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Why note-taking apps don’t make us smarter

Screenshots of the note-taking app Obsidian. | Image: Obsidian

This is Platformer, a newsletter on the intersection of Silicon Valley and democracy from Casey Newton and Zoë Schiffer. Sign up here.


Today let’s step outside the news cycle and turn our attention toward a topic I’m deeply invested in but only rarely write about: productivity platforms. For decades now, software tools have promised to make working life easier. But on one critical dimension — their ability to improve our thinking — they don’t seem to be making much progress at all.

Meanwhile, the arrival of generative artificial intelligence could make the tools we use more powerful than ever — or they could turn out to be just another mirage.

To understand where things went wrong, I want to focus on the humble note-taking app: the…

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