Essays

I seem to be a fiction

A surreal, postmodern review of Ken Wilber’s book Boomeritis, which seems to be about my work at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab.

March 26th, 2011

How To Think Real Good

Practical epistemology: heuristics for how to think about difficult things, particularly using formal methods.

August 9th, 2013

Going down on the phenomenon

How scientific research is like cunnilingus: a phenomenology of epistemology.

August 11th, 2013

Perfection Salad

A history of supposedly-scientific nutritional theories illustrating pathologies of rationalism (scientism), with an analogy to cognitive science.

May 31st, 2015

Nutrition offers its resignation. And the reply

A satire: all nutritionists offer their resignation, having recognized their incompetence; but their employers refuse it.

June 2nd, 2015

Nutrition: the Emperor has no clothes

Nutrition science has conclusively failed; it was myths invented to satisfy compulsive hunger for meaning. Now what?

June 3rd, 2015

Probability theory does not extend logic

Probability theory is sometimes called a complete theory of rationality, on the mistaken belief it generalizes logic. I explain why this is wrong.

August 21st, 2015

Wrong-way reductions

Wrong-way reduction is a logical fallacy that turns messy, tractable problems into tidy, impossible ones.

March 29th, 2016

A bridge to meta-rationality vs. civilizational collapse

A bridge from systematic rationality to fluid meta-rational understanding may be necessary to prevent civilizational collapse.

April 26th, 2016

Robots That Dance

Robots, as artificial people, embody our ideas of humanness. Here's a different concept of robots—and of people.

May 8th, 2016

Judging whether a system applies

Rationality requires judging whether a system of reasoning applies to a situation—but that judgement cannot be systematic!

June 7th, 2016

A first lesson in meta-rationality

A first lesson in meta-rationality, or stage 5 cognition, using Bongard problems as a laboratory.

July 22nd, 2016

What they don’t teach you at STEM school

The syllabus for a curriculum teaching meta-rational skills: how to evaluate, combine, modify, discover, and create effective systems.

November 27th, 2016

Upgrade your cargo cult for the win

Richard Feynman derided “cargo cult science” that sticks to fixed systems. Innovation requires an upgrade to fluid, meta-systematic inquiry.

December 31st, 2016

Ignorant, irrelevant, and inscrutable

Distinguishing irrational, anti-rational, and meta-rational critiques of rationalism helps reply effectively.

July 23rd, 2017

Abstract Reasoning as Emergent from Concrete Activity

Abstract reasoning is derived phenomenologically, developmentally, and computationally from embodied, situated, concrete activity.

August 4th, 2017

Circumscription: a logical farce

A musical comedy, set in 1987, about the failure of the logicist program in artificial intelligence.

June 3rd, 2018

How should we evaluate progress in AI?

Improving artificial intelligence research with scientific testing, design practice, and meta-rational choice of methods and criteria

June 30th, 2018

Podcast: Buddhism and cognitivism

A 19-minute podcast episode on the intellectual history of interactions between Buddhism and cognitive science

June 22nd, 2019

An exercise: meta-rational phenomena

An exercise in learning meta-rationality: can you give examples of these meta-rational phenomena?

September 30th, 2019

Doing being rational: polymerase chain reaction

Fine-grained analysis of a molecular biology how-to video reveals significant features of rationality in practice.

November 15th, 2019

I invented the iPhone in 1977

No, really.

August 13th, 2020

Maps, the territory, and meta-rationality

“The map is not the territory”—what is it then? How do rational models actually work?

January 24th, 2021