Wednesday, August 2, 2017

what the book will be about; pessimism

when i tell my friends i'm writing a book, they are usually excited. they want to know what's the 'evalator pitch' - what's the soundbite / take home message that has so much popular appeal to be worth putting into a book. once they know this will be most likely be an old school academic monograph, arguing over nitty-gritty & data and in the end - gourd forbid - even proposing a theory, they usually go silent.

yeah i know, the timing for writing this kind of book cannot be worse. at once, i'm too young to do this sort of thing; i only moonlight philosophy and have to be evaluated mainly as a young (i wish) mid-career scientist, who should be writing grant proposals mostly these days. if you get a bit of free time, maybe you can write a review article or two. but a book!!???

at the same time, at this rapidly evolving digital age, i also probably have already missed the boat for old school monographs. who reads books still?

yeah, so you guys can still talk me out of this. this is what the comment sections of this blog are for.... :-)

but papers are good for communicating within your field. when you communicate outside your field, sometimes it helps to get personal.

this book is about telling people, colleagues and students alike, beyond my beloved little incestuous field, that a serious cognitive neuroscience of consciousness is possible - it is already happening but you won't hear about it in the pop media just yet (and i'll tell you why). the people that i'm trying to win over are not exactly civilians. they supposedly have a large enough attention span for something more than an 'evalator pitch', and good taste for rigor beyond what self-help psy books can offer.

but still, this will probably be a thankless job. becoz on one hand, my colleagues from outside the field will most probably snicker at the idea: "if your papers are worth reading we would have read them already", or: "so you're telling me that you now realize such things as experimental hygeine is important and you guys are beginning to care? thank you very much".

at the same time, many of my colleagues within the field just don't care / know how much our academic neighbors do not take us seriously. academic networks are so structured that one can avoid talking across the asiles most of the time, and in this c-word field we are all naturally selected to be rather thick skinned people who get kicks out of going against the grain.

a case in point is, i was just in a wonderful meeting in Chiba, Japan, a week ago, where i debated against proponents of IIT. i pointed out that beyond the scientific and conceptual problems of the theory, above all, what we have here is a problem of publicity - the way we are doing it, we are not earning the respect of our outside colleagues as we should and that matters. i think the debate went well, but in the end i don't think i've won my friends over. over drinks one of them told me i'm too pessimistic and negative about the whole thing. why should we care about the naysayers?

is he right? i don't know. let's find out. in the next few days i'll post the written version of the talk here. stay tuned.

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