Hi! I’m Kasra.

💻 I build product at Asana to help teams collaborate more effectively.

📝 I share about my life and thoughts at Bits of Wonder as well as this site.

🎙 I'm organizing open conversations on all kinds of personal and intellectual topics.

🧠 I also try to spend my time learning about various things including the brain, knowledge, and math.

Solving the hard problem of consciousness with metaphysics

The idea that the hard problem can be solved with metaphysics has been gelling in my mind for quite a while now. There are three threads I’m exploring that are all landing in the same place. First, there’s Bernardo Kastrup’s work. In his theory of analytical idealism, reality is ultimately made of a single, primitive, instinctive mind, and this mind dissociates into a bunch of more complex minds (these are the individual conscious beings that we’re familiar with)....

January 12, 2022

Pausing in the midst of excitement

I recently thought of a meditation prompt that is fitting in moments of excitement, and potentially in other situations too. Sometimes when I feel really excited about good things going on in my life, it’s hard to meditate.¹ I can spend my entire 20-minute session just thinking about all the good things happening, the things I’m looking forward to doing, or the people I enjoy interacting with. While on some level it’s fine to spend 20 minutes thinking good thoughts, meditating like this is unhealthy because you’re distracted the entire time....

January 3, 2022

Questions to ask in the midst of a setback

About a month ago I experienced a setback. It was of the variety trying really hard to make outcome X happen and then not having it happen – not a huge deal, but still upsetting in the moment. I wrote down this list of thoughts and questions that helped me quite a bit. Isn’t this a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how awesome you are at taking setbacks, rolling with the punches, plodding on?...

December 29, 2021

Microscopes, vision, and nebulosity

I was playing around with a handheld microscope recently and I felt like it gave me an intuitive picture of Chapman’s nebulosity idea.¹ The first thing that became obvious is how much grainier reality is than our day-to-day experience suggests. When I write on my notebook with a pen, it feels like the edges of my pen’s ink and the shapes of the letters are pretty well-defined. But upon closer look, that’s not true:...

December 28, 2021

In praise of unconscious subroutines

There’s a certain class of bodily actions that I feel especially grateful for, and that I’ve been noticing more and more recently. I’ll call them unconscious subroutines—little functions, procedures, or actions that your brain and body carry out with next to no involvement from your conscious self. I’m not talking about totally unconscious behaviors like your heartbeat, or the defenses of your immune system, although those are cool too. I’m talking about behaviors that are sort of at the boundary of the conscious and unconscious....

December 25, 2021

Do we experience anything directly?

Observation is theory-laden One of Deutsch and Popper’s oft-quoted phrases is that ‘observation is theory laden’.¹ This is a revelatory point about the nature of science: no statement that we can utter, or observation that we can record, is a pure observation statement, completely divorced of all theory. A statement like ‘there is a table over there’ assumes a whole collection of theories about tables, spatial positioning, and existence. Even a more hard-nosed statement like ‘a copper atom weighs 63....

November 28, 2021

On whether brains are embodied

This is an outgrowth of A first pass at David Chapman’s metarationality. In Abstract Reasoning as Emergent from Concrete Activity, David Chapman quotes a summary article about the “E-approaches” in the cognitive sciences: E-approaches propose that cognition depends on embodied engagements in the world. They rethink the alternative, ‘sandwich’ view of cognition as something pure that can be logically isolated from non-neural activity. Traditionally, cognition is imagined to occur wholly within the brain....

November 13, 2021

A first pass at David Chapman's metarationality

[The philosophical meat of this article is under the section “Current threads and questions”. Feel free to skip to that.] This tweet has had a big impact on my life: 🧵 Trying to Figure Out Where @DavidDeutschOxf's Critical Rationalism and @Meaningness's Meta-rationality Disagree (for the very small niche of people that find this interesting) — Jake Orthwein (@JakeOrthwein) April 24, 2021 When I stumbled upon it, I had spent about a year being deeply entrenched in the philosophical worldviews of critical rationalism, espoused by the physicist David Deutsch (which he had inherited from the philosopher Karl Popper)....

November 13, 2021

Are there contradictions in reality?

When I was reading The Beginning of Infinity, one of the passages that stood out to me was about contradictions (emphasis mine): Since theories can contradict each other, but there are no contradictions in reality, every problem signals that our knowledge must be flawed or inadequate. Our misconception could be about the reality we are observing or about how our perceptions are related to it, or both. (18) There are no contradictions in reality....

September 23, 2021

Addenda to consciousness post

I recently published a substack post on consciousness and am using this to write a few extra notes that I excluded from the article for brevity. My goal with the article was to take the reader on a kind of explanatory journey, which meant that I had to take certain intellectual shortcuts and brush over some nuances. Examples: I start the piece with a materialist paradigm in which it’s “obvious” that chairs and atoms are not conscious....

August 11, 2021