Episode 98 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with Alice Albrecht. Alice is the founder and CEO of re:collect, a software tool for thought that uses AI to help knowledge creators focus and connect. Alice’s background is in neuroscience and machine learning. Our conversation focused on how re:collect can help augment our thinking.

I asked Alice about how re:collect compares to read-it-later tools such as Instapaper and Pocket. She explained that rather than focus on saving articles for later, re:collect focuses on bringing granular — i.e., sentence-level — information to you when you need it. This can be stuff you’ve clipped (as in a read-it-later tool), but it can also come from your browsing history.

The system is designed “with the mind in mind.” As Alice explained,

what we’re doing at re:collect is we’re designing these machine learning models on the back end to connect all this information, but my goal is to connect it the way your mind would. We have this notion of something you’ve attended to; we have this notion of memory. And really, the core of it is: how would you remember something? How do you connect information when it comes in, and you put it in your own memory, in your mind?

But it’s not just about augmenting our memory. The tool will eventually also enable synthesis and creativity by bringing to you standout ideas you may have missed. Having the information come to you stands in contrast to our current patterns of use:

We’re trying as much as we can not to keep you in this loop of consumption. So, we could have gone a path where we really just gave great reading recommendations. Like, you know, if you’re on that flight or if you have this two-hour window where you really just want to be reading. So part of the sentence level is also, “can we get you the information you need without necessitating more consumption?” Like, if we’re pushing you towards this synthesis and creation point — which is really where we shine — you don’t need to read the whole article right now. You really just need this part.

This implies working toward a business model (re:collect is still in alpha) that respects your attention:

Eventually, this will be a paid product; otherwise, we will not exist. So we’ll have a subscription business model. Right now, we’re really B2C, so business-to-consumer model. Over time as in any company, those specifics of the business model may change. So I’m not promising that forever-ever. But in terms of advertising, we have no plans to mine the data, to throw advertisements into re:collect. It goes against this idea of helping you to focus and helping you to stay in that flow state. So, I really don’t see advertising as a viable business model for us.

I see re:collect as part of a wave of new tools for thought coming on the market. I asked Alice why she thought this might be happening now. She mentioned three factors:

  • Today, people have access to more information than ever before. Hence, the need for better tools to manage information.
  • Work is changing; thought and creativity is becoming more important.
  • The availability of powerful new machine learning technologies.

As someone who works with ideas and a creator, I’m intrigued by re:collect’s capabilities. This conversation serves as a good primer on the tool and, at a higher level, a discussion of the possibilities latent in the new wave of tools for thinking.

The Informed Life episode 98: Alice Albrecht on re:collect