A Tech Geek on Why We Need the Humanities

John Seely Brown: What has done more to kind of change my understanding of what I do that was so far from my original training might just be simply reduced to the fact that kind of a pathetic conversation I had a long time ago with my mother when I was ten years old, 12 years old.  She was trying to get me to read.  I held this book and I said, you know, “Mom, . . .” and she came from the fine arts, etcetera. . . . I said, “You know, this 300-page book could be reduced to a half a dozen equations.  When you hand me a set of equations, I’ll read it.  I’m not going to spend the time to read this book.”

Well, about 15 years later I realized that fine literature, museums, paintings, etcetera, can have a nuance to them that I never understood.  They actually breathed life in a way I didn’t even know about that we didn’t really capture in physics and mathematics like I first was brought up.  And so I would say the joy of New York, there’s the amount of art in this city, the amount of literature, the number of reading clubs that I happen to kind of stumbled into where people take very seriously, you know, close reading of books, close reading of art, close reading of music.  That imbues a kind of nuance, a kind of texture, that often we get stripped away in kind of a very much of an instrumental engineering point of view.

I think if we really want to re-instate a true state of innovation in the United States, we have to find a new way to bring the humanities much more forward into our thinking.  And I think that humanities has some responsibility of actually figuring out how to help us imbue nuance into how we see the world.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

John Seely Brown argues that foregrounding the Humanities is our only hope of sustaining innovation in the United States.

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