David Deutsch is an Oxford physicist and philosopher, widely regarded as a founder of quantum computing. His books, The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity, range far beyond Physics to hypothesize that human knowledge is infinite and will ultimately enable us to explain and accomplish everything that is not forbidden by the laws of nature. Still, he suggests that our knowledge may not arrive at some final “absolute truth,” but will simply be an infinite series of increasingly powerful and useful approximations. …


When I was eight, my family went to the NY World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow, Queens. It was 1964 and the idealized vision of the future that pervaded the fair seemed perfectly natural to many of us. Naturally, we could expect a “great big beautiful tomorrow” (as the GE “Carousel of Progress” sang brightly between stages). That was an article of faith. Tomorrow would be better than today.

I have changed my mind about that. Science alone is not sufficient. Technology can be both our deliverance or our demise. It is up to us to choose, as I have previously…


I’m not sure how many of you caught the podcast I did with Chris Colbert on his “Insert:Human” series. It’s here, if you are interested.

That conversation was such a blast that we have decided to continue it on “Clubhouse” the new, so-called “drop in audio” platform. It’s like a combo of a podcast with call-in participation. It’s an experiment. It will be fun. First one is today at noon eastern time. If you have the Clubhouse app, you can get notified of conversations here.

Here is roughly what we will be trying to talk about. …


The view from the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963

“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. is catchy and often cited. It is said to have been one of President Obama’s favorites. But it raises more questions than answers: Is there really an arc, moral or otherwise, to the story of the universe or, for that matter, of human affairs? And what do we mean by “moral” and by “justice”? And who, if the arc bends, is able to bend it and how?

Dr. King’s powerful rephrasing originated with Theodore Parker, a Boston Unitarian minister, a…


A Fable in which We are the Turkey

“On current trends,” the turkey thinks during the first week of November, “things are looking pretty good. I get food and water and I am surrounded by my fellow turkeys. They seem happy too.”

Sure, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were disastrous, costly, and poorly considered and the Patriot Act was an over-reaction, but no one in Washington admits the error and the president gets re-elected and no leaders lose their jobs or reputations. The lesson: never admit error.

“Things could be better, actually,” the turkeys say to themselves and each other in the second week of the month…


We can thank DNA for our deep urge to make sense of the world and for the inherent limitations of that urge

“Tell me a story.” The request is as old as language itself. I’m willing to bet that the day after symbolic language was used to count grain or plan a hunt, it was used to tell the story of the harvest or the exploits of the hunters. It’s a truism: Humans are story-telling animals. We remember and learn from stories far better than we do from a raw recitation of the facts. Humans are, in the words of the philosopher Paul Boghossian, “ineluctable seekers of meaning”.

The human urge for the meaning we get from stories, is well documented. But…


Can humans “science” our way out of climate change?

Michael Jordan once said, “I never lose a game, I just run out of time”. His source may have been Vince Lombardi, who said something similar about the 1960’s Green Bay Packers. The idea is probably as old as language itself: “It was a great hunt, we just ran out of daylight…”

Many of the systems and institutions that make modern life possible are now in danger of running out of time, bumping up against a warming climate and other impacts of the technologies that make those same institutions possible. This dilemma, that the source of our problems will also…


“All models are wrong, some are useful.” The Mathematician George Box said this in the 60’s and it is not just true about math. It’s true about being human.

All knowledge is an approximation. I find this a very useful way to think about the entire Human Endeavor. It seems clear to me that science, at least, is best thought of as an asymptotic approach to some absolute truth. A truth that, in the end, is not comprehensible with the tools we have been given. We approach, but never arrive. …


David Foster Wallace’s famous 2005 address was about privilege

Almost 20 years ago, David Foster Wallace gave a widely circulated and highly praised commencement address at Kenyon College with the title “This is Water”. At the time, many took it as an eloquent statement about compassion. But hearing it today with fresh eyes, it’s clear that Wallace is talking about privilege. Three years later DFW would take his own life at age 46.

DFW opens his speech with a story, as he says with self-deprecation, a “didactic little parable-ish story” in the tradition of graduation speakers through the ages. Two fish, he starts, are swimming along together…

“and they…


An unsubstantiated theory of brain function and of telling the truth

A friend recently went for 10 days on a boat tour of the Galapagos. I’m both jealous and anxious, since the time to see the wonders of those islands may be shortening as the environment of the Eastern Pacific warms.

But I am not here to talk about climate change. I am here to talk about an almost certainly false (but useful) theory of how our brains process reality and possibly about the biology of truth telling.

My friend, on this boat tour, had been hearing for days about…

David Boghossian

Human, start-up guy, investor and writer in Cambridge, MA

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