How to Build an Artificially Intelligent Second Brain

Srinivas Rao
9 min readMar 6, 2023

Are you looking for a way to become more productive and focus on what matters? Building an artificially intelligent second brain can help you do just that. It helps you maximize the value of the information you consume and put it to use.

But what exactly is an AI second brain, and how can you build one? I This post examines the concept of an artificially intelligent second brain, the advantages of building one, how to take notes for an AI second brain, and the necessary tools to create one.

The Current State of Knowledge Management

Photographer: Omar Al-Ghosson | Source: Unsplash

In an article titled The End of Organizing, Dan Shipper said

The problem is, we put things into notes because we don’t know what we’ll use them for. You write down a quote from a book because you could eventually use it in 1,000 different ways. You could use it to help you make a decision, or write an essay, or lift a friend’s spirit when they’re going through a tough time (and you might use it for all three). Same thing for writing down notes from a meeting, or thoughts about a new person you met.

This makes finding a single organizing system for your notes quite challenging. You’ll continually reorganize your system, or feel a pull to put a note in many different places, or tag it to make sure it pops up again in different contexts. This usually doesn’t work so well, and even when you do bump into an old note at the right time, you’re faced with another problem: Looking at old notes is a bit like looking at stale garbage.

Does this sound familiar? The main issues that reduce the productivity of modern knowledge workers and make our notes useless are due to how we organize and access the information we need.

Hierarchical Systems for Organizing Information Are Inefficient by Design

artificially intelligent second brain
Photographer: Iwona Castiello d’Antonio | Source: Unsplash

The design of most hierarchical systems for personal knowledge management makes it impossible to avoid context shifts, digital distractions, and The Toggling Tax.

  • When information is stored in web-based tools, you have to toggle between browser tabs.
  • Using multiple apps and tools forces you to context-shift between them.
  • Folders force you to drill down and require ongoing maintenance and organization
  • Organizing knowledge in hierarchies doesn’t scale well, making it harder to find what you need when you need it.

The opportunity cost of the time you spend managing the systems that manage your information is the time you could spend generating new knowledge in the form of content, products, and services.

By organizing knowledge in a network, you can build an artificially intelligent second brain that enables you to quickly gather, organize, and use information. This knowledge network allows you to easily find and use information, make connections between ideas, and generate new knowledge.

To build an artificially intelligent second brain, you need to capture only what resonates with you, become more discerning and efficient in your note-taking, organize your notes for action, make connections between ideas, incubate them over time, and leverage the power of content-aware AI.

Building An Artificially Intelligent Second Brain

artificially intelligent second brain
Photographer: Hal Gatewood | Source: Unsplash

If we think of the artificially intelligent second brain as a knowledge factory, your notes are the raw materials, you are the owner of the factory, and what you produce is the output. In her book, Thinking in Systems, Donella Meadows differentiates between flows and stocks. The number of notes you capture per day is the inflow rate and the output you produce is the outflow rate. Your knowledge assets are the stock, and your output is the flow.

Build Your Stock

artificially intelligent second brain
Photographer: Ant Rozetsky | Source: Unsplash

In an artificially intelligent second brain all your notes are nodes in a network , not notes in a Database. This means that every note is reusable, enabling you to turn elements of previous creations into new ones. This is invaluable for anyone who uses their notes to create content, and is why the personal network of knowledge is the new second brain. By increasing the number of nodes in the network with every note you capture, you increase both your stock and the power of your artificially intelligent second brain.

Three Stages of Knowledge Generation in the Artificially Intelligent Second Brain

First, you need to accumulate a critical mass of knowledge. This is when you start being able to make connections between your ideas. But it’s not just a critical mass of notes, it’s a critical mass of knowledge building blocks, which are discrete, based on your perspective, and stored outside your brain.

Second, you need to accumulate a sufficient mass of knowledge. When you reach this stage, you can start using your second brain to plan projects, retrieve knowledge with zero friction, and gather all resources for a project in one place before you start.

Third, you need to accumulate an abundance of knowledge. As your personal network of knowledge grows, it becomes much easier to separate work execution from workflow and your workflow evolves. Additionally, you’ll be able to turn elements of previous creations into new ones, make your notes easier to find and use in the future, and have spontaneous insight without immediate action.

The most challenging thing about this is not the accumulation of knowledge, but changing the way you think about using your notes to convert knowledge into action. Because most people have used linear organizational systems for non-linear processes, the idea that knowledge generation is circular in a network creates some cognitive dissonance.

Capturing and Distilling Notes for an Artificially Intelligent Second Brain

Photographer: Kelly Sikkema | Source: Unsplash

Building an AI second brain is not just a matter of capturing information because storing information doesn’t require cognitive effort and collecting quotes leads to useless notes. You have to make your notes easier to find and use in the future, and there are three ways to do this: Progressive summarization, taking smart notes, and standardizing the format of your notes.

Progressive Summarization

Progressive summarization helps you focus on the content and the presentation of your notes instead of spending too much time on labeling, tagging, linking, or other advanced features offered by many information management tools. It gives you a practical, easy thing to do that adds value even when you don’t have the energy for more challenging tasks. Most importantly, it keeps your attention on the substance of what you’re reading or learning, which is what matters in the long term. -Tiago Forte, Building a Second Brain

Progress summarization enables us to capture notes, identify the most important points, and identify the most important points within those points by distilling something to its essence. Distillation increases the value of your notes because it forces you to convert information into knowledge. For most people taking notes ends when they underline things and save them to a note-taking app. But when you’re building an artificially intelligent second brain, that’s where it begins.

Take Smart Notes

Smart notes increase the usability of your knowledge and make it easier to turn elements of previous creations into new ones. Rewriting something in your own words enhances understanding and helps you to find and use your notes quickly in the future. It also helps you to connect notes to create something new and to make your notes easier to find and use in the future.

Additionally, rewriting something in your own words helps you to conceptually identify categories or forms of writing, allowing you to search according to formal criteria as well as according to content. This means that you can use search in apps like Mem for more than just information retrieval — you can use it to navigate the material you have already stored in a way that leaves your brain open to various suggestive, creative possibilities.

Standardize the Format of Your Notes

Standardizing the format of your notes makes it much easier to combine them later. The most important thing is to give every note you capture a title. A good title is what enables you to embed links to other notes in sentences (as you’ll see in my screenshot of this paragraph).

Because the artificially intelligent second brain is self organizing, you don’t have to worry too much about tags. All you have to do is title your notes the way you’d title your thoughts.

Accelerating The Knowledge Generation Cycle Inside the Artificially Intelligent Second Brain

Photographer: Lysander Yuen | Source: Unsplash

Capturing notes without any content in them may seem like a useless activity. Yet, it’s an essential ingredient of an artificially intelligent second brain. Ideas rarely ever show up fully formed and often require a period of incubation before they become clear.

Bidirectional linking allows you to capture ideas as they occur and develop ideas when you’re ready — in other words, bidirectional links facilitate the incubation of ideas. Additionally, bidirectional links help you retrace the line of thought that sparked an idea.

Benefits of Organizing Knowledge in a Network

Photographer: DeepMind | Source: Unsplash

None of our thoughts or ideas exist in isolation in the brain because Your Brain is a Network Not Hierarchy. Every thought is associated with another, and the same is true for our notes in a network of knowledge.

Organizing knowledge in a network makes it infinitely scalable and increases production. It allows for non-linear associative networks of knowledge which can be spontaneously recalled and retrieved.

The network allows us to use our notes to generate new ideas, by linking them together and providing a platform for creativity and exploration. This means we can develop new projects, explore new ideas, and create new connections between previously unrelated concepts. As we explore and make connections, we’ll be able to Augment Our Knowledge and create something new.

Additionally, knowledge in a network is a renewable resource. Our old notes become valuable assets that enable us to Turn elements of previous creations into new ones. For example, I used the notes in my Personal Network of knowledge to generate a table of contents for my new book, and write this article, which is an excerpt from my book. But I could also use those notes again for a webinar, module for an online course more.

The Artificially Intelligent Second Brain Blends Content Aware AI with Generative AI

Photographer: DeepMind | Source: Unsplash

The personal network of knowledge blends content-aware AI with generative AI to create a self-organizing second brain that eliminates the need for manual organization. This is why the personal network of knowledge is the new second brain, providing unparalleled capabilities to quickly and easily create content, plan projects, and organize your knowledge in a way that helps you bring your ideas to life faster and easier than ever before.

As you add new notes, ideas, and knowledge building blocks, the AI second brain recognizes patterns in your knowledge and suggests related information. It can also help you generate new ideas by leveraging the connections between your notes, ideas and knowledge building blocks. Additionally, by making connections between your ideas, you can identify relationships and uncover ideas you may have missed.

Tools for Building an Artificially Intelligent Second Brain

My tool of choice for my artificially intelligent second brain is Mem. But there are others that could do the same. Other tools available for building an artificially intelligent second brain include Roam Research, Obsidian, and Notion. Personally, I think Mem is the easiest to both use and learn.

Conclusion

By utilizing the principles of smart note-taking and leveraging the power of content-aware AI, you can create a personal network of knowledge that will help you maximize your output, remember and take action on what you read, transform information into knowledge and wisdom, and translate ideas into output.

With an artificially intelligent second brain, you can quickly and easily create content, plan projects, and organize your knowledge in a way that helps you bring your ideas to life faster and easier than ever before.

Download a free Chapter of The Artifcially Intelligent Creative

This article is an excerpt from my new book. Download a free chapter of The Artificially Intelligent Creative: How Anyone Can Create Anything and learn how to build your own AI second brain today!

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Srinivas Rao

Candidate Conversations with Insanely Interesting People: Listen to the @Unmistakable Creative podcast in iTunes http://apple.co/1GfkvkP