the analogy goes, the web in turn connects everyones thinking, thereby increasing its value exponentially. But if thinking really is a graph, todays internet is more of a collection of leaves. Thoughts, in varying evolutionary stages, but mostly detached from the contexts they originated from. This is inherent in the foundations of the web as a set of connected documents. Documents represent thoughts, not thinking. They are supposed to give a complete picture, presented along an arc spanning introduction, exposition and conclusion, neatly tucked away under a descriptive headline. But representing thinking requires, if not a whole graph, at least a stream of documents.

Immensue value lies in sharing the thinking itself, more so than in all of the concieved thoughts in isolation. Our tools today focus on the document, the tweet, the blog post, the paper. Exploring the mental graph of someone elses thoughts would allow readers to fully immerse themselves in the material, to develop their own mental model along the authors map.

Tools like Twitter or reading.am point into the general direction, but remain too focused on self-promotion and traditional notions of publishing. I have high hopes for what the next Twitter could be, not in terms of market cap, but rather in terms of enriching the ways we think and create.