Starting a blog

Folks,

I want to thank all of you who have made working at AIG such a rewarding experience for me. While I could never have predicted when I first started here in April 1991 all the twists and turns the financial world would bring, it has certainly kept things exciting. I’m going to miss you all, but I will stay local and will stop by from time to time. Keep up the good work, I expect great things from you.

I am leaving software to pursue writing. I am going to start with a blog, which I hope will lead to a book. Those of you who I have spoken to about this know I have been reluctant to talk about what I am going to write about. It is not that I don’t know – I have a very specific subject in mind – it is just a bit hard to put into words. But, in a nutshell, I am moving from software to wetware, specifically to this offbeat subject, which I have been thinking about my whole life and studying for 20 years:

“The Presence of Mind: an objective look at the subjective world”, in which I will attempt to organize what we collectively know (but have not articulated) about what our minds are and how we should use them. I hope to appeal broadly to all readers who feel that our inner lives, and not just our outward personas, deserve a seat at the table of public discourse. We have become a civilization of doers but not reflectors. We know how to use our minds but not how they work. Cognitive science studies minds from the outside, without asking their owners, because science is not a matter of opinion. But we communicate perfectly well with ourselves and others through thought despite nothing being provable about the meaning of words, and we can similarly reach many true or at least effective conclusions about minds just by using them to study themselves, while drawing on science where possible for objectivity. The rise of psychology from the study of behavior provided one objective approach to study minds, but at the expense of discrediting introspection, which has left academia with no permissible avenue to unravel the mind, which arguably only really exists in its own world.

Though I am a bit afraid to wade into uncharted waters, and I ask for your moral support, I feel this is something I am meant to do. I have always felt most at home when I’m reflecting on and synthesizing perspectives. That is why software engineering has been such a good field for me. And really, the task of unraveling the mind is a job for a software engineer, not a scientist, because the mind is software and the (wet) hardware it runs on is largely incidental to that. So understanding it involves less in the way of observation and physical laws and more about self-reflection on the superstructure of ideas across three concurrent evolutionary pathways: biological evolution, cultural evolution and our personal mental development over our own lifetimes.

I will send a follow-up note when I launch the blog. Any feedback is welcome as I have hopes that this pursuit will both be interesting and inspire others to get involved. Please feel free to get in touch with me at steve@thepresenceofmind.com.

Steve