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Mem, The All-Your-Memories, Super Note-Taking App
How can you possibly bring together all of your notes, your writing, your meetings and their notes, your calendar, your posts on media - all of it - and then find anything? That's what apps like Mem are aiming for.
So far, Mem is… mostly a note-taking app. It’s blisteringly fast and deliberately sparse — mostly just a timeline of every mem (the company’s parlance for an individual note) you’ve ever created or viewed, with a few simple ways to categorize and organize them. It does tasks and tags, but a full-featured project manager or Second Brain system this is not.
But if you look carefully, the app already contains a few signs of where Mem is headed: a tool called Writer that can actually generate information for you, based on both its knowledge of the public internet and your personal information; AI features that summarize tweet threads for you; a sidebar that automatically displays mems related to what you’re working on...
The dream is for all your info and everything about you to just appear in Mem, where it can be sorted and searched and made useful on your behalf. If a tool could access your Netflix history and your Spotify playlists, just to name one example, it could learn a lot about your taste. So the team began early on to search for even bigger sources of personal information, ones that don’t require users to take their own notes...
If the computer can deeply understand and organize your stuff, it means you don’t have to. For as long as digital note-taking and information storage tools have existed, they’ve required users to carefully tend to them...
...Mem becomes a “self-organizing workspace...
Science fiction readers find these ideas here and there, like in the Personal Interest Profile from The Fountains of Paradise (1978) by Arthur C. Clarke and the interests profile from The Age of The Pussyfoot (1966) by Frederik Pohl.
But I think that the founders of Mem should be considering these words from Robert Heinlein's Methuselah's Children, a 1941 classic. In the story, the Howard Families produce individuals that live longer and longer; how can people live for 200 years and keep their memories organized?
[Lazarus] "...I knew your maternal grandfather, too. Stiffnecked old coot."
[Libby] "I suppose he was."
"He was, all right. I had quite a set-to with him at the Meeting in 2012. He had a powerful vocabulary." Lazarus frowned slightly. "Funny thing, Andy... I recall that vividly, I've always had a good memory-yet it seems to be getting harder for me to keep things straight. Especially this last century."
"Inescapable mathematical necessity," said Libby.
"Life experience is linearly additive, but the correlation of memory impressions is an unlimited expansion. If mankind lived as long as a thousand years, it would be necessary to invent some totally different method of memory association in order to be eclectively time-binding. A man would otherwise flounder helplessly in the wealth of his own knowledge, unable to evaluate. Insanity, or feeble-mindedness."
"That so?" Lazarus suddenly looked worried. "Then we'd better get busy on it."
"Oh, it's quite possible of solution."
"Let's work on it. Let's not get caught short."
Update 25-Nov-2022: Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets adds this quote, also from a work by Heinlein:
I’ve used Andy Libby’s hypno-encyclopedic techniques—and they’re good—and also learned tier storage for memory I didn’t need every day, with keying words to let a tier cascade when I did need it, like a computer, and I have had my brain washed of useless memories several times in order to clear those file drawers for new data.
(From Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein)
The creators of Mem might also want to look into this device, from The Lost Language, a 1934 short story by David H. Heller, so they don’t miss the entire world of speech, ideas exchanged verbally with friends in person:
There was a man there, Henry Jordan, who had gained international renown by his work with vibrations. He was the inventor of the vibrowriter, the new typewriter that could be talked to, and which transposed the spoken sound into typed words, a contrivance which made perfect spelling possible, provided the words were perfectly pronounced.
(Read more Keller's vibrowriter)
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