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 blog is an attempt at 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.
Why should I subscribe?
Good question! All I can offer is social proof. Posts from here have made it to #1 on Hacker News and been shared by people with big audiences, like Sam Harris. Scott Alexander over at Astral Codex Ten was kind enough to say about The Intrinsic Perspective that:
I’ve been looking for really good new Substacks, by people I hadn’t already been reading for years on another platform, and this is one of the few I’ve found that I’m really excited about.
I can also offer a bunch of blurbs about my writing from other authors, including NYT bestsellers and Hugo-award winners. But ultimately I just hope a piece clicks with you. And there’s not much downside, you’re only signing up for an email once a week.
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 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. Personal insults to others will lead to comment deletion, open hostility to anyone (including myself) will lead to a ban.
The Intrinsic Perspective is partly sponsored by the SciArt Initiative, an organization that brings together scientists and artists, emphasizing the similarities between the two. It’s also partly supported by a 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.
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.