Chi Rainer Bornfree, PhD

Hi, I'm Chi

Pronouns: They/them
Previous work published as: Chiara Ricciardone
I’m a writer, philosopher, and activist. Earned my Ph.D. in Rhetoric, U.C. Berkeley, 2017, and taught at Bard, Princeton, and NY state prisons before leaving academia. Lived around the world. Now growing vegetables and homeschooling my kids in the Hudson Valley, NY.

Current projects

- Not Normal (novel): An out-of-work programmer crushed by long Covid accepts an experimental AI implant to try to recover her normal life. But the implant comes with the unexpected ability to understand animals. Soon, the deep relationships Silver forms with animals and AI — and the conflicts they set off — threaten the very human fellowship that she craves.- The Portal: Corona Letters: This is an experimental, epistolary memoir of the ongoing pandemic, which highlights the transformative force of friendship in a crisis (co-authored with Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan).- Can Philosophy Change the World? Essays from the Pandemic Era: Philosophy changes the world by working on and with the material of time. The essays collected here include targeted responses to charged questions (What is it Like to Be a Self? Where is Philosophy Going? What Do We Do Now?); briefs on philosophical keywords (Normal, Contradiction, Transmission); and mind journeys (Artificial Fiction, Freeing Plato’s Prisoners, Viral Ambiguity). Altogether a barbarous mix of classical Greek philosophy with contemporary sci-fi, poetry, feminist, black, indigenous, & activist theory.- The Self and Other Fables: A collection of shortish philosophical fiction (extract here)


- Where is Philosophy Going? A Catalog of Errors
- On Contradiction
- Artificial Fiction
- Liberating Plato’s Prisoners
- What is it Like to be a Self? Undoing Identity
- Can Philosophy Change the World?
- Different but Equal: How to have Diversity without Hierarchy
- Viral Ambiguity

Other Work

- AI for the People, a multi-genre vision of an ecological and anti-racist coexistence of humans and strong AI (co-created with Micah White and J.R. Harris). 3rd place winner in the Future of Life’s AI Worldbuilding Contest.


- with Avi Alpert on The Good Enough Life
- with Jay Garfield on The Art of Losing Oneself
- with Samantha Rose Hill on Arendt and Politics
- with Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan & Brooke Holmes on What is We?
- with Robert Leib on Dialogues with AI
- with Kate Manne on Entitlement and Misogyny
- with Maggie Nelson on Messy Freedom


I’ve dabbled in most theories of social change. I participated in direct action non-violence in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement. I investigated structural economic reform via a development studies program in Uganda. I’ve lived in an intentional community in Oregon and organized parent mutual aid networks. I facilitated the first meetings of Occupy SF and Occupy Berkeley. I co-founded and taught classes at Activist Graduate School, and taught inside New York State’s prisons via the Bard Prison Initiative.These days I organize the mid-Hudson branch of the Covid Underground.