The Evolution of Deep Thought

People driven by curiosity and courage have always strived to see deeper connections, find new perspectives on their lives and become both wiser and more effective in what they do.

And they always dreamed of a world that makes that easier. Looking at the big leaps of deep thought allows us to take a good guess about the next step — and move towards it.

First, We Made Thought Travel Time

We spent most of our history in small tribes. We could observe our immediate surroundings, try to make sense of our world and talk to people in our tribe. But there was always that distant ancestor, that mother of your tribe whose wisdom was still marvelled about. Her stories were passed down generations, however your ancestors could only pass on what they understood themselves. That leaves gaps in the stories and warps them every time they’re retold. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to get the original thoughts right from the source? We had to find some way to allow thoughts to time-travel. Fast forward in human history, of course we found a way. Scripture and books made that dream come true, at least we could listen to our wise ancestors and absorb their insights.

Of course, books are not quite a conversation, they’re more of a linear monologue. Nevertheless, books allow thoughts to time-travel downstream in human history.

Second, We Made Thoughts Travel Space

Books can even travel space, but only slowly and always constrained by their material existence. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if thoughts could travel space instantaneously and transform from a linear monologue to a conversation that allows to ask questions and go deeper? Another fast-forward, of course the internet is the most powerful realization of that dream. Not only can information circle the world in realtime, conversations with the most intelligent people are possible anytime, anywhere. A small restriction persists in everyone’s time to talk to each other but the internet definitely allows thoughts to travel space.

Third, We Trapped Thoughts in Filter Bubbles

An inherent characteristic of the internet’s architecture is the possibility to separate information, isolate it from context and group it in ways that can confirm any opinion. Social networks created the infrastructure for echo chambers of self-affirmation, environments to lull even curious minds in the comfort of their filter bubble.

On top, the overabundance of information leads to information anxiety that doesn’t end in knowledge but in paralysis. It’s one of the oddities of our times that more information doesn’t lead to more orientation. Time to allow the evolution of deep thought to fix that.

Let’s Make Thoughts Travel Brains

The next big leap in deep thought has to build on the great achievements of scripture and the internet, fix their challenges and offer some magic on top.

Single thoughts in the sense of self-contained insights or remarkable quotes are good building blocks to start. More important than the blocks are their connections. Connections can happen around topics or around people. Thoughts and connections combined build a network of knowledge, a highly interlaced structure that resembles and effectively augments the human brain.

Used individually, they allow us to ponder our most valued concepts, connect them and gain clarity and inspiration. Shared, the networks of thoughts allow us to approach contrasting opinions, move along the connections and gain insights. Their interface has to be easy to use and allow for serendipity and flow.

That’s where the magic comes in: a healthy dose of algorithms for natural language processing can suggest connected or opposing thoughts that we wouldn’t find ourselves. Connected the right way, a meta-network of thought can emerge that’s tuned for inspiration and insight.

The next big leap in deep thought is imminent. It’s time to break free of filter bubbles and move from the overabundance of information to the clarity of deep thought.

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