Progressive Summarization VI: Core Principles of Knowledge Capture

“Economic development is based not on the ability of a pocket of the economy to consume but on the ability of people to turn their dreams into reality” –Cesar Hidalgo, Why Information Grows

Interaction over consumption

The best way to do this is to maximize the time spent interacting directly with the content itself. This deep engagement helps us learn at the same time as we organize, forcing us to make snap decisions about what to keep and what to ignore. This mirrors how our biological brains work: we don’t “look up” our memories by name or folder or tag; we reach directly for the content itself.

Balance detail with discoverability

We should take every opportunity to shift our efforts from acquiring ever more detailed notes, to surfacing the keywords, key ideas, and other meta-data of the notes we already have. Progressive Summarization encourages us to shed details at every stage of compression, so the truly unique points can shine brighter.

Opportunistic compression

We need to add value to our notes every time we touch them, allowing these touches to accumulate over time into a highly compressed artifact that can be used in different contexts.

Intuition over analysis

Because knowledge capture takes place so early in the creative process, before you have any idea how the knowledge will be used, it must be low fidelity. You can’t afford the time and energy to minutely analyze and critique every idea that comes in the door."

Focus most of your attention on the most valuable information

The value of information is concentrated in very particular places

At a minimum, focusing your attention on the most interesting knowledge is more enjoyable. At best, it allows you to greatly increase the density of knowledge you can hold in your head, potentially allowing you to take on much bigger intellectual challenges.

Tacit knowledge over explicit knowledge

it will be tacit knowledge that has the most value. This includes personal insights, intuitions, and hunches. It is the knowledge of bodily experience, the “senses” that are impossible to describe, except through art and music. Tacit knowledge is not visible or easily transferrable, since it is rooted in an individual’s experiences and emotions."

Value questions over answers

In their view, the first group was trying to solve the problem that had been given to them: “How can I produce a good drawing?” The second group was trying to find a problem in the situation they were presented with: “What good drawing can I produce?” A panel of art experts reviewed the drawings and rated the latter group of “problem finders” works as much more creative than the “problem solvers.”

A “second brain” is not meant to be launched fully formed from day one. It is meant to be born as a child: endlessly curious, always asking “why?”, and never quite satisfied with the answers it’s given.

Working with others

By publishing our packets of knowledge in the form of products, we make them available for others to stand on, whether they are alive now, or 100 years from now.

Emergent self-organization

Notes seem to pop up at serendipitous times, to seek each other out across boundaries, to conspire together to push my thinking in certain directions. It’s almost like my second brain has its own beliefs, its own priorities, its own conclusions.