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The Tinkered Mind
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July 11th, 2020
One reason to write, and to write often and on a wide variety of topics is for the creation of a conceptual network. All of us who can read or understand this already have a conceptual network that we can specifically point at, that is, language. Each word is a concept and we network these words together in order to create meaning. There is, of course, the troubling fact that many and most don’t take the time to do any substantial investigation of those words being used. People are left speaking with a predominately emotional shape, one that can even be disconnected from their own best interests. Taking the time to turn these words over, each in turn, and then to go beyond that and investigate larger clusters of concepts, through writing, creates a network that isn’t just robust, but also memorable.
For example, in response to a question, several Tinkered Thinking episodes were offered as a kind of collaged answer. Two benefits of writing arise in this little example. Not only are these episodes still useful and memorable after years, but they are also remixed and juxtaposed in ways that add to their individual utility. Just reflect a little further on this, and ask whether you can remember what you were thinking 430 days ago. Virtually no one can answer this question, but with writing, the value of what was thought 430 days ago can still have a lasting impact on the present. Not only do we develop the thought, but the record of it makes it a bit more memorable, and if the entire subject can collapse into a single unit, like the Title of the writing, then it becomes accessible, mentally, in a kind of indexed fashion.
Think of it this way: imagine you can ping your position with a device, say your cell phone, and this ping would put a tiny dot on a map. Now let’s say your task is to make a map of the interstate highway system in the United States, and this ability to ping your location and a vehicle are your only tools. As you drive along, you ping your position. Now run two simulations of this insane tedium: in the first simulation, you ping your location once every 3 days while driving 24 hours a day. How good would your map look? We might get a vague idea of how far spread the interstate system is across the continent, but would we be able to use this map to get around? Probably not. Now run the second simulation, same exercise, but you ping your location once a second while driving. This map would inevitably be far more useful. Note though, both maps have the same accuracy, one is just more detailed, and the map drawn in this way only because really useful after a certain threshold of density is achieved.
We might be able to say something similar about the mind and the concepts we run on our wetware.
How many people are lost in a hazy sea of concepts that they use, but to poor avail? Is it all that difficult to imagine that one’s own thinking might improve if some effort was made to increase the detail and resolution of the mental maps that we use to navigate the world? How else is this accomplished without being able to confront them in some tangible form, that is, how can you confront what you think without first recording it? We barely remember the last half minute worth of conversation. Is it really safe to have faith that our internal monologue is really tracking all the important parts of the issue as we try to navigate toward a best option?
Currently, writing seems to be our only technology that allows us to track thought in a way that we can engage with constructively. But once the mental map is on the page, it’s invisible ability to run our life is rendered susceptible to editing. It’s an unguarded secret of writers that we can edit thought by simply editing the writing that results from that thought. We in essence edit the code of our thought by editing the writing our thought produces. This evolutionary process of tinkering, if carried out long enough, creates that conceptual network, one with enough interconnection and resolution to help us navigate forward more effectively.
This episode references Episode 758: Title