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Robert MacLachlan

Robert MacLachlan All my life I've been interested in understanding the scientific principles behind and the engineering explanations for the things I see around me. I've been reading general science magazines for almost 40 years, and I am always delighted to discover why something is the way it is. For the first half of my life my interests were primarily in the areas of applied physics, technology, biology and physiology. I worked happily for about ten years on programming languages and environments. When this started to pale I returned to my childhood interest and remade myself as an electrical engineer.

As a young adult I was interested in cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence, and these strongly shaped my ideas about the human condition. During this time I began to appreciate my emotional life and to value traditional (non-cognitive or personality) psychology. This was due to my struggles with meaninglessness and depression. I also came to appreciate sociology and anthropology out of my struggles to overcome my nerdish social isolation and cluelessness.

I've long been fascinated with evolution because of how it allowed me to apply my engineering and physical knowledge to understanding why the biological world is the way it is (via the design stance). I read almost everything that Stephen Jay Gould wrote and I was fairly comfortable with his worldview.

What kicked off the Human Condition project was the recent convergence between my abstract understanding of psychological and social evolution with my gradually growing self-understanding. I suddenly appreciated that the evolutionary psychologists were talking about why I feel the way that I do and the social psychologists were talking about my social world.

In my journal I began to speculate wildly about the human condition, then I started to read books and analyze them. I found both that most of my ideas weren't new, and also that (so far) nobody has put it all together the way that I did. I began to think that I might have something important and original to say, and thought of writing a book. But as I went on the scope clearly began to grow way beyond a single book. This was forcefully pointed out when I read The Happiness Hypothesis, which tells a story of the human condition with vast scope that I agree with 95%. After finishing I felt at first that perhaps someone had already written the book I wanted to write, but clearly there was a lot more to say—it was lacking both in breadth and depth.

My journal writing and book reviews morphed into notes for a book project, and then into this wiki. This evolutionary history is particularly apparent in some of the early book reviews that keep going off on speculative tangents and don't cover the book in any comprehensive way. When I started learning about wikis I was mainly looking for a platform-independent web-authoring tool, but the tool led me to start thinking about how what had started as personal exploration could be recast as collaborative project.

In 2009 I got absorbed in a fiction-writing project that has turned into a novel (1000 pages and counting.) My novel is an unexpected outgrowth of my interest in Evolutionary Psychology, Cultural Evolution and Personality. The wiki gathered dust for over a year, then I decided to take it online, and have been working on it again on and off.

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wiki/user/ram/0home.txt · Last modified: 2013/05/07 16:34 by ram