< Home < Blog

Welcome to The Interval

by: Samarth Bansal | 11 December, 2021

Hi there, this is Samarth, and I am writing to announce my new project. It’s called The Interval, a fortnightly newsletter to think deeply about the truth-seeking process and forces that distort it.

Let me explain.

Six years of professional journalism has taught me how hard it is to learn about the world. It’s not easy to separate fact from fiction. It’s not easy to know why something happened. It’s not easy to interpret the past, explain the present, and predict the future.

It’s hard, it’s challenging, but there is a way — there is a process. We all can learn that process, and get better at it.

Some people prefer simple truths. Tidy explanations with no loose ends. That is easy: downplay complexity and believe what you see and experience as the ultimate reality. It may offer intellectual comfort and reduce cognitive burden. But that does not guarantee you are getting things right. In fact, it can systematically distort your worldview.

I try hard to not fall for that trap.

But even those who recognise this complexity and want to navigate it, don’t always succeed—myself included. They can’t resist the urge for simple and “obvious” explanations. They can narrate a neat story, a beautiful story, but it’s often the wrong story.

In itself, the urge to explain is not a problem, Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner write in the book Superforecasting. The problem, they say, is the speed: we go too fast from a state of confusion and uncertainty to a clear and confident conclusion without spending enough time in between.

This newsletter will do just the opposite. It will spend most of its time in the “between” phase — in that Interval.

Every other Saturday, through a reported story or analysis, I will investigate the methods used to learn about the world, the professionals who mediate knowledge, and the mediums which bring us information. Understanding this system — and those who abuse it — can make us better citizens and smarter consumers.

The stories will span wide-ranging subjects: science and statistics, media and technology, politics and bureaucracy. What will unite them — the central theme of this newsletter — is a question: How do we know what we know?

The Interval’s ideal reader is smart and curious, sceptical but not cynical.

Our fractured society needs solid foundations for establishing shared truths. This newsletter is dedicated to that mission. I spend a lot of time thinking about this process, and I am excited to share what I have learnt with you — and learn from you. Please join me.