Energy of Cognitive Matter
Have you ever wondered what lies at the essence of the greatest ideas?
I’ve thought about this issue and came to the conclusion that the best ideas are separated from the simply good ones based on how much energy the ideas contain. An idea’s energy is an abstract concept directly proportional to the amount of work that was necessary to structure these ideas and is related to the amount of insight they bring to the reader. Whereas low energy ideas can be insightful, they are of low actual value because creating them is computationally easy. In contrast, high energy ideas are of corresponding high value because of the tremendous work it takes to bring them from an initial state of disordered eurekas into a highly coherent final structure.
We can develop a deeper understanding for the fundamental nature of ideas if we first get an intuition for the physical concept of energy.
In physics, potential energy is a construct for representing the total capacity for movement in an isolated system. While one cannot physically touch potential energy in the world, the concept is a useful one for bookkeeping how much movements a system has; necessary for keeping the mathematical structure of physics consistent. The complement of potential energy is kinetic energy, another abstract physical quantity, this time measuring the current amount of movement in a system. The sum of kinetic energy, the amount of current movement, and potential energy, the capacity for future movement, is total energy, which is a system dependent constant.
When an object has high kinetic energy, its position is in flux, thus making us less certain of where it will be positioned at any given time. This is another way of saying disorder. Things are a mess and we don’t know for certain where anything this. However, if our mom shouts at us for having too much disorder in our rooms, we just need to clean up. Wait, we don’t want to clean up because that needs…work.
The only way to reduce disorder is to create order and the only way to create order is to perform work. First to stop the objects from moving and then to organize them into some stable structure. If we perform work on our moving objects, we will reduce their kinetic energy. This gives us more certainty about the object’s position because with a lower speed the object can cover a smaller area in any amount of time.
Structure = Order
Movement = Disorder
As we have said before, doing work on an object imbues it with potential energy. That’s right. Anytime we create order we also create the potential for disorder. Think about anytime you freeze an ice cube; you create the potential for disordered flow of water if the ice cube is unfrozen.
Energy of Cognitive Matter
Just as we have spoken about energy in the context of physical matter, the concept is useful for thinking about cognitive matter too.
Ideas, or as I like to call them, cognitive matter, are the product of work, not in the physical world but in the intellectual world. Before their creation, elements of thought floated about randomly in an abstract ideaspace. To create a coherent (or not so) idea, the ideator must perform some work on these disorderly thought elements to form a coherent structure. In these terms, an idea is like a molecule of cognitive matter held together my intellectual potential energy that can be released if ingested by the reader properly. It is something that can provide the essential insight or inspiration to impel you to do work and create more structure in the physical or intellectual world.
Now, you must understand that ideas fall on a spectrum; those with more potential energy are naturally more valuable than those lacking potential energy. High energy ideas take extensive toil to develop and result from months, years, or even decades of highly focused thought on very complex issues.
The process of creating intellectual structures of great value is a highly nonlinear one. To understand why, let us consider the foil of nonlinear thought, linear thought which comes in the form of pure contemplative thinking. I blame myself for doing too much of this and overestimating the value of the ideas I produce (this essay is an example). Pure contemplative thinking as defined here maps some amount of initial insight into another unit of insight of a proportional magnitude. There is no computation or reflection; contemplation is a purely feedforward process going from input to output, from stimulus to resulting thought.
The limiting factor of pure contemplation is that it cannot address issues where the resolution to an issue is not immediately clear.Sometimes one must try an initial approach only to fail and then try something else and pure contemplation can’t address these situations. These issues call for multi stage computation, decision making, and general intellectual autonomy. These processes fall under the umbrella of nonlinear thought. Computational in nature, nonlinear thought iteratively works on an idea like an artist works on a painting. Adding, detracting, reshaping, discarding. The act is one of discovery and exploration paired with intense work. the ultimate result can be anything. In this light, the most valuable ideas stem from extensive nonlinear thought building upon domain specific expertise or experience. These ideas are high in potential energy because they are highly complex intellectual structures and required extensive work to create. They have high potential for impact.
With this insight, I urge you to nourish your mind by consuming ideas of high potential energy.
It is intellectually developmentally advantageous to invest significantly more of your time in high energy thought creation than you do towards armchair contemplation. Remember how hard you had to think in college, but remember how much you grew? That’s because in college the ideas you engaged with were really hard and took much cognitive computation/work to appreciate and internalize. Now, your mind may have converged to a lower energy level and therefore you are not operating at your intellectual capacity because that is computationally easier.
With this insight, I urge you to nourish your mind by consuming and creating ideas of high potential energy. Find your intellectual refuge in places where ideas stem from extensive computation and not just simple contemplation and your sharper future mind will thank me.