Updates on 2022/11/12

Thinking in neighborhoods

As I've been using latent space navigation tools more in my own thinking work, one feeling I've noticed is that every idea no longer feels independent and singular, but instead feels like one of many (infinite?) possible variations from which I've simply plucked one version. If I look a bit closer to the left and right of any given idea, there are similar ideas from different perspectives and different ideas with shared perspectives, simply waiting to be made visible.

I call this thinking in neighborhoods -- where every thought exists within a neighborhood of other ideas tightly connected to each other, just out of sight.

For example, if I write down a sentence about generation ships traveling across the universe:

Generation ships are spacecraft where multiple generations of people live and die as they travel towards some destination, such as another star system. Because of the general difficulty of space travel and the speed limit of light, these voyages might take centuries to be completed.

Rather than thinking of that sentence as, well, just a sentence about some spaceships, I'm instead beginning to feel the "neighborhood" of ideas that lie next to it.

Some points in this idea neighborhood are just paraphrases, but others retell the story in different styles. Yet others change settings, wrap the idea in positive or negative light, or change the topic entirely, while keeping the tone and structure of the sentence. From the outputs of the model I used to study this idea, my favorite of the set compared the scale of interstellar travel to the vastness of the ocean, and another speculated that planets themselves may be considered a kind of generation ship.

As I've adjusted to this new feeling, a complementary sensation has drifted into the back of my mind: In a world where ideas exist in this infinitely densely packed fabric of variations, thinking individual strands of thoughts without visceral awareness of the rich variations in the idea of every thought seems like a loss, like trying to take in the the night sky with a telescope that only sees one star at a time. My hope is that with some combination of better tools and ways to represent/communicate ideas, we'll be able to open our minds up to the infinite variations present just besides every word and idea we perceive today.