Today is March 12, 2023 and it’s a magical evening.
I’m using my bluetooth headphones to record this text as a voice memo while I’m sorting my laundry.
There are two fundamental things I’d like to remind myself of:
That means: as we’re getting older, as we’re changing our environments to be more comfortable, I want be careful. Especially,
Movement is a topic of its own. But why care about speaking?
I believe that speaking is healthy. Verbalizing, articulating, expressing, all help us reflect. Haven’t we all said something like: „now that I’m talking about it, I just realized that …“. Some thoughts only seem to form when we start speaking. Heinrich von Kleist talks about a similar phenomenon in his piece on „the gradual completion of thoughts during speech„.
Of course silent reflection is possible as well. You can just take a quiet walk and think through something. But in a world with heaps of hyper-engaging video content, distractions are everywhere. It’s getting harder to focus thoughts on a single topic for a longer time. Writing is another possibility to think through something, but that requires a deliberate effort to sit down, use a keyboard or pen & paper and actually write. So I believe that speaking is a great way to help ourselves find our way back to focus. But with opportunities to work from home, it has become easier to slide into speaking less with likeminded people; easier to isolate ourselves comfortably, than ever before. So if we’re too easily distracted to think, and too lazy to write, then making speaking a habit can work.
It’s easy to just speak when there’s someone who wants to listen. But even if we’re in good company, there are topics even our significant other won’t be interested in hearing about (all the time).
Also, if I remember correctly, part of Noam Chomsky’s linguistic theory was that – counter-intuitively – language didn’t evolve as a means of communicating something to someone else, but primarily to serve as a tool for thought. I haven’t checked supporting evidence in evolutionary biology, but the idea resonated with me.
So two years ago during covid, I had a phase when I’d record short voice memos to help me practice clarifying my thoughts by speaking. I’d slowly speak out loud what would come to mind, reflecting on the day or on some recent event, and I’d take care to speak in full sentences, without sounds of hesitation and without repetitions (but it got challenging very quickly and I stopped the habit).
What I was missing back then was an easy way
Overall, I was missing a sort of audio journaling app. Or call it thought structuring toolkit. Or even speaking therapy to tackle the clouded mind. Something like this:
Well, welcome to 2023. Welcome to the era of speech to text, welcome to large language models (LLMs). The app Mac Whisper uses OpenAI’s whisper models to transcribe audio files into text. It works fully locally, data doesn’t leave your device. The small (500 MB) version was already sufficient for me to transcribe my (German) voice memos to text in close to perfect quality. In addition to that, we have LLMs coming up that may be run on our local devices as well – check dalai llama. Using these tools locally enables data privacy.
Imagine the following workflow
Say you’ve got the transcript of an audio recording, you could easily ask an LLM:
Then you could visualize the results in an app, make the transcripts easily searchable and shareable, show trends over time, and so much more.
At the moment of writing, I’m thinking whether I should start building this app. But in any case, all those tools are available. They’re going to become so powerful, that I can already see a new generation of speaking tools coming up that will help us reflect, learn, and maybe even stay sane and healthy.
I’m clearly on the – it’s going to be a great time to be alive – side of things.
Note: The raw form of this blog post was already recorded, transcribed and corrected with the help of language models. Without the help, I would have had a hard time sitting down and writing everything from scratch. ✌️
Title Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash