About Me

I grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. My central priorty as a child was maximizing the amount of time I spent playing hockey on the street or tennis at the park.

In my undergrad I studied mathematics & physics in McMaster University’s hyper-interdisciplinary Arts & Science program. During that time I performed in a gospel choir, started a funk music radio show, and TA’d as many courses as I could get my hands on. This meme my friends made about me early on in university remains an accurate summary:

At the end of my degree I won the Rhodes Scholarship and spent two years at Oxford University. I did one Master’s degree in psychology, and another in the history of science. I then returned to McMaster to teach courses in the history of science and social issues around AI. During this time I also helped run Interact, a fellowship program for young people in tech.

Midway through 2022 I decided to drop everything and become a bike guy. Biking taught me to take a transportation-eyed view of society, and I have since become an enormous fan of canals, trains, bridges, dams, and all the ways humans try (and often fail) to adapt the natural world to our ends.

In the summer of 2023 I began to share this knowledge on TikTok and Instagram, and unexpectedly became a viral Toronto influencer. I spent the next few months giving walking tours of the city to more than 500 people.

Throughout all of these experiences I have been motivated by one thing: following my curiosities and sharing my learnings with other people. Every day I wake up with a deep need to make sense of the world around me, and an equally strong drive to help others make sense of it too. I care a lot about clear writing and believe that we cannot understand anything until we’ve studied its history.

My interests tend to be guided by a few recurring questions:

  • Who are the hidden people behind the abstract ideas? The laws of physics are not written in the stars; they are the by-product of bickering and backstabbing and random luck.
  • How do people come to believe what they believe? I’m interested in this question from every level: cultural ideas, philosophical theories, communal norms, emotional gut-reactions, genetic makeup—they’re all involved in shaping how we think.
  • How do ideas disseminate from communities of practice to the wider world? Knowledge production takes place in isolated silos. I want to understand how ideas change when technical communities share them with the outside world.

I have many mottos:

  • Email your heroes: Most people who do things are never sufficiently appreciated for their work. You would be stunned by how rarely most writers, artists, and creatives of all kinds receive kind messages with no agenda other than to express gratitude. When I enjoy any book, or find a new musician I like, I always make a point to email or DM them. Over the years, the I have substantially expanded the scope of both “email” and “hero”—the policy is now much closer to “message anyone whose work you appreciate”. Start with your friends! I promise they are operating at a gargantuan appreciation deficit!

  • Everything is people: “The government” is people, obeying rules and norms that other people made up. “Derivatives trading” is a set of arrangements between people, making decisions about money, which only means something in the minds of the people who believe in its value. Science is merely what scientists do; technology is merely what technologists create. I often feel that to learn about anything—finance, chess, biking—I must learn about the community of practice that makes that thing possible. I sometimes feel that the only “real thing” in the world is real people doing things together in real life. Everything else is a distortion or a PR move.

  • Nothing is a line. Everything, everywhere is always moving. Forever. Logan Roy says this to Shiv in Season 3 Episode 4 of Succession and it really captures my feeling about how the world works. When we learn science in school, we learn it from a book—a fixed object, a permanent collection of facts. But science is in fact a daily enterprise, consisting of the goings-on of hundreds of thousands of people, each of whom is testing ideas, poking holes in conjectures, and trying to say something new. The same is true of art, or technology, or philosophy, or language. The dictionary can only capture a tiny fraction of the sum total of “language”, because language is a vast beast, an ever-changing network comprising every exchange of words on the planet. Nothing is a line. Everything is always moving, forever.
  • You GOTTA explore your city. Prior to exploring every day, I felt deeply alienated and isolated in Toronto. My experience of the world felt untethered: most of my work took place on a laptop, and could have in theory taken place anywhere. But then I began learning about the place I lived and everything changed. It’s an amazing thing to be rooted in geology & ecology. I felt alienated in my city, but millennia-old ravines & rivers gave me a sense of place.

Here is a list of people whose work I’ve studied deeply. (It does not include most of my friends & family members, who have probably influenced me more than any author, but in a very different way.)

Adam Mastroianni, Adam McKay, Alex Wellerstein, Allegra Rosenberg, Amia Srinivasan, Amy Orben, Andy Samberg, Anna Wiener, Annie Rauwerda, Anson Yu, Atul Gawande, bell hooks, Bill Simmons, Bill Wurtz, Bo Burnham, Brian Christian, Brian Earp, Brian Greene, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Caitlin Reilly, Chance the Rapper, Chanel Miller, Charles Babbage, Chiyi Tam, Clyde Lawrence, Contrapoints, Cory Wong, Daanish Shabbir, Dan Kahane, Daniel Konikoff, Dave Pizarro, David Deutch, David Graeber, David Kaiser, David Laing, Devon Zuegel, Douglas Hofstadter, Elif Batuman, Esther Perel, Ezra Klein, FD Signifier, Fred Turner, Harriet Lerner, Jack Conte, Jack Stratton, Jaclyn Siegel, Jeremy Levick, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Galef, Joe Dart, Jocelyne Murphy, John McWhorter, Jonathan Haidt, Jonnie Penn, Jordan Peele, Kanye West, Kate Manne, KC Roberts, Keegan Michael Key, Kendrick Lamar, Helen Mills, Larry David, Lil Dicky, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Logan Graham, Louis CK, Mackenzie Burnett, Maran Nelson, Mel Brooks, Melanie Mitchell, Michael Nielsen, Michael Sandel, Michelle Jia, Miles Davis, Molly Mielke, Naomi Oreskes, Paul Bloom, Rajat Suresh, Richard Dawkins, Richard Rhodes, Robert Sapolsky, Ross Parkinson, Sam Harris, Sarah Schulman, Scott Alexander, Sophie MacDonald, Steven Pinker, Stuart Ritchie, Tamler Sommers, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Taylor Swift, Tina Fey, Thelonious Monk, Theo Katzman, Tyler Cowen, Visakan Veerasamy, Woody Goss, Zach Zucker.