Related to: Living Luminously

Well? Should you?

Linked is a treatise on exactly this concept. If the effects of recording and classifying every thought pan out like the author says they'll pan out... well, read a (limited) excerpt (from the Introduction), and I'll let you decide whether it's worth your time.

If you do the things described in this book, you will be IMMOBILIZED for the duration of your commitment.The immobilization will come on gradually, but steadily. In the end, you will be incapable of going somewhere without your cache of notes, and will always want a pen and paper w/ you. When you do not have pen and paper, you will rely on complex memory pegging devices, described in "The Memory Book''. You will NEVER BE WITHOUT RECORD, and you will ALWAYS RECORD.

YOU MAY ALSO ARTICULATE. Your thoughts will be clearer to you than they have ever been before. You will see things you have never seen before. When someone shows you one corner, you'll have the other 3 in mind. This is both good and bad. It means you will have the right information at the right time in the right place. It also means you may have trouble shutting up. Your mileage may vary.

You will not only be immobilized in the arena of action, but you will also be immobilized in the arena of thought. This appears to be contradictory, but it's not really. When you are writing down your thoughts, you are making them clear to yourself, but when you revise your thoughts, it requires a lot of work - you have to update old ideas to point to new ideas. This discourages a lot of new thinking. There is also a "structural integrity'' to your old thoughts that will resist change. You may actively not-think certain things, because it would demand a lot of note keeping work. (Thus the notion that notebooks are best applied to things that are not changing.)

The full text is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, which is why I hesitated to post this topic in the first place. But there are probably note-taking junkies, or luminosity junkies, or otherwise interested folk amongst LW. So why not?

(Incidentally I'm reminded of Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Chronofile. I wonder how he managed it, or what benefits/costs it wrought?)


New Comment
27 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:16 AM

Should You Make a Complete Map of Every Thought You Think?

No, that would be really boring.

Le secret d'ennuyer est celui de tout dire.

The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.

(from the Voltaire wiki quote page)

I think "really difficult" applies too.

Definitely. I was originally going to claim that it was outright impossible. But I decided it may technically be possible with sufficient control of the mind to enforce redundancy of thought and prevent too much creativity while recording.

One of my most anticipated and longest-held wishes about future technology is the ability to automatically capture my stream of consciousness as text, mostly for recall but also for the possibility of organizing my thoughts' interrelations, reducing compartmentalization and Taking Ideas Seriously. Of course trash-sorting/maintenance algorithms to increase signal to noise ratio might be necessary, but at the least it would be a searchable history.

I understand why this post may be downvoted (perhaps the title as a specific call to action), but I really wonder at why it isn't given at least some discussion about these possibilities.

It's better to do something LESS INSANE. It's also SAD that the post is not downvoted into OBLIVION.

I wouldn't want my karma to be killed just because I introduced someone else's idea for provocation, and didn't make any solid recommendations.

Voting should not be used to answer a question raised in a post; it should be reserved for passing judgement on the post (e.g. if the question is bad to ask in the first place, as opposed to merely having a negative answer [or even an easy answer of any kind]).

[or even an easy answer of any kind]

This. It's bad to spend anyone's time or collective attention on trivial uninteresting things.

Vladimir, why do you think this is insane? I would really be interested in an elaboration, thanks.

If you'd literally recorded every thought in you conscious mind, you'd quickly hit some infinite regress... stack overflow.

I take lots of notes of my thoughts, though I suspect it is mostly due to my obsessive nature and fear that I could forget an important thought.

The thing is, when will I take the time to go through the thoughts? I have a text file with over 10k lines of notes. It's a question of opportunity cost, I could wade through my old notes or do something else.

Heh, I actually mapped my thoughts following Lion Kimbro's method, six or seven years ago; I still have the notebooks on my shelf. From what he later said, he doesn't really recommend it, it bogs one down.

I still think it was an interesting experiment, though I'd put it more in the category of creativity helper / mind map; it's also interesting to have a snapshot of the kind of stuff I thought about a lot at the time, with quite a bit of detail.

This probably has some useful stuff in it, but...IMMOBILIZED? Seriously? What I can see just reading the quote is setting off my mental alarm for "you had a good idea, but you tried to apply it to an extant for in an arena in which you're hitting really bad diminishing returns, so stop it right now, determine how far you can take it without it making you expend an inefficient amount of effort, and go from there."

Why do I have a mental alarm for this kind of thing? Because I do it all the time.

I wasn't sure if he meant you will be immobilized if you want to stick to your commitment or be immobilized out of some sort of neurosis.

I parsed it as 'you won't be able to update.'

You interpreted "immobilize" as "inability to perform a Bayesian update"? I think that is unlikely given that he says "you will be incapable of going somewhere without your cache of notes" which seems to clearly imply a much more (though not completely) literal, physical meaning of immobilization.

[-][anonymous]11y 1

There's also the bit that says

There is also a "structural integrity'' to your old thoughts that will resist change. You may actively not-think certain things, because it would demand a lot of note keeping work.

If you'll excuse the rhetoric: Wow... I don't even know what to say.

Maybe I just interpreted that as the worst part of it, and somewhat of a metaphor for having significant barriers to reorganizing or modifying your brain's contents.

I will list all the problems I have with adopting such a system in the hope that others may have some of the same problems and can also benefit from proposed solutions. I realize that many of these problems do not conflict with more limited forms of note-taking and would suggest that others remind themselves not to use problems such as these as an excuse to avoid those limited forms.

I have a strong inhibition against articulating truly personal thoughts in any way. I would have to be certain that nobody could gain access to my repository and even then would have to spend some time deconditioning myself.

A non-electronic medium would be too insecure, virtually impossible to back up, and impossible to automatically algorithmically analyze.

Data entry for an electronic medium would be a problem. I can't easily alternate between common activities and typing on my laptop. Typing with thumb keyboards is too slow to be practical.

I am afraid writing my thoughts and reading them will cause them to lose their affective components. This fear may or may not be irrational: I have no idea.


  • I could use a notepad to jot down thoughts when I am out and later copy them to my computer and shred the notes.
  • I could encrypt the data on my laptop (not an effective measure against anyone actively trying to access the data)

All suggestions welcome. : )

I am afraid writing my thoughts and reading them will cause them to lose their affective components.

If I have a really good idea, I might write myself a note, but I won't try to describe the whole idea -- if I do, it's like my mental model loses any complexity that couldn't be expressed in my description. Perhaps a paper mindmap might prevent this from happening.

Perhaps you could create an index of affective or untranslatable responses along with stimuli that produce them. You could then reference this index in your notes.

Perhaps. My intuition is that the index would be too long to be useful, but I'm bookmarking it to consider when I have more brainpower to use on it.

Arguably you wouldn't have to map every thought to see a benefit. A minor variation could easily apply to the mapping of cached selves.

Does anyone else worry that anyone who had access to a transcription of your thoughts would think you were too easily emotionally effected and thus "shallow" or childish? I know that I am strongly emotionally effected by many things I believe most people would think are too simple to be emotionally engaging.

New to LessWrong?