What is Mem X? How does it work? How do I use it?

One of the things that you need to understand is the idea that your brain is a network, not a hierarchy. Think about the way information is organized inside of your brain– it's all associated. You could say the word "high school" or "baby" and suddenly it would trigger whatever memories you have associated with those words. That is because of the fact that memory is contextual and that word cues up memories inside of your brain. 

The thing with most note-taking apps is that you have to put a lot of effort and time into making your notes easier to find and use in the future. Even if you're using something like a second brain methodology, you actually have to remember what folder to put things in. If you forget, then you can't find the thing that you're looking for. You also have to tag and link things properly. 

The Power of Mem X

What Mem X does is something really magical. It pretty much negates the need for tags and links together and it allows for spontaneous recall. Hence, even if you had not thought to use a note that you had, it will actually surface while you're working on something.

However, for Mem X to really work the way it's intended, you actually need an abundance of notes inside of Mem. You can start to see the power of Mem X if you have about 500 notes or so.

Similar Mems

The concept of "similar mems" will bring up a bunch of similar mems that you have inside of the database. One thing about Mem is that it works associatively and conceptually. Hence, in order for it to be useful, you need to capture a lot of notes in mem. The more that you actually have inside of Mem to work with, the more that one mem can associate with others. You need a critical mass of knowledge (an abundance of knowledge) to really see the power of this.  

Spontaneous Recall

Aside from similar Mems, what's even cooler is that any bi-directional link you included will generate related mems. So for example, I included a link somewhere in Mem for non-linear associative networks, and then 29 other links to non-linear associated networks or related mems to that one Mem showed up. 

You end up being able to see a lot of stuff that you might not have even thought to use. Hence, even if you don't tag something properly, you actually are able to have spontaneous recall and retrieval. You might just have ideas surface that you didn't think to use before.

What's happening is a spontaneous recall where even if you didn't necessarily tag a note or link it to a particular note, you're still able to see different notes.

The search function is actually cool because it brings up anything. For example, if I do a search for the keyword "transcript," a bunch of different results show up. Some are actual podcast transcripts, and some are mems where I mentioned the word "transcript." 

The first sort of result that comes up is anything that I tagged UC transcript which is the most important in the hierarchy of what I'm looking for. In this case, Mem basically says "Okay, soon you must be looking for transcripts to podcast episodes because that's the type of transcript that he puts in here most frequently." 

But there are other types of transcripts as well. It's bringing up everything that might be relevant even if it's not necessarily tagged with that keyword in particular.

Archipelago of Ideas

Let's go into one other example of how Mem X works. I'm going to go into a blog post that I started writing – about "How Network Thinking Will Change Knowledge Work." 

I started just compiling all the concepts based on some of the things that I learned from author Tiago Forte's Book, Building a Second Brain. I basically wanted to have what he calls an “archipelago of ideas.” 

So, I'm not starting from scratch. I had this idea yesterday thinking about "how will network thinking change knowledge work?." I also thought about how it'll make us less distracted because of the fact that knowledge inside of a network is much more powerful than knowledge inside of hierarchies or knowledge that lives in isolation. 

So I started just putting together a bunch of notes and a bunch of thoughts. I basically grabbed a couple of quotes from Stephanie Pope's article titled “Writing with Mem X.” 

But then, if you look at Mem X, you'll see how many similar mems show up just based on whatever is in this Mem. It gives me all these different potential other notes that I could use while writing this article.

Again, anything that I have tagged as a "blog post idea" shows up because the tags are related. You can also find that any Mem that is related to any bidirectional link shows up. For example, I probably mentioned the words "accumulate a critical mass of knowledge" in several hundred notes because it's really the foundation of starting to see the power of Mem.

When I was working with the client, one of the challenges that he was having was that he couldn't quite grasp why Mem was so powerful. What I realized was that he didn't have enough information inside of Mem to see how it all connect together.  

Again, for something like MemX to work the way, it's supposed to or if you want to be able to have the ability to connect ideas and make unexpected connections, you need other ideas to connect them to. The more that you have different ideas to connect them to,  the better it's going to work

Non-linear associative networks of knowledge

What I have, for example, are hundreds of different notes. So, you end up having what I call "non-linear associative networks of knowledge" that are similar to the non-linear associative networks inside of your brain. 

Mem X at a certain point basically starts to make your second brain function quite a lot like your first one– where random ideas just start to come up even if you don't tag them or use bi-directional links. That's just because of the fact that there are certain words in Mem that basically start to show you on the sidebar. They are all related content to whatever is in this map.

Example: A Blog Post

The other day after reading Stephanie's article, I just started writing a blog post and suddenly I started to see that I had all these other notes even though I hadn't thought to link them. I didn't realize back then that I could actually use them in the blog post that I was writing in the same way that I'm writing this blog. So I knew off the top of my head that I had a couple of different ideas here that I wanted to use.

Let's say, for example, I go into mems related to “critical mass of knowledge” and I can see some of it already inside Mem but some of it is not. 

  • For example, I just realized that there's a "knowledge generation cycle" which is another concept and I don't have that in the database. So what I can do is say "Oh okay cool, I think I'll probably want to use that since it's not here.”  
  • The other thing that happens is, if we go back to mems related to whatever bidirectional link I've added, you'll see that there are mems related to the “knowledge generation cycle” that end up showing. 

Think of it this way: Mem X is like a second brain but it has amnesia. Your job is to basically act as a surgeon whose job is to help Mem (your patient) restore its memory by adding more and more notes to it. It works very much like your actual brain. It starts to reveal ideas and connections that you wouldn't have thought to make necessarily. 

However, it all depends on the amount of information that you have inside of Mem. Otherwise, it doesn't work and so that's what really makes it powerful.