My Five Main Areas of Focus

Jack Krupansky
May 5, 2018 · 9 min read

I have a lot of interests and write about a lot of topics, but there are five areas which capture the bulk of my attention. I get distracted easily by other topic areas, but these are the five I keep coming back to after I dispense with any distractions, with no specific priority:

  1. Quantum mechanics and quantum computing.
  2. Artificial intelligence (AI).
  3. Mental health and mental illness.
  4. American values and social divides.
  5. Foreign policy, security, defense, and democracy promotion.

I have plenty of other interests as well, as listed below, but these five are my highest priorities.

There are also a number of areas in which I have a distinct lack of interest.

This informal paper also links to a few of the informal papers that I have written in each of these areas.

Reading, researching, and writing

I lump together the three categorically distinct activities of reading, researching, and writing.

My goal is to write, but that requires deep knowledge of what I write about, which requires research, which requires reading.

So any area that is of interest to me involves those three activities.

Clearly they are distinct activities, but I tend to bounce around between them as if they were one super-activity.

I’ll probably never know all there is to know about any topic area, so I always expect that I will go back to do further research and further reading as new material, new ideas, and new ways of thinking about things come to me. And when I do learn more, I’ll write more.

Conceptualizing and expressing

I have a passion for working with ideas. Hands-on action doesn’t really interest me. It’s the ideas themselves that get me excited.

Much of the focus of my time is working with raw ideas and massaging them until I am able to conceptualize them in what seems a coherent, complete, and consistent manner.

Once I’ve managed to conceptualize a topic, then I turn to expressing it, the writing.

It’s not my thing to persuade people and sell them on why they should accept my conceptualization. My job is to clearly express myself. Whether people accept what I have to say is of no real interest to me. It’s everyone’s right to accept or reject ideas as they deem fit. I won’t do anything that might interfere with that right of theirs.

I’m all for sharing my thoughts, but sharing is categorically distinct from pitching, selling, persuading, cajoling, demanding, and all of that, which I distinctly and passionately seek to avoid.

Clear expression is the end of the line for me.

Except that new information or new thoughts can kick off another round of researching, reading, and writing for me. Rinse and repeat.

It’s the thought that counts

Seriously, I’m much more into the ideas than whether they ever see the light of day or find realization in the real world.

I’m all about the ideas. Period.

The writing merely helps me clarify the ideas, and to clear them out of my head so that I can move on to even more interesting and more challenging areas of pursuit.

I’m all for sharing my thoughts with others, which is what the writing accomplishes, but it’s the underlying thinking itself that drives my interests.

Quantum mechanics and quantum computing

Quantum computing is my main long-term topic of interest, but understanding it deeply and comprehending its capabilities and limitations requires a firm grasp of the underlying science and math of quantum mechanics.

Besides that, quantum mechanics is the underlying foundation for everything else, including the other branches of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, cosmology, etc.

I still don’t have a “What is Quantum Computing?” paper or tutorial, but one good place to start on issues we face is:

Much of my writing focuses on issues that we face in this field.

The following paper provides a full list, in reverse chronological order (most recent first) of my writing in this area:

I’m nowhere near close to writing in any depth about quantum computing proper. It’s still a nascent field, still chock full of vague and even bizarre jargon, and still plagued by hyperbole and fantastic promises, mostly unfulfilled. But all of that makes it an ideal area for me to read, research, and write.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot, popular topic these days, but most of that focus is on what is more properly termed as weak AI, while my main interests lie in so-called strong AI, which is focused on higher-order intellectual activity, which is far beyond what AI systems are capable of today.

Some papers I’ve written:

Mental health and mental illness

Mental health problems are a key driver of a lot of bad behavior and dysfunction in society, including:

  1. Antisocial behavior.
  2. Severe, debilitating mental illness.
  3. Domestic abuse.
  4. Crime.
  5. Substance abuse.
  6. Radicalization and terrorism.
  7. Gun violence.
  8. Gangs.
  9. PTSD.
  10. Gambling.
  11. Other forms of behavioral addiction.
  12. Postpartum depression.

Not all mental health problems rise to the level of a clinically diagnosable mental disorder.

Even the concept of normal mental health encompasses a very wide spectrum of function and modest to moderate dysfunction.

So, there are six main areas of interest:

  1. How to help those with severe mental illness.
  2. How to help those with mild to moderate mental illness.
  3. How to help those with mental health problems which do not rise to the level of a clinically diagnosable mental disorder.
  4. How to enable even relatively normal individuals to enhance their mental health above and well beyond the basic minimums for what is considered normal.
  5. Understanding and coping with the downstream effects of mental illness, including substance use and crime.
  6. Addressing addictions overall.

Paper I’ve written:

American values and social divides

People talk about American values a lot, but what are they really?

And how do we cope with the simple fact that not all individuals and groups share the same values.

A few of the papers I’ve written:

Foreign policy, security, defense, and democracy promotion

How do nations get along together harmoniously in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world?

Topic areas include:

  1. International relations.
  2. Geopolitical factors. And actors.
  3. Diplomacy.
  4. Defense.
  5. Military.
  6. Terrorism and counterterrorism.
  7. Intelligence.
  8. Related technology.
  9. Liberal world order and related international institutions.
  10. International finance and related institutions.
  11. Democracy promotion.
  12. Democratization.
  13. Regime change.
  14. Human rights.
  15. Nuclear weapons and nonproliferation.
  16. Civil society and related organizations and actors.

Some specific areas of interest include:

  1. Current geopolitical events in general.
  2. Relations with Russia, in general.
  3. Syria. What will Russia do next? What should the U.S. and Europe do next? What role(s) will Iran and the Gulf States play?
  4. Ukraine. Ditto.
  5. Egypt. What next now that virtually all protest is banned?
  6. Tunisia. Best of the Arab Spring is really struggling with both economics and governance.
  7. ISIS. Where will it pop up next, and in what form?

A few of the papers I’ve written:

Other areas of interest

Besides my five main areas of focus, I have many other areas of interest, including but not limited to:

  1. Bitcoin and other crypto, virtual, and digital currencies.
  2. Blockchain technology.
  3. Cybersecurity.
  4. Rockets and space exploration.
  5. Cosmology, especially origin, evolution, scope, end, and nature of the universe. Including black holes and planet formation.
  6. Physics.
  7. Energy sources.
  8. Political science and politics.
  9. Government policy.
  10. Social policy.
  11. Economics. Macro, finance, monetary policy.
  12. Access to opportunity.
  13. Human rights. Natural, constitutional, civil, and other categorizations of rights.
  14. Philosophy.
  15. History. For the lessons, not the stories, but sometimes the stories do have some appeal.
  16. Neuroscience.
  17. Psychology.
  18. Science in general. Hard science, not social science.
  19. Systems thinking. Complexity, complex adaptive systems, and the like.
  20. Data science.
  21. Database technology.
  22. Role of the media in society.
  23. Civil society.
  24. Venture capital. Entrepreneurialism. Startups.
  25. Innovation.
  26. Change.
  27. Early man. His nature and evolution. How similar or dissimilar are we?
  28. Virtual travel.
  29. Global warming and climate change.
  30. Work. It’s nature. Availability. It’s Future.
  31. Euthanasia.
  32. Resilience.
  33. Reconciliation.
  34. Nutrition.
  35. DNA.

Some papers outside my five main areas of interest:

Cybersecurity:

Physics:

Complexity and systems theory:

Database technology:

Work:

Venture capital:

Global warming and climate change:

Philosophy:

Social policy:

Role of the media in society:

Some other interesting papers:

Areas of non-interest

Yes, there are areas in which I have very little if any interest.

To oversimplify, this list of areas of non-interest corresponds roughly to the sections of the New York Times Sunday edition which I would pull out and discard back in the days when I actual read newspapers, which I no longer do. If memory serves me, these were:

  • Arts
  • Fashion
  • Style
  • Sports
  • Automotive
  • Classified
  • Education
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Movies
  • Obituaries
  • Real estate
  • Television
  • Theater
  • Travel
  • Health

Some other areas of non-interest:

  • Religion.
  • Hobbies. In general.
  • Reading. Of popular books. Although I did always enjoy the NY Times Book Review for its summaries.
  • Leisure activities. In general.
  • Gardening. Landscaping, etc.
  • Home.
  • Community. The world is my community; I have little interest in local affairs.

Am I a polymath?

No, I am not a true polymath — that would require deep knowledge in many areas, while I merely have a lot of areas of interest and a relatively few of any significant interest, let alone deep knowledge.

At best, I’m a mere fraction of a polymath. A small fraction at that.

Or, in the vernacular of today, I could be considered a Fake polymath.

Student of phenomena

As a general proposition, I can easily get distracted and interested in any phenomenon that seems difficult to understand and that can use my analytic skills to inquire into its nature.

My particular interests in such areas are:

  1. Definitions of terms. Too often they are too vague, imprecise, and ambiguous to be of much real value.
  2. Elements. As with definitions, the components, qualities, and characteristics of phenomena are too frequently weakly defined.
  3. Nature. The overall and general aspects of phenomena are frequently poorly understood.

Other

I’m always open to consideration of fresh, new areas which I haven’t encountered or focused on previously.

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