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NotebookLM got an upgrade, and now I want DEVONthink AI even more

Google’s NotebookLM now supports asking questions about more than 10 sources and is apparently making lifelogging great again. “Lifelogging” evokes misguided attempts of Mark Cuban to measure everything and the narcissistic tendencies of Stephe Wolfram to write about me me me; but then, isn’t my DEVONthink database also a life-log of sorts and wouldn’t it be great to be able to ask plain questions about the documents inside? Of course it would, and the use case is so obvious I wrote about it already.

Considering the types of documents that are there — tax returns, birth certificates and such — uploading them to a hive mind is out of the question, but Apple and Microsoft should unquestionably work on an on-device solution. Whichever Mac — laptop or desktop, I don’t care — enables this will be the one to replace my current M1 Air which is entering its fourth year soon but still going strong.

So this is the (near? let’s hope so) future I imagine: asking when the kids' last doctor’s appointment was and having the LLM confirm it through both the calendar and a saved note. Let’s say I need this information to fill out a form at a different doctor’s office, and it also asks me about their height and weight. Well, even if we don’t obsessively check our children’s biometrics and log them in a database, they are still recorded in those school forms and would be available to LLM bots.

This is, of course, a privacy nightmare. Even Apple has privacy slip-ups, and even if the data itself is kept on a personal device which also does the processing, who’s to say that the audio won’t be sent somewhere and kept on recorded for quality control? It seems like a whole new frontier has opened up where 19th century laws contorted to fit the 20th may not easily apply, but I’ll stop there before I get too political.

There may still be a use for NotebookLM, though. With the source document restriction lifted, I can at least upload publicly available documents like journal articles, book chapters and lecture slides that I also keep in DEVONthink, grouped by topic so that they are easily transposable into NotebookLM’s “notebooks”. And I will report more, as soon as there are any publicly shareable use cases to report.

(↬Dave Winer)

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