The broader point here is about taking emotion seriously. Historically, a lot of work on tools for thought has either ignored emotion, or treated it as no more than a secondary concern. Instead, that work has focused on new skills acquired, on what the user “learns”. They’ve been designing for Spock, when emotional connection is a high-order bit. Do users feel disinterested? Afraid? Hostile? Anxious? Or do they internalize a sense of excitement, of beauty, perhaps even an expansion in their own goals, an expansion of their self?

By contrast, media forms such as movies and music and (often) video games do take emotion seriously. The designers of such forms often have incredibly elaborate models of user’s emotional responses. These models range from detailed, second-by-second understanding, to deep thinking about a user’s overall emotional journey. We believe it’s possible and desirable to use such approaches in the development of tools for thought.

At the same time, a positive emotional experience alone is not enough. For tools for thought to attain enduring power, the user must experience a real growth in mastery, an expansion in their ability to act. And so we’d like to take both the emotional and intellectual experience of tools for thought seriously. Mnemonic video is a good venue for such exploration. To paraphrase Einstein, attaining a detailed understanding without forming an emotional connection is lame; while forming an emotional connection without detailed understanding has no enduring power.