Textmind

Deus exomind

Textmind is my personal information management and productivity system. It's a daylog that feeds a GTD and Zettelkasten. In other words, it stores your knowledge and tracks your TODOs.

Two systems from the paper era are predecessors to Textmind: GTD and Zettelkasten.

"Getting Things Done" (GTD) by David Allen is a productivity system implemented in Emacs Org mode, which Textmind adopts with modifications. Zettelkasten is an hierarchy of atomic notes in filing cabinets, which is similar to how Textmind stores atomic headings in an infinitely-deep directory hierarchy.

GTD and Zettelkasten were designed for paper. Textmind is a digital native, and its workflow is impossible to replicate on paper. Because it was never limited by the obsolete constraints of paper, Textmind can achieve the goals of both systems simultaneously: adaptive execution and comprehensive knowledge management. The two goals are one: knowledge directs action; action tests knowledge.

The leap from paper to digital would seem to be an easy one, an upgrade that makes everything better. Experience teaches otherwise. The vastly increased intake capacity of digital overwhelms obsolete paper methods and inefficient software UIs. The result is laggy software, choked systems, and abandoned exominds.

The ergonomics of Emacs, the generic Man-Machine Interface for anything text, makes it physically possible to comprehensively manage all of one's important thoughts, and transform them into intelligent action. I wrote the Emacs package Treefactor to make this potential a reality.

This leaves the problem of how to abstractly organize the text so that it can continuously sync with a human mind. The key innovation here is the chronological log processing loop. It is part of a general cognitive algorithm that will persist across Intelligence Augmentation technologies, as humans meld with machine. (Just as aspects of Zettelkasten and GTD have persisted from paper to digital.)

Digital demands an info manager that won't choke on the volume. Textmind can sort as much info as one can read, without ever lagging. It is an exomind that lasts a lifetime.

Textmind realizes the dream of a true exomind, achieving sync latency low enough to extend proprioception into the machine, making one a cyborg, albeit one airgapped by keyboard and screen.

Hybrid vigor

Currently the best mind-machine interface is a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic keyboard and a large screen or two, connected to a modern desktop computer with a Nix-like OS and a fast Internet connection, running Emacs. That combination may sound surprising, but nothing else offers comparable bidirectional bandwidth and latency between brain and bits.

This sync speed has a remarkable result. Mammalian brains are plastic. Proprioception is a matter of latency and feedback. Add a limb in a mirror, and the mind will begin to accept it as part of the body. Likewise, Textmind can extend cognitive proprioception into the machine, by syncing with the brain. It is thus the first intelligence-augmenting cybernetic system.

There are profound benefits to having a mind that is part machine. The strengths and weaknesses of the brain and the computer are complementary. Textmind combines the two into a mind that has the strengths of both and the vulnerabilities of neither.

Binary rebirth

A Chinese proverb states, "the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory." A programmer's version-controlled text editor is more powerful than the strongest ink. Life after Cyborganization is like life after exiting childhood - one leaves behind childish things.

In fact, one of the most painful aspects of Textmind adoption is that one sees oneself in the perfect clarity of the digital mirror for the first time. The comforting incandescent glow of fuzzy biological memory snaps to the harsh glare of fluorescent light. There is a benefit, however: The newfound self-awareness of the adolescent is what causes him to leave childhood. Fortunately, unlike adolescent hormones, the machine does not exaggerate. In times one grows inured to exact self-knowledge.

A journey of years

Textmind uses Spacemacs, Org mode, Magit, Dired and Treefactor to organize text. Emacs is an advanced text editor designed by hackers for hackers. If you're new to Emacs, it may take you years to become proficient. Until you're proficient, don't rely on Textmind for production.

Paper inherently limits info volume. This helps beginners. Start with a paper GTD system. Rely on it, while using digital tools to supplement. Evernote isn't bad for transitioning from paper to digital.

When your digital skills are more reliable than paper, rely on Textmind, with paper supplemental.

Work in progress

This documentation isn't complete. That said, it's hard for me to tell what's missing, since I already know it.

Moreover, a significant part of Textmind's ergonomic configuration code is currently in my personal Spacemacs layer, which isn't a good medium to encourage adoption. [2020-01-27 Mon 11:59]

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