The people who use our boards.
The people who use our boards.
David KrakauerPresident of the Santa Fe Institute
Who are you, and what do you do? What do you like to do outside of work?
I am David Krakauer, president and William H. Miller Professor of Complex Systems at the Santa Fe Institute. SFI was founded in 1984 by a group of Nobel laureates and their collaborators as the first research institute dedicated to the analysis of complex systems. My own work is an effort to express mathematically the general principles governing the evolution of intelligence and stupidity on Earth. I confess that whereas nefarious artificial intelligence gets all the press, it is stupidity—both natural and artificial—that frightens me most.
What hardware do you use?
I am a Mac person and have been one for a long time. But I started as a kid with a Commodore Pet, then a Vic 20, C64, and finally an Amiga. Once I started into research in my twenties I worked on Sun Workstations, Silicon Graphics O2s, and NeXTs. At home and work I now use iMacs and MacBooks—more or less all dimensions and chipsets. I rather miss the days when workstations were the scale of small edifices, but a single platform does have its conveniences.
Keyboards. Well, funny you ask. At home an ErgoDox EZ. At work a couple of X-Bows. I move between three different offices, one at home and one on each of our two campuses in the mountains in Santa Fe. My EZ is such an unforgiving taskmaster that I keep it at home, where no one sees my countless typing mistakes. Having said that, it does make my writing deliberative in a rather sensual way and moves my brain around like an impossible puzzle.
I am also somewhat obsessed with analog synthesis, so there are Moogs and Arturia MatrixBrutes lying around. I also love Schiit DACS and amps—any company that is willing to mess with its own brand name and then name its units after Norse gods gets my vote.
I write mostly longhand before typing, and I do so with weighty fountain pens and Iroshizuku ink. A different color for each different kind of idea. This is not an obsessional mental territory I will fully disclose here!
And what software?
I basically live in Emacs and org mode. For analysis I use Mathematica. For collaboration at work it is a mixture of Slack and Overleaf for group editing of LaTeX files. For file sharing and generally keeping track of the text side of projects I use Evernote and Notion. Recently I have been integrating Deft mode in Emacs with Obsidian using shared Markdown files in a Dropbox folder. For music listening I subscribe to Qobuz, which offers high-def and CD-quality audio. For messing around with music I use Ableton.
What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?
Yes, a custom layout that never reaches equilibrium. This is just another way of saying that I do not know or can not imagine what a perfect key map should look like. I confess that I work better when I am a little uncomfortable. I am not interested in a keyboard for efficiency gains. In fact, efficiency is a dirty word in my vocabulary. I like the idea of alternative shapes, geometries, metamorphosis, and hybrids. Nice thing about my EZ is that it reminds of me something Douglas Adams or Iain M. Banks might have dreamed up as a way of messing with our anthropomorphic hubris.
What would be your dream setup?
I like where I am.