Episode 93 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with Lorenzo Bernaschina. Lorenzo is the creator of Gems Notes, a note-taking tool that uses artificial intelligence to find relationships between ideas. Our conversation focused on smart note-taking and how technology might be used to extend rather than replace human intelligence — “using AI to actually extend and expand the human cognition and intelligence instead of trying to outperform or replace it,” as Lorenzo put it.
Lorenzo explained how Gems does this, beginning with a key differentiator vis-a-vis other next-generation note-taking apps. Rather than starting with text notes and providing visual graphs as an aside (e.g., as in Roam and Obsidian), Gems begins with the graph and builds from there. The system generates visual groupings between notes that might have some relation. The user can then adjust the groupings.
Graphs underlie many complex information systems, including the web itself. So, in a way, this isn’t new. As Lorenzo explained,
If you look at Google, or you look at Wikipedia, it’s actually that. You navigate into a graph, even if you don’t see it. The pages are connected and you are on a graph. What happened though, is that the personal level didn’t really happen. So, at the personal level, on a personal computer, or even in our shared folders and spaces where we work, we are still into that kind of early day structure of folders for some reason.
I think that ultimately, one of the thing these tools are trying to do is to make this transition. And make possible — even at the personal level - to take the advantages of network thinking, which is really much more powerful to think. And it’s really where computers are much better than the historical information structures we have.
In other words, perhaps it’s time to transcend the metaphors imposed by early computer user interfaces — files, directories and folders, desktops — in favor of experiences that more accurately reflect the underlying structure of the information in the system.
I expect you’ll appreciate this episode whether you’re into smart note-taking or information architecture. It was a privilege to host Lorenzo on the show; I hope you get as much value from our conversation as I did.
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