One of the effects of being beaten with the STEM stick so often is that I sound like an anti-tech Luddite. However, nothing could be further from the truth. My problem resides with the technozealots, who believe that all of the world’s problems will be saved through technology. Clearly, they are not watching the same dystopic science fiction movies that I am. In those films, technology is usually the problem. Right SKYNET? However, ignoring the benefits of technology is equally problematic.
In fact, I like technology. Without it, the world would not have some of the greatest music it has ever had. Where would we be without the synthesizer or the sampler? The 80s would have been awash in be-denimed Springsteen clones (without the songwriting ability) and there would be no rap or hip-hop. But I digress. My problem is with those who believe that STEM is the only formula for salvation.
Instead of STEM, I think that the world needs more HEAT: Humanities, Engineering, Art, Technology. I recently encountered this acronym in “Dear Tech World, STEMism is Hurting Us,” by Peter Sena II and Michael Zimm. In their article they point out that the CEO of Youtube majored in History, the founder of LinkedIn majored in Philosophy, and the co-founder of Paperless Post majored in Classics (which we no longer offer at UPEI). As they say, these people (and others) are not unicorns. They are the leaders in a tech-driven business world. What is more interesting is that the authors of the article run a tech company, and they are not alone in their view. I could go on to cite numerous other articles, but it seems pointless in the face of the techno-zealots, who will brook no challenge to their techno-hegemony. Belief is impervious to fact. If you are interested in their article, it can be found here:
As you may be getting, I have been arguing for the Arts for a very long time. Since my undergrad days, I have always heard the jeers and questions about why anyone would study the Arts, and I am, frankly, a little tired of it. Why are we creating divisions? We need to work together. Google is currently looking for ethicists to help program their driverless cars. Since I was an undergrad, the world has changed irrevocably. However, the divisions seem to have deepened. Let’s stop dividing and start working together. This summer, I got an engineering student to 3D print a prop for my upcoming show. Theatre has often been a leader when it comes to technological advance. One needs only look at the history of indoor lighting to see its place. So why do we run it down? There are many more opportunities for these kinds of collaborations, if we are willing to acknowledge that we need each other.
Therefore, the next time you hear someone making fun of your major (or if you are the person making fun of someone else’s major), just remember that AI is coming and it will take all the coding jobs. The one thing technology cannot replace is what makes us human. The new Bladerunner movie opened on October 6. In the original, the Tyrell Corporation’s tagline was “More Human, Than Human.” In the end, as we have found out, there is nothing more human than humans. Let’s put our smartphones down and talk to each other. You never know where that conversation might lead.
By: Dr. Greg Doran
Photo: UPEI Galleries