Category Archives: Intellectual Public

In my dreams, at least, politicians, activists, reporters, and social theorists always would get the public space to offer the most intellectually rich context for the most pressing aspects of their present thinking. This “Intellectual Public” series seeks to provide one modest outlet for such untimely explorations by some of our most timely elected officials, journalists, multidisciplinary public intellectuals. By Andy Fitch.

Letter from Utopia: Talking to Nick Bostrom

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufmann, focuses on Nick Bostrom’s book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. It was reading Superintelligence’s meticulous, cosmos-encompassing thought experiments, with Bostrom’s lucid prose calmly outlining unprecedented urgencies posed by existential-risk scenarios, that made me want to explore literary aspects of public-intellectual practice in the first place. Bostrom is Professor at Oxford University, where he is founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, and directs the Strategic Artificial Intelligence Research Center. His 200-plus publications include the books Anthropic Bias (Routledge, 2002), Global Catastrophic Risks (Oxford University Press, 2008), and Human Enhancement (Oxford University Press, 2009). Bostrom has an intellectual background in physics, computational neuroscience, mathematical logic, and philosophy. He has been listed on Foreign Policy‘s Top 100 Global Thinkers list, and on Prospect magazine’s World Thinkers list. Here Bostrom and I discuss applications of his book across any number of fields — from history to philosophy to public policy to practices of everyday life (both now and in millennia to come). Continue reading

This Isn’t a Problem that Can Be Blamed on Somebody Else: Talking to James Forman, Jr.

By Andy Fitch 

This conversation, conducted this summer, and transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on James Forman, Jr.’s Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. After graduating from Yale Law School and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Forman joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., representing juveniles and adults in felony and misdemeanor cases. Forman loved his work as a public defender, but quickly became frustrated with the lack of education and job-training opportunities for his clients. In 1997, along with David Domenici, Forman started the Maya Angelou Public Charter School, for students who had dropped out of preceding schools and/or been arrested. Since 2011, Forman has taught at Yale Law School, offering, for instance, a seminar titled “Inside-Out Prison Exchange: Issues in Criminal Justice,” which brought together, in the same classroom, 10 Yale Law students and 10 men incarcerated in a Connecticut prison. Locking Up Our Own, Forman’s first book, has been longlisted for the National Book Award and the American Librarian Association’s Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and shortlisted for the Stephen Russo Book Prize for Social Justice. You can connect with Forman via Twitter (@JFormanJr) and through his website, which includes a list of upcoming speaking events. Continue reading

We’ll Revise Our Views Along the Way: Talking to Emily Bazelon

By Andy Fitch

This conversation focuses on Emily Bazelon’s diversified professional practice, as well as her sustained commitment to constructive public dialogue. Bazelon, staff writer at the New York Times Magazine, co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest, Fellow for Creative Writing and Law at Yale, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, co-founder of Slate’s DoubleX section, and former law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 1st Circuit, is currently working on a book about prosecutors and prospects for criminal-justice reform. Continue reading