Voltaire and the Importance of Concepts and Symbolisms to Understand the Human Mind

In 1734, Voltaire wrote

Qu’il y a des carrés d’infini, des cubes d’infini, et des infinis d’infinis, dont le pénultième n’est rien par rapport au dernier? Tout cela, qui paraît d’abord l’excès de la déraison, est en effet, l’effort de la finesse et de l’étendue de l’esprit humain, et la méthode de trouver des vérités qui étaient jusqu’alors inconnues.

What a beautiful thought expressed by a mind in reverence of Newton and his invention of differential calculus!

To translate:

That there should be squares of infinity, cubes of infinity, and infinities of infinities, of which the penultimate is nothing in relation to the last? All of that, which at first seems like an excess of  reason gone mad, is in fact, the effort of the perspicuity and extent of the human mind, and the method of finding truths that were until then unknown.

What is equally stunning is just how many forms of representations humanity has invented.
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Jacques Brel Wrote as He Lived

In a television program recorded in the 1960’s, Jacques Brel, describing himself as an ordinary guy, spoke about his method for hatching songs. He revealed that he worked as we know he lived, standing up!* Le Grand Jacques even showed us the desk at which he wrote his songs—giving us a glimpse of his small apartment.

Actually, Brel said most of the work for his songs happens away from his desk. The idea of a song “walks around in one’s head for 4, 5 or 6 months”. That’s “incubation” in cognitive psychology lingo. “When, one day, it is very ripe, like a fruit one picks it. And then one writes it.” All very matter of fact.
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Ten Tips for “Getting Things Learned” with Anki, Skim and Cognitive Productivity

David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done (GTD®), provides many useful productivity tips. I use several of them myself. However, it’s not specifically tailored for cognitive productivity.

The last principle of Steven R. Covey’s excellent book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is to “Sharpen the Saw®”. This is a matter of preserving and improving ourselves, including the mental dimension through reading great literature. Covey’s book doesn’t delve very deeply into learning, however. It was written before the web, when cognitive science was much younger.
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Opening Quotations: Hermann Hesse Displaces Rudyard Kipling and M. C. Esher

Most sections of Cognitive Productivity have an opening quotation. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed choosing them. I’ve also appreciated the positive feedback I’ve received from readers about them.

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Broad Cognitive Science Deals with Emotion, Motivation and Moods

English has the largest lexicon of all languages. It is loaded with terms about affect (emotion, moods, motivation). Western culture has produced a panoply of emotion-conveying art that displays the tremendous power of “folk psychology”. Still, it does not equip us to understand and handle emotion as well as we could and perhaps should.

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AI, Cognitive Science and Understanding: Comments on RS-95 (Gerard O’Brien and The Computational Theory of Mind)

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the latest episode of Rationally Speaking Podcast. This one was On the Computational Theory of Mind, with guest Gerard O’Brien, philosopher of mind from the University of Adelaide. (Hosts: Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef.) Here are a few comments about this episode.
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What’s Wrong with the Kindle App: A Knowledge Delver’s Perspective

The Kindle® app is fine for superficial reading. And Amazon® has gradually been improving it… But when you want to delve into a book to solve problems, build knowledge or develop yourself, the Kindle app is very disappointing.

The following critique of the Kindle ebook App (on iOS® and Mac®) indicates how an ebook reader app could help us delve knowledge. Understanding this can help you overcome Kindle’s limitations. It can help you build your reading skills—even if you are already an “expert”. Many of my proposals are derived from cognitive science.

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Cognitive Productivity Book: Update to Deliberate Practice Chapter

The bulk of Cognitive Productivity is now available for sale on the Leanpub website. I.e., chapters 1 to 14 (345 pages plus references).

I will add a conclusion (Chapter 15), do some more copy editing and other minor planned revisions. I will also continue to update the book based on reader feedback including peer review. (It is a Leanpub book, after all.)

You can think of the Cognitive Productivity book as three books in one: Part I. Problem and opportunities. Part II. The cognitive science of the matter. Part III. Applications.

The conclusion will, amongst other things, point to some unsolved problems, such as:

  • Time tracking
  • Time analysis
  • Managing distracting “motivators”.

None of the published software, science or techniques regarding these problems, to my knowledge, is satisfactory. As it happens, I have been working hard on these problems. I’m eager to publish my new discoveries and solutions—next year. As usual, they involve new cognitive science and new technology. 2014 will be a big year at CogZest…

From Reading to Changing How We Perceive, Think, Feel and Act

One of the biggest challenges we face in learning from text is that we process it in a dry, cognitive way. In other words, information processing (from knowledge resources) is highly cerebral. It involves language, reasoning, and relatively simple perception. Yet somehow we need to “compile” such very abstract information into low-level perception and motivation, so that we can use it to act. More generally, we need to program and connect very disparate areas of our mind.
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