This newsletter is about consilience: bridging the Two Cultures of the sciences and humanities by essayistic forays into a wide variety of subjects. You can find the full list of all my writing, including these essays, organized by subject on my website.
What problem are you solving?
C. P. Snow, in his 1959 essay The Two Cultures on the split between the humanities and the sciences, bemoaned that:
A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?
His point? The world is incredibly epistemologically lopsided. In both directions. Most people walk around with a limp, though they don’t know it.
Who are you?
A weird mix. I’m a scientist and author who grew up in his mother’s independent bookstore. I’m known for my debut novel The Revelations, as well as a couple scientific hypotheses, like causal emergence and the Overfitted Brain Hypothesis, and also my nonfiction writing more generally. I received my PhD in neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working with Giulio Tononi on developing aspects of Integrated Information Theory, the first well-formalized scientific theory of consciousness. I was previously a Forbes 30 Under 30 in science, I’ve been a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced study in Princeton, as well as a New York City Emerging Writer’s Fellow. Now I’m a research assistant professor at Tufts University in Boston. I live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
What’s all this unique art?
The Intrinsic Perspective has a resident artist, illustrator Alexander Naughton, who reads drafts of pieces and reacts to them artistically. I’m always surprised and amazed by the results. You can purchase prints of The Intrinsic Perspective art (all proceeds go to the artist, not me), and he is also open for commissions.
Comment as you please. I do try and read them all and respond if I feel my response contributes. Please do not post offensive comments, and try to maintain a civilized discussion—imagine this is a salon, or intellectual dinner party, and you are trying to not make enemies of half the people around you. If you post an offensive comment and I find it, you will be banned. Personal insults to others (including myself) will lead to comment deletion, open hostility to anyone will lead to a ban—even if you didn’t start the argument. Bans may occasionally be reversed every couple months to give people second chances.
The Intrinsic Perspective is partly funded by the SciArt Initiative, which sponsors Alexander Naughton for the work he puts into the illustrations.
My writing has also been supported by a $6,500 one-time grant from the FTX Future Fund, which funds projects it suspects might help the longterm future of humanity (I’m trying to somehow live up to this). Additionally, John Dubuque has kindly contributed $5,000 to the continued running of the newsletter.
Please note that the views here reflect merely my own, not any particular sponsor, and therefore all mistakes and bad takes are also mine alone.
While I am incredibly thankful to my donors who make this all possible, so far grants and donations don’t support me working on this newsletter full-time. So if you are a potential sponsor or donor who likes what I do here, please reach out, as funding helps me (a) keep the content open to all, and (b) allows for deeper research dives into many of the subjects I cover and increases the impact of these pieces.