Introducing Between the Cracks

Exploring the surprisingly general, and the generally surprising

Hello and welcome!

I'm on a mission to understand how the world actually works. And I'm committing to sharing my learnings here, once per week.

Between the cracks is the vessel into which I'll pour lashings of interdisciplinary ideas, which don't quite fit within any neatly-defined box.

I'll dig into ideas which translate across different domains - the kinds of ideas that fall between the cracks in the rigid models of academia we've learned from school.

In this vein you can expect to read:

  • George Soros' theory of everything

  • Virtual Insecurity - or why some social networks make your more anxious than others

I'll explore what I call real industries: areas of business where, if you subtract away all the shiny marketing and sales-speak, tangible problems are actually being solved, cheaper, faster, better.

To this end, I'll cover topics including:

  • Nuclear container ships - what they are and why we need them

  • Biotech's engine room - the multi-billion dollar industry you've never heard of

And I'll investigate one of my personal mottos: ask not what atoms can do for bits; ask what bits can do for atoms. This newsletter will look at the ways new technology is improving our material world.

On this note, I'll riff on things like:

  • world's apart - why London and the South is so much more productive than the rest of the UK

  • Ice - the coolest business you've never heard of

Finally, I'll operate on a principle of minimum viable novelty. Life is short and so is your attention. I'm not going to bore you. The ideas in this newsletter will hang on the frame of these themes, but their interestingness will stand alone.

I might also smuggle in a book review here or there too.

I'm on the hunt for ideas which are surprisingly general, or generally surprising.

Thanks for joining me - let's begin.


Readers FAQ:

Why 'Between the cracks'?

I'm exploring ideas which have fallen between the cracks in the rigid model of academia, with its arbitrary compartmentalisation of subjects. Knowing facts counts for little - its the connections you make between them that count. Between the cracks is a collection of connections between ideas from different disciplines - if you've spotted a good one let me know.

Why should I subscribe?

You should subscribe if you:

  • give a shit about how the world actually works

  • appreciate ideas which don't fit neatly into well-defined academic boxes

  • like careening through idea-space without a map, navigating only by the landmarks you find along the way

About your host:

I'm a Third Culture Kid, born on the cusp of the millenial/gen-Z divide, and I’ve been blindly stumbling through idea mazes my whole life.

The biggest decision I ever made was picking between maths and english in high school (maths). I always wanted to study everything. I chose natural sciences at university because I couldn't devote myself to any one subject; I ended up studying a mix of theoretical physics, applied mathematics, and climate science.

It isn't enough to study diverse ideas, you must also experience them. I try to practice what I preach. To this end, I've done a lot of random shit: from machine learning at a fintech startup, to running customer services in an alpine hotel.

Right now I'm working in corporate strategy by day, and hatching plans by night.

You’ve got to explore before you can exploit. This newsletter is an attempt to exploit some of my intellectual exploration. Maybe it’ll explore some professional exploits too.

Why a newsletter?

I want to publish more regularly, and a newsletter will force me into a groove. I've kept a blog for a year which has been great, but there's a lot of psychic friction in pushing out posts. The newsletter will be less about polished essays and more about sharing ideas, even if they're only partially baked (at best).

Blogs are nice because they're discoverable - sometimes I get emails from random people who I wouldn't have known existed if not for writing online. But my blog feels sterile. This is partially my fault: I'm reticent to publish much personal information or incomplete ideas. But it's also due to the medium itself.

I can't expect readers who discover xsrus from Google to have the background to understand every post. If I want to be understood (I do), I therefore must spend time elaborating on this background. This is great practice for clear communication, but poor practice for original thinking. I'd rather explore new ideas than explain old ones.

I'd also like to interact more with the people who read my writing (that's you, reader), and a newsletter is the best way to do this.

A newsletter still has friction associated with it - only people who are at least marginally interested in me or my writing will sign up. But this audience restriction hijacks my brain, making it easier to write more colloquially and publish more personal ideas.

Publishing a newsletter feels like talking to my friends, whereas publishing a blog post feels like giving a speech.

The more public-facing writing is, the more sanitised it will be. And the more sanitised it is, the less surprising it will be. I hope that by deliberately having worse literary hygiene than the blog, this newsletter will generally be more surprising.

I will still publish to the blog, but probably less often. The blog will become more about increasing the quality of my thinking and writing. This newsletter is a way of bootstrapping idea throughput - increasing the quantity of ideas I share with the world.

The blog will become a vehicle for persuasive essays, while this newsletter will (hopefully) become a vehicle for generative, shorter posts.

Besides the ideas, what's the point?

My motivation isn't anything like colonising mars or solving climate change (though both would be nice), but just to develop a unique worldview. I write to think.

To do anything ambitious you have to start small. Starting a blog was the first step on this road. One year on, I want to take the next step.