According to Descartes I Am

I like self referential things. For instance, this morning I was thinking about thinking. I started out by describing how I think about something I want to write about. It turns out that writing about something is one of the best ways to think about it. It provides transparency. If you can get your thoughts on paper as you think them then you can review them after the fact. You can rearrange them so that they make more sense. You can catch errors and edit them out. And the best part is that you can do it without trying to keep everything in your head all at once.

But as I was thinking about these things it occurred to me to ask what the different types of thoughts are. That was a bigger question than I had anticipated. As I started making a catalog i discovered that there was a correspondence between items on my list and the senses. We use our senses to collect data about the world. We see, hear, touch, taste, and smell things and that is how we know what is going on around us.

My original thoughts were focused on language and writing. As I expanded my thinking to incorporate these other kinds of thoughts it became obvious that there was a lot of work to be done to make it as easy to manipulate thoughts about touch, taste, and smell as easily as we have made it to manipulate the written word and sound. Computers can be used to help provide that transparency but we will have to imagine how they can help and experiment with them to invent new tools.

It seems that we have used writing and drawing pictures to record our thoughts about most things for centuries. Only recently have we become able to record sound and play it back any time we want to hear it. Our ability to make video and film records of our world are also very recent. I suppose it might be argued that sculptors work in the realm of touch. But is that adequate to capture the range of ideas that can be expressed that way? How might we record smells and tastes?

There are many dimensions to these questions about thinking. Questions are the most important aspect of thinking. You have to ask lots of questions and keep asking until you stumble across the good ones. Don’t get sidetracked by trying to answer your questions too early. You might not get around to asking the really profound ones if you do.