Paper of Record
People like staying up to date on their friends, where they live and who they’re dating. A few people, such as Hollywood starts and athletes, reach such a level of fame that entire magazines are devoted to reporting on their houses and romances for the broad public. But I doubt that anyone’s famous enough for their apartment choice to be written up in the New York Times, and their dating adventures to be covered by the Economist’s culture magazine.
And yet, remarkably, that has happened to me.
Here’s the Economist’s 1843 cover story on how I used spreadsheets to make sense of dating and polyamory. Here’s the New York Times article on how my wife and I used spreadsheets to pick our apartment. Somehow the simple idea (not remotely original to me) of taking the simple tool of decision matrices out of the office and into life choices is enough for worldwide fame.
Some quotes below, I won’t tell you which ones are from article:
“When I tell people about the matrix, their intuition is that I’m outsourcing my heart,” Mr. Falkovich said. “But my heart is confused. I need to put my desires in a more organized structure.”
Jacob was standing in the stairwell outside an apartment, half naked and holding his clothes.
There was one group of thinkers who had the tools Jacob needed: proponents of a new philosophy known to its adherents as rationality. These nerdy internet-users were preoccupied with recognizing cognitive bias, applying the lessons of biology and statistics to everything from AI research to fan fiction, and modifying their emotions and desires to achieve their goals.
“We have a lot of the scientific approach in our lives,” Ms. Lawry, 30, said.
A while ago I unleashed a somewhat manic Tweetstorm about predictive processing, free energy, the entropic brain, and psychedelics. Stewart Alsop, the host of the Crazy Wisdom Podcast, invited me on to talk about all that stuff despite my protestations that a Tweetstorm doesn’t make me an expert. What we lack in expertise we make up for in enthusiasm for the subject, and I think you’ll enjoy the conversation if you’re at all interested in this.
Bicameral Book Club
A lot of my reading about consciousness and the brain inevitably runs into the topic of brain architecture: our layers of newly developed areas sitting on top of ancient structures, and the fact that we have two hemispheres that seem both very similar and crucially different in their functions. A lot of discussion of brain structure is superficial and confused. I haven’t seen a reliable summary yet of what we know about brain structure and how it relates to consciousness, what we can guess, and what it all means.
This seems like a worthwhile project for all of us in these days of quarantine and isolation.
I want to invite you all to Putanumonit’s first experimental book club, which will cover the two best known books on brain structure and consciousness: Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary.
The plan is to gather with my fellow readers every week or two to discuss a certain number of chapters, gather our notes and thoughts, and hopefully publish a running book review and commentary. The first online hangout will take place on Wednesday April 1st, at 4:30 pm EST, on a platform recommended by my readers, and cover the first two chapters of The Origin in Breakdown. If you want to participate, please shoot me an email with the title “Bicameral Book Club” and the following information:
- Have you read either of these books already or are you planning to read along with the rest of us?
- Are you available on 4/1 at 4:30 pm EST? If not, what other times would work?
- Are you willing to volunteer to take notes of the discussion?
- What platform do you recommend that we use? Ideally I would want one that is optimized for simultaneous text-based chat but allows for some videoconferencing as well for up to 25 people. What are the upsides and downsides of different platforms?
- What do you know about brain structure and consciousness and how do you know it?
I don’t think I’ll get an overwhelming number of responses, but if I do I will invite people based on the quality of their emails to keep the discussion manageable.
Stay home, stay safe, and let’s get reading.