Crusoe is the difference between looking things up on Wikipedia vs. Knowing what you know

Do you really need an application that saves how you think?  Why not just look everything up on Wikipedia?

Writing in The New Criterion, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger talked about the problem of looking things up on theWikipedia vs. Knowing Internet:

The generations brought up on books were obliged to internalize concepts and think through complex ideas transmitted across time. When information is acquired by being “looked up” on the Internet, a surfeit of information may inhibit the acquisition of knowledge, and respect for it. When facts are disaggregated from their context and called up only when needed, they risk losing the coherence of historical perspective. As Burke wrote, “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.”

Put another way, it would be easy to tell the difference between someone who grew up in a town versus the person who looked it up on Wikipedia.  That’s because there’s a great chasm that separates knowing something from just looking things up.

The difference between raw information and information we know is that knowing involves connecting the dots from one piece of information to the next.  That’s how we solve problems.  That’s how we come up with new ideas.  That is how we remember things. We connect it to how we live, and the work we have done.  Those connections supply the context that makes this information matter to us.  Our ability to recall information relies entirely upon these connections.  Without them, we couldn’t remember anything.  And that’s why saving connections is a big, big deal (and that’s why we built Crusoe!).

Connections show you what you think matters (even if you forget).

Take for example the Kissinger quote above.  I saved this quote because Kissinger captured a key point about why we built Crusoe. It’s also very similar to something Socrates said about writing (he was against teaching students to write because he worried they would be less inclined to internalize what they are learning, and would instead just write things down to look up later), which is why I linked the Kissinger quote to the Socrates quote.

I didn’t completely understand the Socrates quote until I read the Kissinger quote.  That’s the context in which I came to understand what Socrates was talking about. Not only that, but I had forgotten about the Socrates quote, and the link presented it back to me at the perfect time without even having to search for it (because it’s tough to look for notes you don’t even know exist).

(I’ll get to that Plato quote in a future posting.)