The Idea Explorer blog is now more than four years old. It started as a formal continuation of a “Thoughts” page that I was posting on my personal Web site. As the term “blog” (short for “Web log”) implies, it is a place for opinions and observations about a subject of interest to the author, which in this case is how the world shapes ideas and how ideas shape the world. This is only a very rough description, because as many authors are prone to do, I wandered from the basic premise, in this case morphing the subject matter into “views and speculation about how the world works, what its destiny might be, and how we can change it for the better.” Ideas are still very much a part of the subject matter, mainly because of my belief that how we think about the world is one of the most important variables in determining its destiny. Exposing, testing, and shaping those ideas is therefore a critical enterprise, and I feel compelled to do what I can to advance it.
Of course, many of the ideas presented here are mine. The “prism of ideas” referred to in the title could just as easily be called “the filter of Brad’s mind.” In many cases, I created a myth about something that summarized key features I considered important, and then examined the consequences for whatever I was discussing as a means of testing the myth’s explanatory value. This is roughly equivalent to the classic “thought experiments” used in science. Where specific information has informed my comments, I have tried to give proper attribution, typically through the use of hyperlinks. More often than not, however, the source of speculations and conclusions has been my personal understanding of a subject, accumulated through lots of reading, conceptual and mathematical modeling, and a fair amount of direct experience.
Because this a blog and not an academic forum, I haven’t been shy about sharing my personal reactions to information, events, or the implications of particular trains of thought. This serves two purposes. First, it demonstrates to you, the reader, what my biases are so you can judge for yourself the value of what I’ve shared. Second, it reinforces the notion that what I’m writing is just one part of a conversation between real people about something that has a real impact on how we live.
If you read the posts sequentially, you will see a big part of the evolution of the views represented in the current posts. There are at least two main components to this evolution: values and understanding. At the time I started this blog, I was focused on the importance of maximizing both the quantity and quality of human life (what I valued most), and was working to identify and understand the main variables that affected them. I struggled with growing evidence that the size of the world’s population would soon reach a maximum and then drop precipitously (along with quality), perhaps even resulting in extinction. My investigation took on an urgency that colored almost everything I thought and did, and quickly became the dominant theme in my posts to this blog. To avoid totally overwhelming readers, I started a companion Web site that went into appropriate detail and became the repository for my growing range of efforts to describe the situation and explore potential solutions, while sharing the highlights here. As I became more aware of the interconnections among all species, and the scope of life’s collaboration in keeping our world habitable, I began to care as much about future of the entire family of life as I did about the future of our own species. This sensitized me to the catastrophic effect we are having on the members of that family by taking over their habitat, dumping toxins and other waste, and directly killing them on an unimaginable scale. What started as an existential threat became a source of deep guilt as I realized my complicity in these events, and I felt it necessary and useful to share both the experience and my analysis of it. From the depths of guilt and angst, I chose to put most of my effort into defining a positive set of goals that could guide both my thoughts and my actions toward a better existence. The process of creating those goals, and adding detail to how they might be reached, provided a new context for the exploration of ideas I presented in this blog.
The evolution continues, as experience adds information and insights about topics both old and new. I remain open to new paths of exploration, keeping the discussion fresh and relevant to both me and you. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you have found something useful to your own idea exploration.