TheBrain: A Review

We humans are the leaders in the animal kingdom for recording and sharing experience. With language and electronic media we can take advantage of the experience of others. Our memories may store a lifetime's worth.

To augment my own memory as I surf the net and edit my lecture notes, I make daily use of a program called TheBrain . A quite useful version is permanently free. (By the way, this is an unpaid, unsolicited testimonial. I never push products I don't personally use (and never take money to do so.)

The program is great — I've used it for fifteen years. In fact, it's so useful it gets its own dedicated monitor in my four monitor set-up.

Here are two examples of TheBrain in action. The first example is Jerry Michalski's.

Jerry was the editor of Esther Dyson's tech newsletter Release 1.0, as well as co-host of her past annual conferences. Jerry's Enumerated Wisdom alone makes his brain worth a visit.

Jerry has used TheBrain for well over a decade — his brain has hundreds of thousands of nodes. And here he is explaining how to use it .

The second example is my own. It's a collection of 10,000 annotated nodes and links to the literature of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, AI, and medicine. This collection is about one half of the computerized working memory I use in my research.

See Bob's WebBrain.

What you see in each case is an exported brain — a subset designed to be read online. My full version has over 20,000 annotated nodes — not just the 10,000+ you see online. The main info you don't see is all the private stuff attached to a node. (For example, I've had private chats with hundreds of scientists and physicians on campus. Only a fraction of this is publicly surfaced.) These public versions of TheBrain run on a server called WebBrain.

While it's convenient to store my favorite websites in TheBrain, that's just frosting on the cake. The quintessential rationale is learning from experience.

My personal brain has hundreds of recipes. Every time I learn some complex procedure into my brain it goes. That way (in theory) I only need to learn it once.

Here are some examples.

  • Computer Software
    • How to archive email (linked to Windows, Email, and Backup)
    • How to uninstall Norton (linked to Antivirus and Internet Security)
    • How to resize photos and do red-eye removal (basically, get IrfanView!
  • People
    • Facts about people I meet...  hundreds per year
      If I meet you, I may remember almost everything (creepy; but useful!)
  • Food, Vitamin Supplements
    • Most supplements are useless.
    • Record the ingredients and calories of everything you eat.
    • Studies on vitamins and supplements — demonstrating they're worthless
  • Finances
    • I used to be a day-trader; now I prefer to sleep — but I used to record —
    • notes on company's quarterly conference calls and earnings
    • calendars of economic reports
    • notes on all my financial software
    • some advice — better than investing, just cut your expenses!
  • Books, Lectures, Ideas
    • the strongest memory is not as reliable as the palest ink
    • having just read a book, record your memories, eg
    • anatomy and physiology of the hippocampus or of the inferotemporal cortex
    • do it while it's fresh — into TheBrain it goes.

More on why I like TheBrain — it's simple, cheap, and fast — high signal to noise ratio .

Want to see a good interface? Look at Google's — a cute picture, a blank search line, and lots of white space.

TheBrain makes a copy of itself as you work. It also takes only seconds to explicitly backup.

TheBrain has a large, devoted community of users.

The founder and CEO, Harlan Hugh, is still at the helm.

A quite useful version ofTheBrain is available for free!