Welcome To My Newsletter: Let's Figure Out What It Should Be

(I only sort of know what I'm doing)

(One of my dumbest recurring Twitter jokes is to snap a photo of a skyline, tweet it out, and claim it’s of a city it plainly isn’t. With that in mind, please enjoy this photo I recently took from the bridge that spans the Boise River, connecting Boise, Idaho, to the northern suburbs known colloquially to locals as The Boise Nördlands, or TBN.)

Hi everyone,

First of all, thanks for signing up! There’s been a nice initial burst of subscribers to this not-yet-fully-cooked newsletter, and that’s got me even more excited about turning it into something that people will find worthwhile and intellectually engaging.

As I’ve noted in most of the places where I’ve advertised this newsletter’s existence, I don’t plan on fully launching it for a little while. I also still have some stuff to figure out with regard to exactly what it will be. My initial thoughts are, as I’ve said, to focus on conflicts between social-justice activism and scientific research, but to do so in a generally positive and bridge-building manner that emphasizes that certain fights that are going on don’t need to be going on, or at least not at the intensity level at which they are currently raging. In my view, if fair-minded people think things through a little bit more clearly, or communicate a little bit more openly with their (presumed or real) ideological adversaries, there may be instances in which each “side” — and I recognize it’s an oversimplification, at times, to treat these conflicts as occurring between two non-overlapping “sides” — can lay down its arms.

That said, I recognize that some of the people who signed up for this newsletter might not be interested in this particular subject, but in other stuff I’ve written about. As I try to puzzle out how I’m going to use this platform, I’d love to hear from anyone with an opinion on that matter — feel free to email me at jesse.r.singal@gmail.com. I plan on granting a bit more weight to the early feedback I get, because all else being equal the first X people who signed up for this newsletter probably follow my work a bit more closely than the next X people who will.

Relatedly, yesterday I published an in-depth piece on Medium in which I responded to part of a generally fair-minded Twitter-critique of my work on gender dysphoria, and dug deeper into some of the controversies about how to best help transgender and gender-nonconforming youth. This strikes me as the sort of thing that would make for a good edition of this newsletter: a deep-dive that’s a bit too wonky for a genuine-interest article in most of the outlets in which I publish, but which could offer useful information on a difficult, nuanced subject to an audience a bit more receptive to nerdery (I say that with love, you nerds). Now, suffice it to say I don’t want it to be the case that every time this newsletter hits your inbox, you are presented with thousands of words; rather, I like the idea of mixing it up a great deal, with content ranging from “Here is a paragraph on why you should read this piece someone else wrote right now,” to Q&As with smart people, to stuff that’s basically just a newspaper-style column published only for my newsletter subscribers. Whatever range of content I settle on, I also want to keep the output manageable: My sense is that if people feel their inboxes are constantly under attack by an overzealous newsletter-er, they are more likely to ignore or unsubscribe from that newsletter (though I’m open to input on frequency too, of course).

Maybe I’ll finish these newsletters with a couple regular mini-items:

A Random And Not Particularly Deep Thought I Had: People overestimate the probability of an alien intelligence viewing us as ants and wiping us out or enslaving us as a result. It’s much more likely such an intelligence will recognize our intelligence, sentience, etc., but simply not care — think of how much we humans know about the individual-level intelligence and consciousness differences between ants and whales, and how that hasn’t really stopped many people in many cultures from treating whales horrifically and killing them in a gruesome manner, as though they aren’t much different from ants.

Freelance Stuff I’m Working On Other Than My Book: I’m just getting into the meat of writing a long print feature article about pedophilia that I am very excited about — I figured it was time to take on a less controversial subject for once — but which likely won’t be out for months and months. I’m also pretty close to done with an online article about a campus controversy that was presented to the public in a very oversimplified light, and which has a nice (in the sense of “deeply unfair”) screw-over-your-workers-to-protect-your-corporation’s-reputation angle to it. Finally, I’m trying to figure out whether I should turn my Feel-Bad Liberalism Twitter-rant, which starts here, into a full-blown piece for NY Mag’s website or somewhere else, and am a few thousand words into a very messy draft of it (the rant itself generated some smart email feedback and I’m in the market for more if those tweets instill any strong feelings in you).

Thanks again for subscribing, and more soon,