Welcome! I’m Iain Watts. I write, I code, and I think about technology, science, society, and history.
I’ve spent most of the past decade in two worlds: academia and the tech industry. These days I’m plying my trade as a Python programmer and web developer, and working on a book about how people did science 200 years ago. Before that, I taught STS (‘Science, Technology, and Society’) and European History at a Liberal Arts College, and before that, I did a PhD in Princeton University’s History of Science program, where I wrote a dissertation on how people doing science during the Napoleonic Wars shared information with one another. Along the way, I also wrote a couple of award-winning journal articles, and got hooked on thinking about the relationship between past modes of communication and the way we share information today.
I believe that people who work with and create technology have a duty to be socially conscious: that they should reflect on the shape and consequences of the future world they are building and raise awareness about the complex questions technology poses. I’ve taught students about how the Internet works, how algorithms shape their lives and why that can be a problem, and why they should care about data privacy. I’ve also written my own share of code as well. I’m particularly interested in: Digital Humanities, free/open source software, Open Access, Creative Commons and the history of copyright, and dreaming about how technology could be more inclusive and open so that it can become the common property of everyone.
In short, I’m curious about everything to do with information, computing, science, history, and the way they shape society and how people live. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you share any or all of this unusual constellation of interests.
I live in Seattle, Washington, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where I’m a software engineer on the search algorithm team at Rover.com. I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, then was a physics and mathematics undergraduate at the University of Cambridge, where I briefly toyed with becoming a string theorist while simultaneously reading a lot of books about the 19th century. After that I worked at a tech startup writing low level networking code, before moving to the US in 2009 and embarking on my PhD in Princeton’s history department, which I finished up in August 2015.