Intro - Dylan Steck, founder of Cortex

Hi all,
My name is Dylan and I’m an interface designer and developer from New York City. I’m the founder of Stecknologies and I’ve been building a “tool for action” for the past 2.5 years in pre-alpha(launching private beta in the next 3-6 months).

I’m 18 and started coding when I was 10, but didn’t get serious about theory, design, and other aspects that influence software until about 2.5 years ago, when I began working on this project(Cortex by Stecknologies). My main focus as an interface designer/developer is creating humane technology. I was heavily influenced by The Humane Interface by Jef Raskin and I try and focus on creating experiences that use cognitive science and psychology to help users better engage with what they’re doing, understand the content they’re viewing, and return to the natural world around them. I also want to solve many of the pain-points in everyday interactions that seem so easy-to-fix, yet are so cumbersome.

Without diving too much into the product before launch, a “tool for action”(I actually have a blog post on the topic coming out soon) is a tool that lets a user organize their actions online(eg. creating files, reading content, searching DB/wiki’s for info, using apps, etc) with the same specificity that a tool for thought(namely Roam) lets a knowledge worker organize their thoughts. It is my belief that, as great as tools for thought can be to help us store and build upon ideas, they don’t help us better interact with(comprehend and re-use) that material, especially within context. I can’t count how many times I’ve said I’d sit down and organize my Zettelkasten, and walked away from a three hour organization session with a completely new note structure than before. In addition, content in a tool for thought isn’t presented in an engaging manner, and does not let you “play” with data and ideas in the same way a scientist can use advanced tools to simulate tests.

I have a technical whitepaper that I am planning on launching soon, as well as submitting for journal publication. I also have papers that I will be releasing soon, and have been working on sharing my ideas publicly to get the project off of the ground and connect with like-minded individuals in such a niche, but ever-growing space. Soon, I will be releasing a public Roam graph with more information about the project, inspirations, status, and building community. I hope to connect with people here and in other related forums to find people willing to try the private beta coming up, build developer tools in the future, and potentially add to the team :slight_smile:

My Twitter is @Dylan_Steck and my website is dylansteck.com.

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Hi, Dylan. Seems like you probably have a bright future. I certainly was not thinking about such things when I was your age.

You mentioned several things, “coming soon”. Is there anything we can look at now?

Have you considered setting up a newsletter we could subscribe to?

Looking forward to seeing where your ideas take you.

David Garner

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Hi David,

Thank you for the kind words :slight_smile:
I am working on an essay, called “Tools for Action”, that I will be launching within the next week with a self-hosted blog(powered by Ghost) that I have been working on over the holiday break.

I am working on a public Roam graph for Cortex, in which I’ll add more info about the product and the project. I’m trying to make as much about the project as public as possible, so I can connect with technologists(and potential users) in the space. That should be out within the next few days and I will link to it here and in Discord when it does.

For now, here are two articles that I’ve written over the past year, to give you a better sense of my headspace going into this project:

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Dylan,

I made time to read your articles just now.

In “It’s Time to Rebuild the Internet” under section 2. Security, in the second sentence:

“to conservations with loved ones” seems like spell check might have gotten ahold of your idea and modified it a little? Or, it’s a typo.

And at the bottom, this link: www.stecknologies.com/opusmage (http://www.stecknologies.com/opusmage)

returns:

404 : NOT_FOUNDCode: NOT_FOUND ID: cle1::6dtsh-1610039190262-0f2f77deb1b4

when I click on it.

In general, I thought your articles were a lot of nicely presented words, about a lot of nicely researched history that have the feel of a sales pitch. It is not clear to me what exactly you are marketing.

Having said that, I feel the same way you do, I think, about the current state of computer utilization. I feel that our current computers are capable of much more than I’m seeing them provide.

Please read my introduction in this forum (a couple before yours), if you have not already, to see where I’m coming from.

I recall the first time I saw the original Macintosh, with its mouse. It kind of seemed like magic to me. It was being offered for sale, for some astronomically insane price (for a collage student). I was at that store, to purchase a 4 function calculator for $150, which seemed like a huge amount of money at the time.

Anyway, I still primarily use a QWERTY keyboard and mouse to interact with my 6 core i7 computer. They connect via radio waves, instead of cords, but the human interface is still the same. I just added an 18 TB external USB 3 hard drive to it. I’m working on trying to organize my digital brain, which I’ve had backed up on a bunch of hard drives through the years.

It seems to me that with that much computing power and that kind of storage capacity, not to mention all the SaaS and cloud services available to be connected to, that we should have something more relatable for user interfaces and processing paradigms.

I recall dreaming about flying into my computer’s file system (Norton Commander/Windows Explorer) using a joystick. I even bought a joystick years ago, but never actually got around to hooking it up. Maybe I should see if I can find it and make it work.

It appears that you have explored a lot of things since you learned to program.

Can you list three or four things that you feel should be improved?

Forget browsers and operating systems. What would you like to see done differently with user interfaces?

As I understand it, Elon Musk is working on an implantable brain interface. Amazon has a set of Echo Frames that will not only hold the lenses for your glasses, but allow you to communicate by voice with Alexa, Computer or whatever other names they allow you to set their digital assistant to.

I agree things could be better. Do you have any vision about what you would change?

Thanks for the ideas.

David Garner

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David,

Thank you for taking the time to read the two articles :slight_smile:

A lot has changed since I have written then, and at the time, it was my intention to use the articles not only as a way to express my thoughts in the space, but also to publicize the project I’ve been working on to solve a lot of the problems I describe. I have been meaning to go back and re-edit these articles to remove dead links and old product descriptions, so thank you for bringing that up! In hindsight, I realize that I could’ve changed a ton in how I tried to “launch” past versions of my product, and have spent the past few months working quietly in an attempt to have a more controlled launch within the next 3-6 months. In particular, I’ve been working on spreading my ideas without trying to necessarily promote a product, and hopefully build a community around what I’m building and the space I’m trying to create.

I read your introduction a few days ago and love the work that you’ve been doing to organize your digital brain!

In terms of novel interactions, I’ll list a few below that I think will come in the next 5/10/20 years. But as a preface to the list, I’d like to note that it is not only the implementation of these novel interactions that is important, but the humane usage of these interactions. As we saw new research on behavioral science and persuasive design 10-20 years ago, companies exploited the model to make money, costing us our autonomy as humans and our mental health. So while I think these novel interactions will come and as much as I want to be a part of implementing them, we need to ensure that there is a humane usage of these technologies. With that being said:

  • Spatial interfaces and zooming user interfaces(ZUIs)
  • Organizing content by thought or action without being data and interaction being siloed by different apps, as well as by windows, tabs, and other parts of the desktop metaphor that we’ve been using for nearly half a century.
  • Using natural language as a query language for data, and visualizing that data with interactive graphs, mindmaps, timelines, “trails” of activity, multimedia, etc.
  • Hardware to help us interact with tools for thought an action in a physical workspace – utilizing augmented reality, as well as newly developed hardware technologies to create workspaces. One article I absolutely loved to this effect is Seeing Spaces by Bret Victor.

As I mentioned in my introduction post, David, I am working on a public Roam graph with descriptions about my project, lists of inspiration, roadmap, etc. I will also post on the forum when I launch my next blog post – within the next week for sure.

Would love to keep expanding on these ideas.

Best,
Dylan

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Wanted to link to my latest article, Tools for Action, that speaks to many of the topics I’ve been working on: https://dylsteck.medium.com/tools-for-action-6475cf3343f1

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Welcome aboard Dylan, it’s awesome to see someone your age with such a firm grasp of many of today’s tech flaws. I look forward to reading more of your work, especially as it seems to be heading in the general direction of ML/AI-based interfaces, something Iain (Codex) and I are actively working on in our separate endeavors.

I thoroughly recommend you reading through the other introductions here on the site to see who’s actively working in your space and those who would be interested in hearing what you have to say. Best of luck and we await your links with biated breath :smiley:

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Thank you for your kind words! Yes, I think the three of us, among others, are thinking about many of the same/similar implementations, so I’d love to connect.