Note — Jul 25, 2021

Horsehistory Study and the Automated Discovery of New Areas of Thought

Quirky yet smartly intriguing might be the way to describe this post by Matt Webb. He goes from thinking about a variety of words that start with ‘horse’, to making one up, horsehistory, using it as a lens to study history, to wondering how that process could be replicated by AI.

Valuable for his example: the British Empire and the work the country has to do to deal with it’s history (so does Canada), but even more so for the way he makes us think about language, naming something, and how that can be used to gain a new perspective and line of thinking.

Empire is not, in the UK, ignored history. We all know it. But when you grow up with something from before you can speak, and leave it unanalysed, you accept facts that you would never accept as an adult. I imagine it’s a little like abuse: if you grow up in an abusive household, it takes work as an adult to realise: that wasn’t normal! That was not ok! […]

For horsehistory it meant that the word acted as an intuition pump (philosopher Daniel Dennett’s term): by examining what it could mean, it took me to a place where complex ideas were reached and could then be articulated more efficiently. […]

[T]he method I propose leads to a new discipline of centaur philosophers, thinkers who are able to systemically reveal new scaffoldings for thought, far beyond what would ordinarily be reached in a single human lifetime, to more rapidly develop and examine new ideas for the betterment of society at large.