‘The promise of science and technology cannot be realised without the humanities.’ Do you agree?
When introducing the iPad 2 in 2011, Steve Jobs summarised his strategy as: “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it is technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yield us the results that make our heart sing.” Synonymous with this seemingly cliché marketing platitude, the advent of new technologies has promised heightened efficiency, convenience and solutions to some of the direst problems the world faces, but not without the partnership of the humanities. Granted, detractors may aver that the lofty language the humanities speak is inconsequential; without the concrete and proven facts. Yet, at the core of the humanities, mankind can seek to interpret and communicate human thoughts, emotions and relations – pivotal to some of the most debated problems faced by the world. Hence, to say that science and technology and the humanities are somehow wholly irreconcilable is a grave misconception. The merits of combining the two have proven that the humanities are tantamount to actualising the promises of science and technology.
The deliverance of results governed by science and technology is independent of the humanities.
The colossal need for solutions to problems plaguing humanity, only achievable by the progression of science and technology ensures that the outcome promised by science and technology – to better lives – will prevail despite the impediment of the humanities.
On one hand, religions, a means for humans to understand and make sense of the world become an area of tension when pitted against science and technology. This is circumscribed when human’s biological needs supersede that of ethical concerns raised by religious devotees. A split of the opinion between politicians, scientists and religious conservatives is concomitant in the field of the life sciences.
When scientists learned how to remove stem cells from human embryos in 1998, an unprecedented research field that may offer potential treatments for conditions such as diabetes and heart diseases, a series of brouhaha ensued. The therapeutic use of stem cells came under the limelight in the public’s eyes as many disagreed with using human embryonic cells for medical research for extracting the stem means destroying the embryo. This created complex issues, as there are different beliefs as to what constitutes the start of human life. Owing to his strong, pro-life religious views that President George W. Bush banned funding for human stem cell research in 2001. “At its core, this issue forces us to confront fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science,” Bush announced at the time. “My position on these issues is shaped by deeply held beliefs. I also believe human life is a sacred gift from our creator.” The Catholic Church has also called for those who carry out embryonic stem cell research to be excommunicated.
However, in June 2016, two researchers took second prize in the materials category of the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Chemistry’s emerging technology competition for creating a synthetic biomaterial that stimulates stem cells native to a patient’s own teeth. The researchers believe that this material will replace fillings, as the stem cells would simply prompt the damaged teeth to heal themselves. Over the years, stem cell technology has continued to revolutionise therapeutic norms and introduced a new standard of personalised treatment, like the Chinese doctor who grew an ear on his patient’s arms, improvements in vision by the scientists at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute and the use of stem cells to treat cerebral palsy by a team of German doctors.
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While indeed President’s Bush’s policy did slow the destruction of human embryos and the restrictions set back the progress of stem cell research, the benevolence behind the idea has continued to open up avenues for fundings today, despite the arguments propounded by Ethicists.
Evidently, while religious beliefs posed an initial threat to the seismic impact stem cell research has on the world, science and technology have proven to be able to stand on its own to meet their intended outcomes as we see the miracles of it manifesting amongst humanity today.
Science and technology can alone bring about targeted and efficient solutions to some of the most contended problems plaguing the world – climate change for one, with little inclusion of the humanities.
The scientific thought, an amalgamation of reasoning techniques and problem-solving heuristics (proceeding to a solution by trial and error or by rules that are only loosely defined, trumps that humanities are based on arbitrary= random interpretations whereas the sciences are often founded on concrete and proven facts. Adopting a scientific thought could be a safer guarantee in meeting the intended outcome, compared to the humanities that often open up numerous Pandora’s Boxes without pointing to a conclusive outcome.
A report by the World Economic Forum lists five ways in which technological breakthroughs could avert or retard the festering of the perils of climate change. Nuclear-fusion-energy, an inherently safe mechanism is being tested out as the future of zero greenhouse gas emission, subverting the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment.
Transport represents 20% of the total carbon dioxide emissions and Researchers at the University of Surrey have made a scientific breakthrough in this regard. They say they have discovered new materials offering an alternative to battery power and proven to be between 1,000-10,000 times more powerful than the existing battery alternative, a supercapacitor.
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The Nuclear-fusion-energy and some of the greatest inventions science and technology brought to the world and in almost every field, the works of science and technology are undeniable. Science and technology could arguably be the precursor of change in the complex world we live in today. Conversely, a consideration of the humanities opens up numerous lengthy debates on the perpetrators of climate change and ethical concerns on the technology used, doing little to ameliorate the problem at hand.
Science and technology effect practical changes that the humanities cannot.
Science and technology and the humanities must coexist for the latter to influence the outcomes of science.
Point: While indeed science provides practical solutions asked of the world, it is imperative to consider that the creativity humanities entails supplement the advanced technologies employed.
To say that the humanities are an anathema to the promises of science and technology and that the latter can exist in solitary without the consideration of the former is specious at best. The humanities offer us a deeper understanding of the sociological relations and psychological behaviours that, in turn, allows for an injection of creativity to support the works of science and technology. The promise of science and technology can only truly be realised with a humane understanding and approach to human-centred problems.
Environmental journalist George Monbiot identified Cormac McCarthy’s The Road as “the most important environmental book ever written”. While climate change is not mentioned directly anywhere in the text, McCarthy’s dystopian vision evokes the terror of a world where social and ecological relations have completely broken down. The post-apocalyptic is an obvious mode for novels about climate change and the best of these – such as Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake – provide thoughtful interrogations of the world as it is, and as it might be soon.
In the same vein, Dr Greg Garrard, author of Ecocriticism (The New Critical Idiom), one of the first books on ecocriticism, suggests that in the face of global events, the arts can inevitably seem parochial and trivial: “Poetry makes nothing happen” but, he goes on to say, it is also “a way of happening, a mouth.” The effects of aesthetic experience are neither predictable nor wholly articulable. The arts are not going to tell us what to think about climate change, but they may help us discover ways to think and care about it.
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Storytellers and libertarians alike have great roles to play. CS Lewis once said, “Reason is the natural organ of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.” Only storytellers can tease out meaning and breathe hope by presenting seemingly catastrophic humanitarian issues in a fashion that encourages human actions, not unnerve – an area of solace science cannot provide.
Indeed, the values and desires intrinsic=inherent to the humanities become absorbed into our psyche, and inform our response, empowering us to respond by embracing the works of science and technology for the actualisation of the promise to solve humanitarian issues.
Point: The humanities impart valuable skill sets that are required for amalgamating/ combining artistic designs in engineering excellence.
Art leads to scientific innovation and science inspires art. Like a pair of bookends, they work best in tandem and change the way we view the world. In today’s world, the proliferation of tech gadgets has raised the expectations of its functionality as well as its cosmetic outlooks. The stakes have been raised and are higher than ever. In order to meet the changing consumer demands, it is indubitably necessary for the humanities to be incorporated with science and technology.
The Trappist monk whose calligraphy inspired Steve jobs and influenced Apple’s designs
Jobs sat in on Palladino’s calligraphy class at Portland’s Reed College, which eventually inspired the elegance for which Apple computers are renowned. He learnt about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. Jobs later credited Palladino’s class for teaching him about multiple typefaces and proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.
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Apple’s beautiful typography may still be ugly and anachronistic, if not for Steve Job’s genius idea of combining the arts with technology. While detractors of the argument may aver= assert that such ‘beautification’ was unnecessary and does not affect the main functions of the mac, the promise of science and technology no doubt entails a combination of both functionality and sleek designs (Fashionable).
Thus, making the arts an imperative factor that cannot be sidelined in the evolution of science and technology.
The humanities crystallise the social ills as well as the urban problems that may have been otherwise overlooked by the scientists and engineers who are tasked with devising solutions to solve these problems.
Modern society today faces innumerable serious challenges. Among them, poverty, hunger, inequality, climate change, terrorism, crime and racism. Given these tensions, we can no longer afford a three-way war between science, humanities and the general public. Scientists and engineers should study arts and humanities to better understand what it all means to society and humanity. Subjects such as Sociology allows us to understand how different groups of people act the way they do, and also brings us into their cultures, heritage and different backgrounds. There are many social issues that sociology explains, such as how larger social and historical forces affect the way the communities act and how individuals act. This can better aid scientists and engineers who are looking for ways to resolve profound social challenges in devising efficacious solutions.
Possibility of an underground transport system – Elon Musk
Elon Musk’s Boring Company presented plans to build a tunnel under Culver City, California for a Hyperloop-like transport system. The tunnel would contain a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates travelling at 125-150mph. The electric skates will be designed to carry either single passenger vehicles or what are described as “mass transit” pods capable of transporting between eight and 16 people. The company says the plan would ease road congestion and allow people to move around the city more easily.
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Such tunnels cannot be materialised without adequate knowledge of the local geology. This idealistic project would require the engineers to be equipped with a basic understanding of the geography as well as a basic understanding of the social fabric of the local community so as to better incorporate the new “mass transit” pods into the city’s blueprint.
For the promise of science and technology to be delivered, it is vital for scientists and engineers to be well versed in the study of humanities and understand the workings of society.
Gone are the days where the humanities are deemed as nothing but hokey. Indeed, the reality is that natural scientists and engineers continue to dominate much of the discourse on changes in the world. However, in recent years, it would be too parochial to think that science and technology and the humanities can exist independently. In fact, they are inextricably = closely connected as the problems the world faces are undoubtedly multi-faceted. Only when we bring together artists, scientists, communicators and cultural opinion formers, can we endeavour to develop creative ‘works’ that act as a catalyst for change. Using creativity to innovate, artists, writers, poets, musicians and filmmakers can evolve and amplify a creative language, communicating – on an emotional level and on a human scale – the miracles brought about by the sciences.
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