Manifesto

Nicholas Chen friday, april 24, 2020
exegesisReflections on exegesisessay
It is current year. Armed with fleets of server racks and neural nets trained upon eons of GPU compute time, social media conglomerates have razed and pillaged your attention span with a steady drip feed of content algorithmically optimized to deliver maximal doses of dopamine. Half the time you open your phone, you forget what you opened it for in the first place (checking the weather? for an important email?) and somehow end up on one of the many like farms installed on your phone, your thumbs scrolling like runners on a treadmill.
In a tantalizingly dialectical fashion, this phenomenon contains its own contradiction - on the very apps that have engineered the collapse of your attention span, you scroll past countless posts on social media addiction, hacks to improve your attention span, dopamine fasts, meditation routines, and even posts urging you to delete the apps on which they are hosted. But these hacks are nothing more than empty promises. The truth is that the world has changed, and you with it. There is no going back to the world where information was scarcer than attention.
The old maxim that "information is power" no longer holds. Exabytes of information are generated each day, most of it completely worthless; by the simple dictates of supply and demand it cannot be true that information is intrinsically valuable. In a time when information was trapped within the leather bindings of encyclopedia volumes or the manilla enclosures of government files, its scarcity commanded power and gave it value. But information, liberated from its paper prison, now runs free and abundant everywhere.
Our minds were not built to handle such vast volumes of information. Faced with these unnatural circumstances, we turn towards external methods of storing and processing information colloquially referred to as "notetaking," but existing notetaking methods, trapped in outdated dogma, can offer us little help. In most notetaking apps some abstraction of a "notebook" remains, a skeuomorphic ghost from our information-scarce past. Put your math thoughts in your math notebook. Put your science notes in your science notebook. Don't think thoughts out of order, or you'll have to switch notebooks to write them down. This notetaking paradigm comes from an age when the primary medium of information was a book, a single, continuous stream of information about a single topic.
But the feed has replaced the book as society's primary medium of information. Content flows in a stream, in no particular order, organized according to no specific topic - scrolling down some app, one may be confronted with content regarding math, science, politics, humor, or entertainment in any order. With or without our consent, our minds have been soldered to the system, programmed by all-powerful recommendation algorithms to swallow ever-increasing quantities of information.
We shape technology, but technology shapes us as well. Our thought processes have come to resemble the disorganized, amorphous, nonlinear streams that we consume information with. When was the last time you really felt focused? exegesis is a tool designed for the brave new world we find ourselves living in. Instead of resisting the increasingly disorganized information ecosystem of the modern world, it embraces it. It is designed to help you make sense of chaos.
The world cannot be distilled into neat, concrete categories. Neither can your thoughts. Isn't it time your notes got a little messier?
show:
edited 9 months ago
Here's a radical statement: All applications should be tools for thought. Facebook should be a tool for keeping up with friends, Instagram should be a tool for browsing and sharing photographs. tools for thought Manifesto
edited 1 year ago

Manifesto