Historically, the humanities’ lessons of morality, empathy and self awareness were taught through published greats like Shakespeare and Harper Lee. As our modern world has become more tech-centered, it’s clear the humanities’ influence has shifted. Today the humanities are explored through pop culture—Oscar speeches, box office blockbusters like Black Panther, even comic books. The role of humanities in our modern world is still crucial, but the way we perceive them has changed a lot.
For the short-term, a future in the humanities may appear bleak, but as tech companies race towards AI and integrating consumer tech into our daily lives, hitting a humanities wall is inevitable. Tech will be forced to acknowledge the wealth of applicable talent lurking in English and history classes—research skills, customer experience, writing (which is a critical skill) and storytelling (tech loves a compelling brand story), critical thinking, analytical ability, reasoning and so on. Humans are necessary to ‘translate’ language into concepts workable for AI and other tech.
Tech gives us certainty, but humanities teach us to think critically
The role of humanities in our modern world is still crucial, but the way we perceive them has changed a lot.
According to the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises, only 4% of employers are eager to hire candidates with a degree in humanitarian subjects. This is a worrying sign, showing that our society, relies on the dependability of science.
However, the risk of a hyper science-focused world is a soulless one. The humanities are the perfect offset to fill in the context. We need educational institutions that incorporate both school of thoughts more than ever. The Humanities teach us to appreciate the “human” part of our lives and apply strong critical thinking on a well-rounded society. The goal would result in a healthy equilibrium that balances the value of science and uncertainty.
Competitive advantage can’t be build solely on technical grounds
Tech and humanities should live in codependent harmony, but we’re still in the throws of a cultural tech obsession. Steve Jobs was right saying that “Technology alone is not enough…It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that make our hearts sing”.
Jobs understood better than anyone that game changing tech needs artistry to resonate with consumers. Tiny details from the humanities elevate tech from merely functional to ‘can’t live without it’ status—remember how the first gen iPod and iPhone revolutionized the consumer tech game?
We’re beginning to see the ramifications of companies whose sole priority was relentless tech advancement. Think of Facebook, struggling through the current scandal with data confidentiality. Think of the same bad news from Uber, regarding massive personal data leak. These things become possible in the world where tech turns a blind eye to humanities’ lessons of empathy and morality, but, at its own peril.
As more diverse leadership teams emerge, they’ll find themselves better equipped to outperform companies solely focused on tech, helped in large part due to their appreciation of the humanities.
The marriage between tech and emotions
Clever entrepreneurs already understand the cost of staying competitive today is inclusivity, personalization and seamless lifestyle integration. It feels like magic when products work perfectly and exceed our highest expectations, but it takes radical empathy to effectively accomplish it. Tech consumers adore sharing a common ‘scratch an itch I didn’t know I had’ thread that requires actual humans to dissect, understand and subsequently translate that scratch into technology.
It’s funny how nostalgic humans are about their first piece of game-changing consumer tech. For some it’s the iPod, others it’s a Discman or Gameboy. Entrepreneurs should see the advantage of exploring why humans attach emotions to technology. Chatbots and AI rely on very creative humans with excellent communications skills to program them—time to hire some English majors!
Tiny details from the humanities elevate tech from merely functional to ‘can’t live without it’ status.
Before kicking humanities out of your company, think of this: human behavior is consumer behavior. People are complex and even highbrow tech consumers can be easily influenced by ego, vanity, news, transit lineups, horoscopes and everything in between. Instead of grasping humans’ acts like, well, humans, tech companies try to apply logic and refuse to consider the wider scope of people’s experiences.
Faust said “The humanities are such an important vehicle for widening the world…for teaching empathy for people outside yourself.” Tech is one of the ‘centers of global culture,’ it’s time they accept that responsibility.