Graph of Thought

chainA phrase that has been really bothering me since I was a teenager is “Chain of Thought” or “Train of Thought” – it even has its own wiki page! As I have recently realized that one use of blogs are meant to be a personal ranting space, so let me do that.

A chain is a lot like a vector, so when I hear the phrase “Chain of Thought”, I see a thinker/brain jumping from link to link, much like an iterator, and most of the links are identical. I don’t think like that, and I’m sure most people don’t either.

When I try to visualize thinking, the picture that comes to my mind is that of a set of stacks, with thoughts popping out of some and being pushed into others.

At other times, thoughts remind me of a tree, with the brain traversing it, sometimes depth first, and sometimes breadth first, but more often, thought looks to me like a graph, with the brain hopping from node to node however the hell it pleases.

A tree is a graph, and a vector is a tree, so why do we have to chain our thoughts by making them look like they follow a linear pattern? They are seldom that linear! Ok, a “Graph of Thought” sounds modern, but trees have been around for much longer than chains!

To me, analogies and models are dangerous oversimplifications. Whenever we use a model to represent something, the thing that is being represented loses a certain part of its being. By sticking to a chain model, we are simplifying our thought process, and perhaps, becoming just a little bit more stupid in the process. I say, let us kill the phrase “Chain of Thought” and climb one teeny weeny step higher on the ladder of evolution.

After this post, I will take the nested brackets that I love (and I do love them (honestly (yes, this is a forced example))) as deep as I want to, without bothering about grammar.

Grammar needs a redesign.

5 thoughts on “Graph of Thought”

  1. Well if you take “A train of thought” as a path in the graph of thought that you’ve just mentioned then it makes some sense. If you’re talking to someone about how you got to a conclusion on a topic you would probably get rid of irrelevant nodes and paths. Kind of makes this something like a shortest path. 🙂

  2. You have a point there, but we normally don’t follow the shortest paths when ‘traveling’ from one thought to another. Also, trains don’t make 180 degree turns without a change in speed, they travel on near-planes on predefined paths. Neurons may look like railway lines to some, but they are not, and thought don’t need shunting either.
    Some analogies, I understand, but I just can’t seem to LINK the concept of a chain/train with the concept of thought, and this bothered me a lot (until I put it out of my mind by writing about it here) 😀
    Thanks for visiting btw.

  3. Heres a strange thing:

    Seems here that the phrase “train of thought” was coined before people used the word “train” in the railway sense. So even though we think of “train of thought” as a railway train having something to do with thought it might actually have started off with a different meaning.

    PS: I like your blog for its originality. Its not often that you see a Pakistani blog with something other than “look what I found” posts.

  4. Yes, the train in the railway sense was adapted from a train of carriages, PULLED by horses. In this context too, though, we don’t pull a bunch of thoughts.
    I am beginning to see why telling Adam the names of things is an important incident in our religious books.

    Thanks again, I do keep a list of links that I find interesting, and dump the ones that are not covered by anyone after a few days, but regurgitating links makes no sense to me either, unless you add some more value to the original page/post/thought.

  5. I actually came across your blog trying to research the origin of the phrase “train of thought” for a Rhetoric paper that I’m working on. My goal is actually what you had mentioned — that the simplistic phrase “train of thought” conceals certain aspects of thought. I really enjoyed reading your blog, it was very insightful!

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