About Me

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Nom de guerre: Al Hakim the Bushman

Al Hakim: In historical civilizations of Central Asia, a physician was referred to as an Hakim. Although these hakim’s practiced medicine but also were philosophers and scientists. The word hakim became synonymous with “the wise,” or “practitioner of wisdom.” These were the polymaths of their day and often turned out seminal works in three, four, or more fields. They focused attention not on the specifics of one field or another but on knowledge itself, and on the paths to its attainment. They utilized their position at the crossroads of ancient Greek and Indian civilizations to explore the truth in a uniquely original way. Influential thinkers such as Ibn-Sina, al-Biruni, al-Razi, Omar Khayyam, combined vast domains of knowledge such as mathematics, geometry, natural sciences, and philosophy from Greek and Indian sources into wide-ranging theories. These hakim’s were skilled empiricists and utilized observations to make and test inferences. Their methods served as the foundation of the European Renaissance and the modern scientific method. 

Bushman: The “bushman” metaphor is in homage to these ancient people of Namibia and Botswana. These hunters and gatherers pursued a way of life that was until very recently (~10,000 years) the norm for our species. They lived in small bands and thrived for thousands of millennia by hunting and foraging. Their communities had a social structure that reinforced a deep hierarchy-free egalitarianism. The bushmen considered themselves as interwoven with nature but possessed a rich spirituality with an unwaveringDSC_7025.JPG confidence in the gifts of nature. Although they possessed limited technologies and a limited material culture they thrived in a dynamic equilibrium with the harsh ecosystem of the Namib desert for 100,000 years. Anthropologists characterized them as the “original affluent society” and their economic approach is termed “primitive affluence.” As James Suzman documents in his book, the Abundance of Affluence, the Bushmen culture withstood the uncertainties of time, coped with periods of relative scarcity, and mastered the art of living in the moment. They possessed a structural physicality, adaptability, and resilience that enabled that success. There is undoubtedly a “hunter-gatherer in all of us” and our yearning for freedom, equality, and spirituality is a testament to that lineage.

I am a formally trained Emergency Physician, MBA, and an Informaticist. I am a product of crossroad civilizations as my grandfather traveled up and down these routes from India to modern day Iran and my father migrated from India to the United States. I take inspiration from these hakim’s and aspire to be a lifelong polymath with interests in history, natural history, evolutionary medicine, information science, data science, and epistemology. Furthermore, I take inspiration from our species-wide Bushman past, and look to live my life in deference to the unknown and the unknowable. As James Carse writes, “To be prepared for surprise is to be trained. To be prepared to be surprised is to be educated.” The ancient Greek philosophers introduced a now seemingly forgotten concept of eudaimonia. Eudaimonia, loosely translates to a “flourishing life.” However,  a eudaimonic life is not the result of “hedonistic, lotus-eating approach to life…[it] requires determination and discipline.” The best chance of achieving eudaimonia is to “embrace of beauty and pursuit of pleasure – pleasure not as sensual debauchery but as the sense of well-being embodied in living justly and lovingly in a generosity of spirit.” I derive pleasure from learning, I see beauty in authenticity and will use this blog as an expression of that pursuit and vision.



1 thought on “About Me”

  1. Hi Dr. Kohli, I’m so glad your comment on the NYTimes article about Iora Health led me to your blog! My network includes several bioinformatics experts who share your views and are developing and implementing solutions in low-resource settings both domestically and in the developing world. You’d be in good company! I hope you’ll be in touch. Best, Terry

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