This essay by writer and programmer Paul Ford is much shorter than a typical longread, yet very thoughtful. I’ve always enjoyed Ford’s writing, and here he argues that interdisciplinary life and learning, even and especially in this time of artificial intelligence, is worth pursuing.

When stuff gets out of hand, we don’t open disciplinary borders. We craft new disciplines: digital humanities, human geography, and yes, computer science (note that “science” glued to the end, to differentiate it from mere “engineering”). In time, these great new territories get their own boundaries, their own defenders. The interdisciplinarian is essentially an exile. Someone who respects no borders enjoys no citizenship.

All you have to do is look at a tree—any tree will do—to see how badly our disciplines serve us. Evolutionary theory, botany, geography, physics, hydrology, countless poems, paintings, essays, and stories—all trying to make sense of the tree. We need them all, the whole fragile, interdependent ecosystem. No one has got it right yet.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.