On the train this morning I had with me my laptop, iPhone, Flip video camera and Zoom audio recorder. But my brain wanted pen and paper: why?
It wasn’t that I couldn’t use what I had, but that in order to get my thoughts out of my head relatively intact my brain needed another conduit.
The thing is, thoughts are for our heads. I suspect the tools we have for communicating them are never really adequate because they tend only to accommodate a particular way of communicating (writing or speaking, for example), rather than attempt to make sense of the incredibly complex set of electronic pulses that constitute our thoughts.
Therefore the tools also don’t take into account how those pulses are affected by environment, by the risk of other thoughts – however subconscious – being sparked and getting in the way, or by how the body feels comfortable transmitting specific thoughts at specific moments and in specific ways. Environment and physical state seem important for conceiving and communicating thoughts; what appear arbitrary and insignificant changes in them appear to have a profound effect on the cognitive process.
I was told once that the best way to remember a dream when you wake from it is not to move until you’ve consciously committed it to memory: when you move your head, everything vanishes. I have no scientific verification for this, but it works for me every time. The only problem is remembering not to move in the first place.
I want to be able to think physically – and publicly, if the mood takes me – without the constraint of tools. Sometimes I wish for an augmented reality that allows me to interact fully with my physical surroundings.
For example, the augmented bit would allow me to push aside the walls of my house to create a bigger space in which to draw massive diagrams on the floor, and then share the room with a friend so they can visit and see my diagram. The real-life bit would allow me to roll up the diagram, stick it in a tube and post it to my friend. Alternatively, I might write big scrawls in the air, then scrunch them up and throw them into the real, physical, wastepaper basket by the telly, at which point they would be deleted.
I expect some clever people are already working on something marvelous along these lines, but I’d probably still have to choose between the version that’s compatible with my friend’s house and the one that’s compatible with my wastepaper basket.
So, for now at least, I need to find a pen.