Cohort III Application Open

The basics

We're excited to offer the third iteration of ToftH School, a ten-month program running from September 2023 to June 2024.

Admitted candidates are expected to live in the San Francisco Bay Area throughout the duration of the program, which is free to attend and comes with need-based assistance in the form of stipend funds (up to $50,000). Upon successful completion of the program, select candidates may have the opportunity to work with ToftH and partnering clients or build new products and start new companies with the support of ToftH’s network.

The application

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  • Application opens on March 1
  • ⁠International applications close May 1 (for visa purposes) 
  • US applications close June 1
  • Candidates will be admitted on a rolling basis, starting in April, with final decisions made by July 15
  • Cohort III begins in September (exact date TBD)

For questions, please contact

The ambition

ToftH School is designed to bring into existence a new practice we call Doing Philosophy, located at the intersection of philosophical (conceptual) research, art practice, and technology.

The idea

Many of the concepts that we humans live by, that structure our day-to-day lives and our experience of reality, have come to fail us. Take the human. The modern concept of the human that emerged in Europe in the 17th-century was grounded in two differentiations. On the one hand, humans were said to be more than ‘mere’ nature (more than animals or plants), and on the other, they were said to be different from machines (mechanism). The outcome of these differentiations was an experience of reality composed of three separate, mutually exclusive realms: human things, natural things, and technical or artificial things.

It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of ‘the human’ for the modern world: To this day, the distinction between human, nature, and technology organizes our comprehension of reality. And to this day, it defines our educational institutions: Our universities have a faculty of art (the human), of science (nature), and of engineering (machines).

However, we all know from experience that these distinctions have become insufficient. Technology has enabled knowledge (from the microbiome to biogeochemistry) and has created possibilities for building things (from AI to neurotechnology or synthetic biology) that unfold far beyond the neat distinction between human, nature, and technology.

To us at ToftH, this ‘beyond’ is incredibly exciting and liberating. Call it the power of technology to create the philosophically new. Call it the becoming philosophical of technology itself. Realizing this novel power of technology requires a novel approach: to practice technology in order to probe its potential to break with the old and enable the new.

At present, who attends to and understands technology as an experimental, philosophical laboratory in which new possibilities of thinking, doing, and experiencing are elaborated? Can we build technology in terms of its full philosophical stakes and potential? Is it possible to learn how to build objects/experiences with a philosophical agency? Can we build technologies – or launch a company – because we wish to disrupt old concepts that continue to structure our lives?

This is the practice of Doing Philosophy.

The goals

The world has outgrown the comprehension of reality encoded in the 19th-century disciplines that still organize most universities. We conclude that what is most needed now is a whole new, post-disciplinary approach, one focused on the difference today makes: on the ways in which technology disrupts the old and has the power to enable new realities/possibilities.

By definition, this new approach has to be experimental: to come to terms with the new/different requires a playful engagement beyond the already thought and known. Our curriculum is designed to equip students with the know-how for these experiments. Students who attend ToftH School learn to:

Identify concepts we live by: discover where these concepts come from/how they came to structure our thinking/experiencing; understand what their disruption actually means.

Invent new concepts: concepts that capture the new realities, bring them into view (as opportunities), and make them navigable (without necessarily limiting what is possible).

Build technology with a philosophical agency: build technologies that, like works of art, offer new philosophies/concepts that can change how we live.

The modules

Our curriculum is organized into five modules. 

  1. ⁠What are concepts?
    ⁠We discuss the idea and purpose of the curriculum, zooming in on what concepts are, what conceptual thinking is, and why it matters.
  2. Human, Nature, Technology 
    We trace the history of some of the most fundamental concepts that have framed modern life, chief among them human, nature, and technology – though we also explore the conceptual and practical histories of politics, society, and truth, among others.
  3. Philosophical labs (seeing the abstract in the concrete)
    ⁠We embark on a series of philosophical labs: Technologists, artists, and other guests introduce us to their work. We visit technology labs and artist studios alike. The goal is to see how the conceptual histories we traced inform the contemporary  – and to discover how contemporary technologies disrupt and/or mutate these concepts/conceptual spaces and thereby create something new/different. In other words, we undifferentiate philosophy, art, and technology from one another.
  4. Exposure to practice
    ⁠Students join ongoing research projects at ToftH Research Corporation (TRC), embedding with leading technology companies to learn how to Do Philosophy: how to make concepts visible to technologists and how to elaborate, in a tech environment, the possibility of building technology with a philosophical agency.
  5. Final project
    ⁠In the final module students are asked to invent a project of their own or in teams. This could be a proposal for a project with an existing company, or a business plan for something entirely new/different.

The who

Who should attend ToftH School? People who wish to learn how to practice technology as an experimental philosophy. People with deep disciplinary skills who are struck by the experience that the philosophical questions their work generates cannot be addressed in terms of their discipline. People who feel constrained and inhibited by the limits of what is and who wish to invent new realities. Applicants should be comfortable exposing themselves to uncertainty, experimenting outside their disciplinary comfort zones, and trying out hands-on opportunities to collaborate in teams.

World-class faculty

Across all modules, students are accompanied by ToftH staff researchers as well as a world-class external faculty including Blaise Agüera y Arcas, Eoin Brodie, Hans-Peter Brondmo, Brian Cantwell-Smith, Ben Casnocha, Ian Cheng, Jack Clark, James Currier, Antonio Damasio, Simon Denny, Stephanie Dinkins, George Dyson, Drew Endy, Nick Foster, Karen Guillemin, Reid Hoffman, Elaine Hsiao, Yuk Hui, Pierre Huyghe, Yann LeCun, Percy Liang, Sarkiz Mazmanian, Margaret McFall-Ngai, Hartmut Neven, Peter Norvig, Ben Vickers, Liping Zhao, and Andrew Zuckerman, among others.

ToftH co-founders

Tobias Rees, Executive Chairman of ToftH; CEO of ToftH Research Corporation.
Kim Newman, Executive Director of ToftH

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