Yes, Hello. This is D.O.G.

🐦: @dailectic


Once upon a time I was a cancer researcher at the Broad Institute. I was drawn to the complexity if its challenges - hoping that it would spur new mathematical tools to match it. What I found instead was a circus of misaligned incentives, institutional cruft, and outright corruption. Despite being one of the top research institutes with a nearly unlimited budget, I noticed a crippling aversion to departure from existing funding streams. More horrifying, these external pressures seemed to have wormed their way down into their scientific aesthetics, which not only tied their hands but collectively blinded them to distinct holes in their analysis. This engendered an overwhelming cultural pressure to fudge results at least via omission of obvious-but-conflicting analysis.

In early 2015, having spent the past 9 years training for it - I quit biology academia forever. I still have fond memories of collecting Ctenophore off the beautiful dock of Friday Harbor, jumping into the freezing water. But I knew it was doomed without change - I had seen too much. This decision coincided with my good friend and first mentor burning out and dropping his PhD program after 8 years, because his advisor wouldn’t let him graduate despite numerous prestigious papers - the advisor wanted to keep him for his own lab!

“Ok, maybe biology is just cursed” I thought - “Let me try a more applied community”. So I went to MIT Lincoln Lab to be among physicists, engineers, and computer scientists for a change of pace.

Though many of its features unique, here too I found a crippling risk aversion entrenched in enormous, slow, government funding streams - a community marred by secrecy and status jockeying, because the best ideas were already precluded from standing out.

I was lucky enough to get some time on my own research ideas - I discovered (the first to do so, to my knowledge) that morphisms in a particularly general category of polynomials are exactly Lenses popularized in functional programming. But Lincoln Lab forced me to take down the public post so it was another four years before the idea was picked up and popularized (with much enhancement) by more established academics.

I became an ASP graduate fellow at MIT to expand into compilers research but was met with the same institutional rot. My graduate “Parallel Computing” course was co-opted by its professor to shill his (then very janky) Julia programming language - making students contribute to it for credit.

By 2016 I’d “given up” on academia altogether.

I did differential privacy R&D on the original LeapYear Technologies team - but found commercial R&D to have its own issues with severe misalignment to public good and escaped before doing too much (what I saw as) harm.

Thoroughly crushed, I went underground, spending the next few years perfecting my technical and sociological craft as a Haskell engineer while staying close to research communities - exploring other types of research, funding models, and attempts at scalable epistemic communities.

In 2019 I started receiving individual grants to do what is now called Categorical Cybernetics research, following my previous work on lenses and inspired by the Machine Intelligence Research Institute’s work on Embedded Agency.

This reawoke my passion for research but I quickly realized it wouldn’t scale: The more cutting edge the research the fewer individual funders could understand it. As I progressed I became less and less inclined to communicate openly, and felt strong pressure to veer off-course to more narratively compelling (in my opinion) dead ends.

I realized that if I wanted to become anything more than someone who whispered in the ears of those who’d already paid their debts to academia, I’d have to nucleate a new paradigm prioritizing unique rather than “incremental” research.

When I saw Alexey’s article on How the life sciences actually work, I thought “Yes! This is exactly what I’ve experienced, I’m glad someone from the outside gets it!”

When I later saw his thorough takedown of erroneous scientific publication I thought “Now here’s a guy seriously dedicated to piercing through bullshit”

When Alexey later announced New Science and I saw the impressive collection of board members, advisors, and positive sentiment, I realized we may finally be ready as a society to reevaluate how we’ve been doing research, to try something new.

I reached out saying I was interested in “Gardening” for New Science, whatever that might mean.

A month later he reached out, and now here we are.