The Intrinsic Perspective is about consilience: bridging the sciences and humanities by essayistic forays into everything from literature to artificial intelligence to neuroscience to culture.

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. This has only gotten worse over time, and I think Substack is the perfect place to fight the tunnel vision of our age.

Who are you?

A weird mix. I’m an author and scientist 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. 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. I recently left my professorship to write on Substack full-time. I live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Why become a paying subscriber?

For the same reason you might buy a book: you find it interesting. Here’s from the original announcement I was leaving Tufts University to write The Intrinsic Perspective (TIP):

Going paid allows me to scale up TIP into something unmissable and extremely worth your while. I want to show what happens when this form is not considered a lark, or some vestigial way for already-famous names to make a buck, but taken deadly seriously as an emerging genre, a literary outlet for essays and original intellectual work.

Subscriptions are $7 a month, or $70 a year. If you subscribe, you receive:

  1. Access to the full content. About 50% is locked, although this may vary
    week to week.
    I still plan on putting out free work consistently, so don’t fret if you can’t pay, TIP is worth signing up for. You’ll just see less of it.

  2. In addition to access to full content, there are other perks. E.g., open threads, ask-me-anythings, some free posts will allow comments only from paid subscribers, and I’ll occasionally ask for your links, suggestions, etc., for inclusion to share in the Desiderata series. As TIP develops, more perks will be added, like an annual paid-subscriber-only essay contest.

In addition to receiving the full content, you also might be looking for a community that shares your values of intellectual investigation and interdisciplinary thought, ranging from literature to science. Or you might value interacting with and supporting a class of thinkers outside of academia but who are still doing original research, writing, and scholarship. Regardless of your reasons, I hope you consider it.

What’s all this unique art?

TIP 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.


Comments are encouraged. I do try and read them all and respond if I feel my response contributes. I often “like” comments, but please do not interpret my liking a comment as an endorsement of that comment’s full content. I might just find a part of it interesting or worth consideration. And if I don’t “like” your comment, that doesn’t mean I don’t like it! I may have missed it, or read it but forgotten to click, or thought I’d be seen as taking sides on some issue significantly beyond the scope of the post. When commenting, try to maintain a civilized discussion—imagine this is a salon, or intellectually diverse dinner party, and you are trying to not make enemies of half the people around you. Keep in mind that people from across the political spectrum read TIP. So avoid politics unless the post bears directly on political subjects. Continued violations of this, or insults or provocations or open hostility, or even just comments I judge to be attempts to cause unnecessary drama, will all lead to a ban. Very occasionally, there might merely be a warning instead. Bans will be mass-reversed every couple months to give second chances. If you feel a ban is in error or unfair, please DM me on Twitter.


Erik Hoel 
Writer and scientist