Why Firelight?

Last semester, a few friends and I started building a community called Firelight. Firelight is an MIT club of curious people who want to learn/build a lot of stuff outside of just their classes. Last semester, we ran lightning talks where people talked about stuff like the Punic Wars, Infinite Jest, ML interpretability, and seeing the stars.

As I write this blog post, we’re doing a blogathon, a 3 hour crunch where people sit down, brainstorm together and write blog posts! The idea is every 30 minutes you produce something new. I’m excited!

Now you could wonder why I’m doing this. I think a lot of the time it’s easy for the essence of learning and creating to be grinded away by the onslaught of problem sets, random club, and exams at a place like MIT. Moreover, I firmly believe that the process of independently coming up with ideas and activities and then setting them in motion is an important skill that people don’t really use in these frames. Some people might say Firelight is not well-defined, and they’d have a point, but that’s also why we’re doing this.

We want people to define things for themselves, and we want to give them a community and other interested people to do it with. Sure, today we ran a blogathon, but tomorrow it might be a reading group about esoteric programming languages or computer systems. The whole point is that anyone can come in, say “I want to learn or build X” and then get other people who are also curious about it.

I think there’s always a compromise to be made between legibility and the intrinsic value you take away from what you do. If you’re just optimizing for legibility, you can go work at Jane Street, take hard classes and do great, but you won’t ever really be forced to think too hard in open contexts unless you go deep into research (it seems that in a lot of cases undergrad research doesn’t mean you’re really forced to come up with stuff).

Firelight is us saying well you know what, let’s create a space for cool, kind of illegible, kind of wacky projects and ideas. And let’s see what happens! It might fail terribly, it might not, but I’m pretty excited either way, because I’m not here to have something to show at the end, I’m here to learn a lot and vibe with whoever’s interested.

This semester, we’re thinking of doing fun little coworking sessions and brainstorming about projects people want to start. Want to write an anthology of Nordic poetry? Build a fun little open source library? Start a reading group about ancient medieval warfare? Firelight is a place for you to think about how to do that and get it going.

In terms of getting involved, you can sign up to the firelight mailing list here, and we’ll send info soon about weekly coworking sessions.

Best of luck, and let’s meet at the fire.

Poem generated by ChatGPT:

Let’s learn and build until the night ends. With Firelight as our guide, We’ll explore and create side by side.

The flames dance and flicker, As we brainstorm and consider. Ideas flow like the embers, As we build something to remember.

We’re not bound by the classroom, Or the constraints of a syllabus. Here, we can let our minds roam, And create something fabulous.

So let’s stoke the fire higher, And let our imaginations soar. With Firelight as our guide, We’ll learn and build forevermore.