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A Reply to a Letter

·2 mins

Dear Sebastian,

In response to your letter, I’m starting this blog.

I didn’t actually coin the term California Rationalists; I found it in Alexi Sargeant’s 2018 writeup of the community in Plough, which I ran across in the wake of the NYT-SlateStarCodex affair. But I agree with all the conclusions you draw from my use of the term. Communities are best grounded in a physical place, and the Internet should contribute positively to our local relationships as well as our virtual ones.

This gets at a tension that I’ve lived with for most of my life now: my thought is profoundly influenced by a handful of people whom I’ve never met, by way of (sometimes very personal) things they’ve posted on the Internet; yet I’ve always felt an extreme reluctance to share about myself in turn. My reticence is equal parts personal experience and privacy concerns. My participation in social media made me unhappy in high school and college because it drew my mind away from the people around me into a virtual world of one-upping statuses and photos. And I remain wary about putting too much on the Internet for future reputation and employment risks as well as various scammers.

But again, on the other hand, I experience the fruits of others’ decisions to post every day. And I do want to participate in important conversations and build community and get people excited about math.

So how’s this as a compromise? I’ll start posting publicly, but I’ll satisfy my privacy concerns by not using my real name. I’m glad you spurred me to do this; it’s been a long time in the making. Here’s to many conversations to come!