The Symposium is a Saturday of lectures and conversations in a barn that I co-host up at Smoke Farm, a retired family dairy farm about an hour north of Seattle. Our speakers over the years have ranged across a huge variety of topics—neuroscience, architecture, activism, prisons, climate change, economics, death, psychedelics, theater, philosophy—and the day always ends with a big communal dinner by a notable Seattle chef.
Our sixth Symposium is next weekend—there are only a few tickets left and you can get them here. Once they're gone, they're gone.
This year's chef is Monica Dimas (formerly of Monsoon, Spinasse, Le Pichet, and many others, currently of MKT) and the presenters will be:
Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh “The Plants Are Restless—What Are They Thinking?”
Dr. Van Volkenburgh is a longtime professor of biology at the University of Washington and president of the Society for Plant Signaling and Behavior (originally called Plant Neurobiology), whose work was recently covered in a Michael Pollan article in the New Yorker. Her research focuses on the physiological regulation of leaf expansion and plant behavior, particularly in response to environmental stressors.
Blaise Aguera y Arcas “Time to Ring Some Changes: Machine Intelligence, Economic Dignity, and Gender”
Blaise Aguera y Arcas recently began working on machine intelligence at Google after seven years at Microsoft in roles from inventor to strategist. Aguera y Arcas has worked in a variety of fields from computational neuroscience (on which he collaborated with his wife Adrienne Fairhall) and applied mathematics. He has given several talks at the TED conference and his work on early printing (with Paul Needham of Princeton) was the subject of the BBC documentary What Did Gutenberg Invent?
Sasha Lilley “Great Chaos Under Heaven: Catastrophism and the Left”
Sasha Lilley is a writer and radio broadcaster, the co-founder and host of the critically acclaimed radio program of radical ideas Against the Grain, the series editor of PM Press’s political economy imprint Spectre, the author of Capital and Its Discontents, and the co-author of Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth.
John Douglas Macready “The Symbolic Self and the Dialectic of Fashion”
John Douglas Macready is a Ph.D candidate and teaches philosophy at the University of Dallas. His work focuses on critical issues in social and political philosophy from human dignity and mass incarceration (he’s currently working on a dissertation about the problem of human dignity in Hannah Arendt’s political philosophy) to film and fashion. His articles include “A Difficult Redemption: Facing the Other in Woody Allen’s Exilic Period” and, most recently, “Emancipating the Carceral Subject: A Propaedeutic to an Integrated Prison Pedagogy.”
Charles Mudede “Adventures with Thomas Piketty”
Charles Tonderai Mudede is a Zimbabwean-born film critic, filmmaker, and writer for The Stranger. Mudede collaborated with director Robinson Devor on two films, Police Beat and Zoo, both of which premiered at Sundance. (Zoo was also screened at Cannes.) Mudede has contributed to the New York Times, LA Weekly, Village Voice, Black Souls Journal, C Theory, Cinema Scope, and is on the editorial board for the Arcade Journal and Black Scholar.
Christoph Gielen “Ciphers: Decoding the Growth Machine”
Christoph Gielen is a German-born photographer who specializes in aerial studies of development in relation to land use (including suburbs, prisons, and other kinds of sprawl), exploring the intersection of art and environmental politics. Gielen’s award-winning work and articles about him have appeared in the New York Times, CNN World, and Lapham’s Quarterly, and have also been featured on program platforms such as the BMW Guggenheim Lab, the PBS NewsHour, and Space+Place.