The enviable life of a public intellectual

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The public intellectual is a role I have grown to admire. The most compelling examples whom I follow are Tyler Cowen and Maria Popova – the former fits the mould of intellectuals of the past while the latter stands distinctly without peers.

Tyler Cowen is an economist by trade but he is known for his quizzically curious mind. He runs a blog called Marginal Revolution in which he shares interesting thoughts and links multiple times a day. It works for him as an Economist, everything is relevant given how widely the economic field stretches. Considering that he spends his time reading and thinking about things that interest him, I feel like he struck gold in terms of how he is making a living.

He also runs a compelling podcast called Conversations with Tyler which flips the script compared to contemporary podcasts of the day. Cowen states that these podcasts are the conversations he himself wants to have with his guests, and he happens to record them for all of our benefits. He is not driven to optimise each podcast for any financial incentive, and I just love it. His position as an economist and generally a widely-read human puts him in the enviable position of having a breadth of knowledge such that he presents as a great foil for his guests. I imagine Cowen being the type of person to do the things that he his doing know even if he no longer made any money from it.

If Tyler Cowen’s day job allows him to travel the breadth of the human experience, Maria Popova spends her days uncovering the depths of life. Popova’s focus is on mostly literature, but spans across art, science, and technology on occasion. She mentions often the blog is purely personal, she writes for herself, she thinks of it as an account of her becoming, a formal response to the days of basically full-time reading she puts herself through. In her interviews, she maintains her lifestyle is a fairly simple one, aside from doing chores and spending time with friends and family, you can find her reading or writing.

The life of a public intellectual, or in a less pretentious way, someone who thinks for a living is such an enviable one. What more can you ask for than your days filled with the permission to pull on any and every strand of the human experience that tickles your fancy?

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