Mindfulness: The Monk in the Machine. Newsletter #21.

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…

The Use and Abuse of Tradition: Newsletter #20

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…

The Right Abstraction: Newsletter #19

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…

Newsletter 18: The Society of Knowledge

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…

Newsletter 17: Communicating 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…

Weekly Newsletter #16: Text is Technology

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…

Weekly Newsletter #15: Coding Philosophy

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.…

Weekly Newsletter #14: Universal Knowledge

Many of us have a dream: make all the knowledge in the world accessible to everyone. Part of that problem is that we have struggled immensely to access knowledge — texts, mentors and a peer network. The internet has made accessing information much easier, but if anything it has made accessing knowledge harder, for it has added…

Newsletter #11: Occupy Knowledge

I got into the pursuit of knowledge for the adventure, for the sense that we were exploring parts of the cosmos that had never been explored before. That might well be a personality issue. I once read that people get into science for one of two reasons: They tried to blow up their homes while…