I’m very proud to announce the Second Brain Week of Reflection, a 5-day immersive seminar dedicated to exploring the deeper implications of “building a second brain” for individuals and society.

From May 17–23, 2020, Lauren and I will host 10 people at the Chateau d’Orion, a guest house and cultural center at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains in southwestern France.

The 17th-century chateau has a long and rich history, including serving as a meeting place for the French resistance during World War II. Today, it has been transformed into a cultural center by the prominent German couple Elke & Tobias Premauer. The center hosts exhibitions, concerts, readings, conferences, and seminars dedicated to German-French cooperation and the enrichment of society at large.

The Premauer’s have created a series of week-long philosophical and cultural seminars called “weeks of reflection.” Each seminar is facilitated by an expert in an academic, cultural, artistic, or philosophical field – including poets, chefs, filmmakers, and philosophers – for a select group of participants drawn from across Europe and the world.

The goal is to bring together a small but diverse group of intelligent people to dive deeply into a topic of future importance to society, in a setting and timeframe that allows for deeper engagement than everyday life and work normally allow. This will be the first seminar conducted in English and on a topic with implications primarily for the business world – extended cognition using technology.

I will provide the context for the week, drawing on my work writing, speaking, and teaching on what it means to build a “Second Brain” – an external repository of an individual’s ideas, learnings, research, and knowledge, accessible on demand.

Over the course of 5 days together, we will use presentations, discussions, embodied exercises, and small group breakout sessions to deeply examine the ethics, values, and principles underlying cognitive extension in the modern world. We will consider everything from the potential negative effects of this endeavor, to unforeseen consequences and side effects, to the impact it might have on agency, identity, memory, truth, perception, and the body.

Click the button below to visit the official webpage. The price is $2,450 euros per person (including VAT), which includes a private room in the guest house and gourmet meals for the entire week (full breakfast, 2-course lunch menu, and 3-course evening menu each day). There will be time set aside for breaks, excursions in the beautiful countryside, and intimate conversations with a small group of like-minded thinkers and doers. 

Visit the official announcement page

There are currently 5 spots left and we expect to fill them in the next few months. If you have any questions, please email me at hello@fortelabs.co. If you would like to apply for the seminar, email me with your answers to the following questions:

  • Why do you want to attend this seminar?
  • How will your experience, knowledge, or skills contribute to our discussion?
  • What do you believe is the most important implication of cognitive extension for us to consider?

Keep reading below for the full description of our topic.

The Second Brain Week of Reflection

Since ancient times, intellectuals have used writing to record their thoughts, refine their theories, and share their ideas with the world. During the Renaissance, this practice was given a name: “commonplace” books. These books contained interesting quotes, facts, stories, and observations about a world that was becoming increasingly hard to understand. Writers, philosophers, and artists documented the many new ideas they were encountering in an attempt to make sense of their moment in history, and to support them in doing their best work.

Fast forward to today, and all of us find ourselves in the very same situation: too much change and too much information, with not enough time to process and understand it. And more pressure than ever to do our very best work and compete in a global economy. All of us now need to keep a commonplace book. We need it not only to survive the onslaught of information overload, but to make meaning out of the conflicting narratives we are told. The 20th century was about educating our “First Brain.” The 21st century will be about building and enhancing our “Second Brain.”

The only jobs left for humans are those that require creativity. But if we leave creativity to chance, hoping for a flash of inspiration or a “bolt from the blue,” we’ll soon be out of a job. We are told to be innovative, to adapt quickly, to bring our very best ideas to work every single day. Yet no one taught us how to consistently produce creative work. Our teachers told us to “take notes” for a single test or a single class. But now we are engaged in “life-long learning” that never ends. How do we take notes for a lifetime of creative exploration, not just an isolated task?

In this week of reflection, we will explore these questions in depth. Drawing on Tiago Forte’s work writing, speaking, and teaching, we will examine what it means to build a “Second Brain” – an external repository of our best ideas, learnings, research, and knowledge. We are at a pivotal moment in history where technology has finally made it feasible to extend our mind’s abilities. For the first time, this is not a sci-fi fantasy or a dystopian nightmare – it is a real possibility already taking place before our eyes.

The week will take place over 5 days at the Château d’Orion, a hotel and cultural center at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains in Southwestern France. In the depths of World War II, a group of French resisters met at the Château to make their plans. What better place for us to discuss the revolution in thinking that intelligent machines are causing? We have the opportunity to shape how “Second Brains” find their way into society. This week will be our attempt to look deeply into the ethics, values, and principles underlying “cognitive extension. “

We will gather 10 people over 5 days at this special location designed for deep reflection. Tiago Forte and his partner Lauren Valdez will lead the group through a series of presentations, discussions, and embodied exercises. These conversations will focus on the deeper philosophical implications of the “Second Brain,” including the impact it might have on agency, identity, memory, truth, perception, and the body.


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