This week’s newsletter continues last week’s discussion of tradition. Some years ago, when I was a graduate student, I mentioned to a maverick cognitive scientist that I was beginning to look at Indian philosophy as a way of breaking through some of the conceptual puzzles in cognitive science. I had Bimal Matilal’s book on perception … Read more Mindfulness: The Monk in the Machine. Newsletter #21.
I am not much of a traditionalist. As far as I am concerned, the future is more important than the past. At the same time, human beings are shaped by history and geography; our past both constrains us and sets us free. As a result, I find myself caught between traditionalists and modernizers. A few … Read more The Use and Abuse of Tradition: Newsletter #20
I have been fascinated with abstraction for as long as I can remember. The disciplines I am drawn to instinctively — mathematics, physics, philosophy, programming, literature, design, cognition, religion; to name a few — are all disciplines that truck in abstractions. Good abstractions make life easier for all of us and greatly enhance human culture. Writing is a good … Read more The Right Abstraction: Newsletter #19
We live in a knowledge society but we don’t have a universal class of knowledge professionals. Every profession deemed universal is represented throughout society. Doctors ply their wares in rural clinics, small town hospitals and the Harvard Medical School. Lawyers occupy the White House every four years. Engineers and architects work for the department of … Read more Newsletter 18: The Society of Knowledge
I have been thinking about knowledge and collaboration for a long time, for it greatly affects my own life as an scholar and researcher. The open source movement didn’t invent collaboration; academics were collaborating freely — both as in beer and as in freedom — before software engineers. After all, professional engineers work on products that are bought and … Read more Newsletter 17: Communicating Knowledge
If you have been following my newsletters, you know that I am obsessed with text in its various forms: Writing Code Mathematics Stories and so on. As a — more or less — universally literate society, we have pushed text into the background. We read text, but we don’t examine the mechanisms behind text. It’s useful to view text … Read more Weekly Newsletter #16: Text is Technology
As I have said on other occasions, code is language and programming is a natural evolution of writing. In my opinion — I am a biased observer — philosophy and literature are the high points of textual culture. Mathematics comes a close third, but I tend to subsume mathematics under philosophy, since it’s a humanistic pursuit masquerading as science. … Read more Weekly Newsletter #15: Coding Philosophy