Listened to Designing and Developing New Tools For Thought with Andy Matuschak from Village Global's Venture Stories

Andy Matuschak (@andy_matuschak), joins Erik on this episode. He is a technologist, designer and researcher. They discuss:
- The key thread throughout his work and what he’s trying to accomplish.
- Why people read books despite remembering little of what they read.
- What books should look like and the features they should have in the digital age.
- Why spaced repetition is so powerful.- His requests for startups in the space.

Pantheon: A great resource of people and bibliographical data for PAO systems

When creating a Person-Action-Object (PAO) system, sometimes a major issue is having the creativity and perseverance of coming up with a strong repository of names, pictures, and other related data to use.

While doing some research today on collective learning I came across a really well-curated and research-grade system called Pantheon with a wealth of all the sorts of data one could possibly want when creating a PAO.

Naturally if you’re memorizing dates and places for other reasons, there’s a great wealth of data and some useful visualizations hiding in here as well. I suspect that some may find it useful for work with names and faces too.

Watched Learn Morse Code from a Memory Champ (in 15 minutes) by Nelson Delis from YouTube
This is a video I've been wanting to do for a while (in part because I've wanted to learn Morse Code myself, for years!) and I've also had many requests for it.
The first method is also useful for letter frequencies (or playing something like Wheel of Fortune) while the second is actually useful for the sound memory needed to practice Morse code.
Bookmarked Morse code words (Art of Memory Forum)
Here’s a method I came up with for learning Morse code easily. All you need to do is become familiar with 26 “Morse code words”, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet:
Amy Bread Cobra Doll Eh Flash Good Heidi Ice Jenny Knit Large Mop Nod Oops Pasta Quran Ring Safe To Ugly Vicar Wasp Xraay (note - double a) Yukon Zoned These could be linked together in a story, or just learned by repetition. Now, to get the Morse code for a particular letter, take the ...
Replied to I’m memorizing a 1000-page book word for word and I’m making progress by lucadelocilucadeloci (Art of Memory Forum)

Some time ago I posted here on the forum a topic about memorizing a 988 page book word for word. I was not surprised when I received answers that it was unnecessary to do so and that understanding the idea was enough, however I was always a person who does exactly the opposite of what people say. I went ahead hahaha.

The method:

  1. In order not to get lost, I create one image per page, associated with the page number and associate that image with the main topic and the subtopics. (There is usually only one topic per page and 3 subtopics)
  2. I read the page, mark the keywords with a highlighter.
  3. Then I use the John Place method.
    3.1 I read the first sentence
    3.2 I repeat with my eyes closed out loud
    3.3 I read the first and second sentences
    3.4 I repeat the first and the second with my eyes closed and so on. And so, I do with each paragraph, individually.
  4. I created an organized calendar so that I can review all pages after 1 day, 1 week, 1 month …
    Ex: page 61,62,63,64,65. Review May 4th, May 10th and June 4th.
    At the end of each page I can recite it word for word with very few mistakes. The association of the page number allows me to review periodically without getting lost. It also allows that, if someone opens the book and reads a sentence, I will probably be able to complete the sentence and say which page it is on.
    In the beginning I took about 30 minutes per page. Studying 2 hours a day, which is a comfortable time, I memorized 4 pages a day. I calculated that memorizing 4 pages a day, in 244 days I will have memorized the whole book, however the time that I take is decreasing more and more and the ease that I have to memorize too, so soon, I estimate that I will get 10 pages a day and so i will finish in 2 months.
    Conclusions: In the beginning it is overwhelming and tiring, however get used to it. It’s worth it, normal memory is much better for words, there are pages where words enter my mind like magic, it even looks like photographic memory. When someone tells you that something is not necessary, that it is very difficult, etc. and you think you have the ability to do that, just ignore people :slight_smile:

This is great. I’m curious what book it is that you’re memorizing? Often what we choose to memorize can be as interesting as the methods by which we memorize them.

I would caution giving methods new names like the “John Place method” as they’ve often got much older and more common terminology. “John Place” boils down to rote memorization or recitation with repetition. This is something almost everyone could use and is often the least efficient especially for long term retention for large amounts of data. Ancient Greek/Roman authors would have classified this method as recitatio while they thought of memoria verborum and memoria res as more powerful.

From what I can see, it looks like you’ve layered on a bit of spaced repetition and the mnemonic major system (images for numbers) along with some association principles. I suspect that you could add in some additional linking/peg methods along with the method of loci for easier memorization and better long term lifetime retention.

Most of the value of mnemotechniques is in decreasing the amount of upfront work while simultaneously increasing the time of retention.

Read I'm memorizing a 1000-page book word for word and I'm making progress (Art of Memory Forum)
Some time ago I posted here on the forum a topic about memorizing a 988 page book word for word. I was not surprised when I received answers that it was unnecessary to do so and that understanding the idea was enough, however I was always a person who does exactly the opposite of what people say. I went ahead hahaha. The method: In order not to get lost, I create one image per page, associated with the page number and associate that image with the main topic and the subtopics. (There is usual...
Read Commonplace Books: Networked Knowledge and Combinatorial Creativity (Farnam Street)
Commonplace books are personal knowledge libraries; notebooks full of collected ideas and bits of wisdom all mixed up together. Here, we take a look at their history and benefits.
There is an old saying that the truest form of poverty is “when you have occasion for anything, you can’t use it...

Early compilations involved various combinations of four crucial operations: storing, sorting, selecting, and summarizing, which I think of as the four S’s of text management. We too store, sort, select, and summarize information, but now we rely not only on human memory, manuscript, and print, as in earlier centuries, but also on computer chips, search functions, data mining, and Wikipedia, along with other electronic techniques. 

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:38PM

“In his influential De Copia (1512),” writes Professor Richard Yeo, “Erasmus advised that an abundant stock of quotations and maxims from classical texts be entered under various loci (places) to assist free-flowing oratory.”
Arranged under ‘Heads’ and recorded as ‘common-places’ (loci communes), these commonplace books could be consulted for speeches and written compositions designed for various situations — in the law court, at ceremonial occasions, or in the dedication of a book to a patron. Typical headings included the classical topics of honour, virtue, beauty, friendship, and Christian ones such as God, Creation, faith, hope, or the names of the virtues and vices. 

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:51PM

Commonplace books, during the Renaissance, were used to enhance the memory. Yeo writes,
This reflected the ancient Greek and Roman heritage. In his Topica, Aristotle formulated a doctrine of ‘places’ (topoi or loci) that incorporated his ten categories. A link was soon drawn between this doctrine of ‘places’ (which were, for Aristotle, ‘seats of arguments’, not quotations from authors) and the art of memory. Cicero built on this in De Oratore, explaining that ‘it is chiefly order that gives distinctness to memory’; and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria became an influential formulation. This stress on order and sequence was the crux of what came to be known as ‘topical memory’, cultivated by mnemonic techniques (‘memoria technica’) involving the association of ideas with visual images. These ideas, forms of argument, or literary tropes were ‘placed’ in the memory, conceived in spatial terms as a building, a beehive, or a set of pigeon holes. This imagined space was then searched for the images and ideas it contained…. In the ancient world, the practical application of this art was training in oratory; yet Cicero stressed that the good orator needed knowledge, not just rhetorical skill, so that memory had to be trained to store and retrieve illustrations and arguments of various kinds. Although Erasmus distrusted the mnemonic arts, like all the leading Renaissance humanists, he advocated the keeping of commonplace books as an aid to memory. 

I particularly love the way this highlights the phrase “‘placed’ in the memory” because the idea of loci as a place has been around so long that we tacitly use it as a verb so naturally in conjunction with memory!

Note here how the author Richard Yeo manages not to use the phrase memory palace or method of loci.Was this on purpose?
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:56PM

While calling memory “the store-house of our ideas,” John Locke recognized its limitations.
On the one hand, it was an incredible source of knowledge.
On the other hand, it was weak and fragile. He knew that over time, memory faded and became harder to retrieve, which made it less valuable. 

As most humanists of the time may have had incredibly well-trained memories (particularly in comparison with the general loss of the art now), this is particularly interesting to me. Having had a great memory, the real value of these writings and materials is to help their memories dramatically outlive their own lifetimes. This is particularly useful as their systems of passing down ideas via memory was dramatically different than those of indigenous peoples who had a much more institutionalized version of memory methods and passing along their knowledge.

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:00PM

“Extraordinary Commonplaces,” Robert Darnton 

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:03PM

Neither ought anything to be collected whilst you are busied in reading; if by taking the pen in hand the thread of your reading be broken off, for that will make the reading both tedious and unpleasant. 

This is incredibly important for me, though in a more technology friendly age, I’ve got tools like for quickly highlighting and annotating pages and can then later collect them into my commonplace book as notes to work with and manage after-the-fact.

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:07PM

The aim of these books wasn’t regurgitation but rather combinatorial creativity. People were encouraged to improvise on themes and topics. Gathering raw material alone — in this case, information — is not enough. We must transform it into something new. It is in this light that Seneca advised copying the bee and Einstein advised combinatorial play. 

I was really hoping for so much more in this essay on the combinatorial creativity, espcially since the author threw the idea into the title. The real meat must be in the two linked articles about Seneca and Einstein.

There is a slight mention of combinatorics in the justaposition of pieces within one’s commonplace book, and a mention that these books may date back to the 12th century where they were probably more influenced by the combinatoric creativity of Raymond Lull. It’s still an open question for me just how far back the idea of commonplaces goes as well as how far back Lull’s combinatoric pieces go…

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:13PM

Read - Want to Read: Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age by Ann M. Blair (Yale University Press)
The flood of information brought to us by advancing technology is often accompanied by a distressing sense of “information overload,” yet this experience is not unique to modern times. In fact, says Ann M. Blair in this intriguing book, the invention of the printing press and the ensuing abundance of books provoked sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European scholars to register complaints very similar to our own. Blair examines methods of information management in ancient and medieval Europe as well as the Islamic world and China, then focuses particular attention on the organization, composition, and reception of Latin reference books in print in early modern Europe. She explores in detail the sophisticated and sometimes idiosyncratic techniques that scholars and readers developed in an era of new technology and exploding information.
Replied to a thread (Twitter)
Niklas Luhmann’s idea of Zettelkasten impinges on some of this, but for a deep dive on how indigenous cultures all over the world did this in a pre-industrial setting look at Dr. Lynne Kelly‘s work. Specifically: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and When knowledge was power (2012, Latrobe University, PhD thesis). She’s got a fantastic bibliography on her website as well.

Her TED talk shows quickly how she did something similar, but with birds and bird identification. Her work has examples of how many other cultures did this as well.

Read A garden with a water feature by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas (
People have written some interesting things following on from the pop-up IndieWebCamp that Chris Aldrich organised a couple of weeks ago. The Garden and the Stream set out to compare and contrast wikis and weblogs and how the two might be used. It was a terrific success, and I’m sorry I wasn’t a...

Nevertheless, the very fact that I am going through my notes reflects a new habit I am trying to build, of setting time aside every week, and sometimes more often, deliberately to tend the oldest notes I have and the notes I created or edited in the past week. Old notes take longer, because I have to check old links and decide what to do if they have rotted away. Those notes also need to be reshaped in line with zettelkasten principles. That means deciding on primary tags, considering internal links, splitting the atoms of long notes and so on. At times it frustrates me, but when it goes well I do see structure emerging and with it new thoughts and new directions to follow. 

This is reminiscent of the idea that indigenous peoples regularly met at annual feasts to not only celebrate, but to review over their memory palaces and perform their rituals as a means of reviewing and strengthening their memories and ideas.
Annotated on May 09, 2020 at 07:17AM