Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Jan 2019

Scribbling Notes Towards Refined Abilities

Could going about sharing digitally using an analog analogy unveil the better AI

LiquidText and notable reads for January 4

There’s something “rough” about the way online systems have asked for us to modify behaviors so that we can script and share content. For the most part, the analogy begins and ends in a list. Feeling like Avanceé could push things differently, there’s an experiment underway to add a bit of “scribbling” to the notion of the shared links. In the midst of such an experiment, there’s a revelation of what might be a better response to some of the noise given to what intelligence does in a computational age.

A popular application for iPads called LiquidText — unveiled more than a year ago — took the analogy of a hyperlinked notebook and pushed it to an interesting interpretation. Still working alongside the idea of a list, the experience was designed around pulling snippets from documents, images, and web pages within that list, and placing them alongside handwritten notes. The user could highlight, or copy excerpts, and then connect those snippets with lines and links. The resulting “document” mimics the mind of the person putting it together, not (necessarly) the whims of those who designed document formats or rights management. While not the only application which pushes forward such an analogy, it has become a key part of other research work and makes sense to push in a wider format for Avanceé.

In his 2019 New Year’s essay, George Dyson sets the plate neatly for such experimentation:

Digital computing, intolerant of error or ambiguity, depends upon precise definitions and error correction at every step. Analog computing not only tolerates errors and ambiguities, but thrives on them. Digital computers, in a technical sense, are analog computers, so hardened against noise that they have lost their immunity to it. Analog computers embrace noise; a real-world neural network needing a certain level of noise to work.

Where it gets interesting is that working in LiquidText requires a different (honorable?) association to the concepts of consumption, time, contemplation, and outcomes. Much like a notebook, there must be time spent collecting content and then arranging it. But, its not final when it gets there. In the early phases of this experiment, am already noticing how often some snippets or notes find their way moved around the canvas, pointing to other pieces, and even in some cases censored (this is done to be shared publicly). This is an intensive, analog process — and yet it is enabled by wrangling mature pieces of digital behaviors. This is the DJ remixing 45s, but creating a sound and genre which couldn’t be made with 45s alone. It needs and thrives on the abilities of the DJ.

What has such a workflow done? Already, there’s a slower processing of information — yet there’s not slower consumption of it. There’s a roughness to getting information into LiquidText — so much so there’s a workflow being developed (using Apple’s Shortcuts app) which will smooth the trip from finding a note to getting it into the appropriate LiquidText (and maybe even Micro.Blog) formats. The Apple Pencil becomes more of the constant friend — and the keyboard gets pushed aside for a smaller one (in this case, the Tap. The shift feels as if there are aspects of analog behaviors being reinvested into the workflow. And in doing so, the connections between disparate pieces of information aren’t simply being pulled together, they are being mixed and remixed in the same ways they are happening neurologically, not programmatically.

Found a quote befitting a few streams of thought like this late in 2018:

Special knowledge can be a terrible disadvantage if it leads you too far along a path you cannot explain anymore” — Brian Herbert

Chances are, an experiment like this refines what augmented intelligence could mean; the kind of field which can be planted when analog behaviors are given place to grow natively alongside digital tools.

Experimenting with taking LiquidText notes of the weekly links has revealed branches of creativity, thought, and process previously hidden to the digital-infused, links collection process. There’s something more happening than simply collecting. However, it might be the case that a former idea should become the better focus of some of these kinds of activities. There’s something being appended to the way Intelligence has been cultivated. A stream befitting a smoother course down this informational river.