The gap between the cultures of science and the humanities has grown progressively larger as generations of each side have learned to further disregard the other. Worryingly, a point of view that the humanities have nothing to contribute is infecting Silicon Valley and tech culture at large. A recent Stephen Hawking quote is symptomatic of the problem: “Philosophy is dead”. This should concern us: cultural change is now brought about by people who increasingly shun cultural study, and it is easy to envision a future where those who work in technology are bankrupt in their understanding of the humanities. There is a lot of danger in “disrupting” people’s lives without a solid ability to assess what the disruption might bring about.
Countering Hawking, this talk explores what technology loses out on in this growing philosophical bankruptcy, taking philosophy and computing science as examples. It will cover how cultural studies bring about unique analytical skills, and show that without them the tech industry can be left vulnerable to manipulation, a dangerous threat. This naturally leads to a discussion of the utility of the humanities: some of these analytical skills are adopted in tech implicitly, and there is a definite opportunity to strengthen this part of the industry by changing course and working closer with the humanities. Ultimately though, the talk will demonstrate that a field’s utility alone is not sufficient in measuring its value.