TODAY'S GUEST Dr. Tobias Rees is CEO of Transformations of the Human School, and was formerly the William Dawson Chair at McGill University and the Reid Hoffman Professor of Humanities at the Parsons School of Design. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and holds degrees in philosophy, anthropology, and neurobiology.


In the early 2010s, he recognized that contemporary technology not only disrupts our historical established ways of thinking and doing, but also creates new ones: radically new possibilities that unfold beyond what we take for granted. This, he believes, is not only a sweeping event in the history of thought, but also a major opportunity; technology itself has become philosophical, and it has become possible to β€œdo” philosophy by building and inventing new technologies.


This led him on a path to building a new institution, dedicated to the interplay of philosophy, art, science, and engineering, and to the way they blur the lines between the human and nonhuman.




In this conversation we talk about:

  • Growing up with no books and few words in a small peasant village in Southern Germany.
  • The importance and uses of silence which stayed with him ever since.
  • How he became interested in philosophy, and the big questions after his grandfather's death.
  • Moving freely from philosophy to comparative religion to anthropology and art history.
  • The happy accident that led him to studying neurobiology and learning to see himself as a brain.
  • The importance of concepts in framing our day-to-day experience.
  • What do terms like human and humanity mean? When were they introduced? How did they evolve?
  • What is the relationship between nature, humans, and machines?
  • His work with some of the largest technology companies who are building a future to bring philosophy and art into the room.
  • Where does creativity lie with AI algorithms like DALLΒ·E 2?
  • And the need to always reexamine our assumptions about the world and our values. 


This conversation with Tobias is one of many weekly conversations we already have lined up for you with thinkers, designers, authors, makers, activists, and leaders who are working to change our world for the better. So follow this podcast on your favorite podcast app, or head over to to subscribe.


And now let’s jump right in, with Dr. Tobias Rees.




[5:18] Life in the Present

[7:00] Early Childhood Silence

[13:44] An Educational Journey 

[22:49] The Importance of Concepts

[32:04] A Period of Growth and Sadness

[40:47] An Opening of Doors

[44:55] The Term 'Human'

[56:12] Anthropology of Machines

[1:11:35] Merging Philosophy with Engineering

[1:17:55] A Short Sermon