The Gradient
The Gradient: Perspectives on AI
Linus Lee: At the Boundary of Machine and Mind

Linus Lee: At the Boundary of Machine and Mind

On language, notation, better tools and mediums for thought

In episode 56 of The Gradient Podcast, Daniel Bashir speaks to Linus Lee.

Linus is an independent researcher interested in the future of knowledge representation and creative work aided by machine understanding of language. He builds interfaces and knowledge tools that expand the domain of thoughts we can think and qualia we can feel. Linus has been writing online since 2014–his blog boasts half a million words–and has built well over 100 side projects. He has also spent time as a software engineer at Replit, Hack Club, and Spensa, and was most recently a Researcher in Residence at Betaworks in New York. 

Have suggestions for future podcast guests (or other feedback)? Let us know here!

Subscribe to The Gradient Podcast:  Apple Podcasts  | Spotify | Pocket Casts | RSS
Follow The Gradient on Twitter


  • (00:00) Intro

  • (02:00) Linus’s background and interests, vision-language models

  • (07:45) Embodiment and limits for text-image

  • (11:35) Ways of experiencing the world

  • (16:55) Origins of the handle “thesephist”, languages

  • (25:00) Math notation, reading papers

  • (29:20) Operations on ideas

  • (32:45) Overview of Linus’s research and current work

  • (41:30) The Oak and Ink languages, programming languages

  • (49:30) Personal search engines: Monocle and Reverie, what you can learn from personal data

  • (55:55) Web browsers as mediums for thought

  • (1:01:30) This AI Does Not Exist

  • (1:03:05) Knowledge representation and notational intelligence

    • Notation vs language

    • (1:07:00) What notation can/should be

  • (1:16:00) Inventing better notations and expanding human intelligence

  • (1:23:30) Better interfaces between humans and LMs to provide precise control, inefficiency prompt engineering

  • (1:33:00) Inexpressible experiences

  • (1:35:42) Linus’s current work using latent space models

    • (1:40:00) Ideas as things you can hold

  • (1:44:55) Neural nets and cognitive computing

    • (1:49:30) Relation to Hardware Lottery and AI accelerators

  • (1:53:00) Taylor Swift Appreciation Session, mastery and virtuosity

    • (1:59:30) Mastery/virtuosity and interfaces / learning curves

  • (2:03:30) Linus’s stories, the work of fiction

  • (2:09:00) Linus’s thoughts on writing

    • (2:14:20) A piece of writing should be focused

  • (2:16:15) On proving yourself

  • (2:28:00) Outro


The Gradient
The Gradient: Perspectives on AI
Deeply researched, technical interviews with experts thinking about AI and technology. Hosted, recorded, researched, and produced by Daniel Bashir.