Tools for the Bi-cameral Mind

    Status: early early draft, synthesizing some theories and how they relate to self and tools

    Human tools have co-evolved with our species for, possibly, hundreds of thousands of years.

    As we expand into the age of knowledge work, there are tools that compile our tools, tools that host our tools, and tools that deliver those tools to our mobile devices.

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur Clarke

    Perhaps our ancestors have a relationship to ours like they did with yarrow stalks and animal bones.

    Magical technologies that can help us predict the future or scry into our plight.

    Technologies are expressed as tools to instrumental ends, but in doing so, play a social purpose as well.

    Technology is used to build tools. Whether they are magical technologies, social technologies.

    Tools (and technology) are an extension of our identity. For tools embed assumptions of human sociality. Perhaps the ultimate tool/technology is language.

    Tools express different types of sociality and theory of mind. Venkatesh in his new book he's writing is exploring an "ontology" of time. Time itself is a technology. We've embedded these technologies into our tools. Synchronicity, asynchronicity, event-driven, binary-driven.

    Brandon Hudgeons once expressed to me his disliek for a certai nrequirements tool. It's all expressed in the aPI - how they think (and thus want us to think).

    There's a theory of knowledge embedded into our tools. Sapir-whorf for languages. Tools are no different. Language is a technology of which tools are composed and built.

    If we take sapir-whorf to be true (and I'm no linguist or scholar), if language can facilitate these expressions of thought and emotion that we introspect, when the rest of our tools can not express them appropriately, we become frustrated!

    Our tools are highly personal. Tools afford us the ability to express a representation of our selves and thurs are an extension of our are literally a representation of ourselves.

    Writing is that way. Many people write for themselves. But what might this mean is that theri writing is a representation of their identity, an extension of it. It is a way to transmute their minds into ink and paper. Or now bits.

    It is a way for us to create meaning by building something that's greater than ourselves. Or perhaps, allowing us to transcend ourselves.

    When we feel misunderstood, this kind of dissonant is frustrating. Writer's block is the ultimate dissolving of self.

    We want our tools to work for us. Not work for our tools.

    This is another form of wanting to not be a cog in a machine. We are special snowflakes. Or at least a snowflake in a special machine.

    Implicitly we all want to believe some form of the "great man theory". Certainly, this essay is no different.

    When we want tools to be flexible, what we are intuiting is that we want tools to be able to express different aspects of our self.

    A convivial tool allows for multi-faceted expression.

    "The pen is mightier in the sword."" A sword is an inflexible tool to wield, built on fastidious technologies. For most, a sword can only be one part of our identity.

    Tools allow us to embody our self in ways and reflect it back to us. Tools afford crafting of artifacts that facilitate sociality in a number of contexts. A true convivial tool will be multiplicative.

    A second brain amasses ideas and thoughts into a network.

    A convivial brain will shape the knowledge that we've aggregated and help us transmute into multiple forms. Forms might include expressions for different sociality context — work, play, twitter, family, academia.

    Convivial tools help us store and transform knowledge of the bi-cameral mind for the many contexts we inhabit, conscious and subconscious.

    Convivial tools acknowledge information in its many phases. For they acknowledge, humans and their many selves.


    • Venkatesh Rao (assorted work)
    • Ivan Illich - Tools for Conviviality
    • Sarah Perry (assorted work)
    • Brandon Hudgeons (conversation)