Why, Where, and What I Write

I’m a cognitive scientist, entrepreneur, adjunct professor, and author. I focus on cognitive productivity with macOS (cf. books) and integrative design-oriented models of mind.

This page lists where I tend to write.

Books

I write books.. I’ve published two Cognitive Productivity books, and am working on Discontinuities: Love, Art, Mind.

I have not striven to be a best selling author. I publish stuff I think is genuinely original, potent, high caliber, helpful and … interesting to me! (Cf’ CUP’A criteria in my Cognitive Productivity books and on this website.)

I do however have a ‘best selling’ book concept which I will likely address. It’s on an important subject that has never adequately been treated, even though there have been countless attempts. It is written from an integrative design-oriented approach, but the book will be accessible to the intellectually inclined general reader, while also being of extreme relevance to specialists in the many fields it spans.

Blogging

I blog mostly on my own platforms.

Customer support for Hook productivity and mySleepButton

I discuss Hook-related issues on the Hook Productivity Forum. I also answer emails about Hook and mySleepButton via email. Those are two CogSci Apps inventions.

Academic publications

I also write papers, give presentations and present research posters in cognitive science. See my SFU page and research gate.

Most academics publish in quantity. I don’t play the academic “publication game”. I don’t strive to have a great publication record or immediate impact. As a theoretician, I focus on hard problems in cognitive science and AI, aligned with the A Manifesto for Integrative Design-oriented Cognitive Science and AI – CogZest. The net result, combined with designing applications of cognitive science (which are both based on cognitive science and contribute to cognitive science) in the forms of software, publications and training services, is fewer, but theoretically dense, publications.

There’s a couple of papers I have had on my plate for many years. If I had published them early, the theories would not have been as good. The theories are now ready (2019-11-21), but I’m quite short on time for writing papers.

Some of my models and sources of inspiration.

  • Newton sat on differential calculus for years. In the end, strange reasons led to him publishing it.
  • Darwin similarly sat on his theory for years. We all know why and with whom he published it.
  • Kant took 15 years to write his best work after he emerged from his Dogmatic Slumber.
  • Einstein mulled over his ideas for 7 years before they came together in 1905. (Admittedly, he was very young when he started.)
  • Winston Churchill published copiously. He inspired me take on multiple projects in parallel, which is contrary to common productivity wisdom. His work was recognized with a Nobel prize in literature.

Leibniz, who is not a positive model nor a positive source of inspiration never published his best work. His motives for delay, according to Bertrand Russell, were not good (See Russell’s History of Western Philosophy). Leibniz is a negative model (someone not to imitate.)

My hope is that when my major publications are done, they will have a high impact.

Internal technical documentation and the benefits of technical writing

I love technical writing. As a result, most of what I have written in my career is actually not public.

My first job was as lecturer and then ast professor of Military Psychology and Leadership. At age 27, I left that job to become an at-founding employee — technical writer— at Tundra Semiconductor. I didn’t take this job out of passion. While I love tech writing, semiconductors do not appeal to me. However, this job had major benefits. Tundra’s exist valuation was also over $1B. That has enabled me to work on cool projects for my entire career. Moreover, at Tundra I learned about ISO processes, and wrote their first technical writing ISO specs.

The Tundra job enabled me to become an expert in R&D processes. I love processes. (Productivity is based on processes.) I’ve basically been a founder all my professional life. I’ve used my process knowledge and dispositions in every project I have led.

I have written a huge number of functional specifications and other technical documents for companies and projects of which I have been a founding member:

  • As part of my Ph.D. thesis, I wrote reams of technical documentation. Compare my Ph.D. thesis: Goal Processing in Autonomous Agents.. For a 1994 thesis, it gets quite a few downloads still. It remains the most extensive, detailed (and I would say accurate) analysis of goals and goal processing in all of academia. Far beyond what you would read in “goal setting” and other motivation literature in psychology, and even AI. (I challenge AI researchers and psychologists to falsify my claim!)
  • Abatis Systems corp. I was the first employee there. I wrote the largest number of detailed functional specifications. I also setup the technical library there. Abatis was purchased for over $1.3B in what was the largest acquisition of a privately held Canadian corporation. We were purchased not for our sales (they didn’t exist) but our intellectual property.
  • gStudy, nStudy and Learning Kit project. I was a founder there too. I wrote a huge number of specs as the technical lead of those projects at Simon Fraser University. Phil Winne is the Principal Investigator of that project.
  • CogZest. A number of specs for intellectual property that was sold to CogSci Apps Corp. They led to mySleepButton and Hook. And there are as yet unpublished software based on that work.
  • CogSci Apps Corp. I’m a co-founder of this company. I’ve written reams of technical documentation.

At Abatis onwards, I was not merely writing about other people’s products. I have been writing about IT products I’ve been designing and creating.

Why I write

I write for many of the usual reasons, and some that are not so usual.

I love writing. It clarifies my thinking. It’s necessary for my projects. It makes the world a better place.

After my viva, Maggie Boden urged me to write up my thesis in a book for the public. She said “When I want to learn about something, I write a book about it”. The demands of my first marriage delayed my first book by over years. At the age of 40, I gave up joint custody, which has allowed me to focus on my work (almost to my heart’s content; but there are too few hours in the week.)

Technical writing of one’s own IT products, which is part of designing IT products, is very important for cognitive science and AI. To understand the human mind, you basically have to be an IT engineer, because the brain and mind are information technology. That’s why so much of psychology fails.

Moreover, most of the products I have been developing during my career are cognitive productivity. One of the fundamental reasons that theoretical AI is a cognitive science is that by implementing software models of mind we test those models, and we develop our thinking about the human mind. (See Maggy Boden’s numerous books about AI for elaborations on this point. She has written more about cognitive science and AI than any other scholar.) Similarly, developing cognitive productivity products and writing about them is an exercise in better understanding the human mind. When done from an integrative design-oriented perspective, it helps one to think deeply about the mind. It highlights knowledge gaps, and helps one to bridge them. (See Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective for an argument about the importance of identifying and bridging knowledge gaps for knowledge building.)

To understand why I wrote my first Cognitive Productivity book, read it. I will add however that the entire book also is a bit of humor. The book contains requirements and functional specifications for several cognitive productivity products that knowledge workers require. If you read that sentence carefully, you’ll see that I implied specifying in advance of publishing the software a new market worth billions of dollars. I was certain that I could get away with writing these books without fear that competitors would implement the products before I did. This is to refute the common view that you need to keep your great ideas secret. I was right. We at CogSci Apps got to Hook productivity first. The book also specifies other products. If you’re a prospective founder who wants to know more, get in touch if you would like me to consult with you on those other products (or just read the book).

My second Cognitive Productivity I wrote because I realized that to better convey practical knowledge, I should not just use text and images; I should use screencasts. It’s loaded with screencasts.