Oh, The Humanities!
In 1959, British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow gave a lecture titled “The Two Cultures.” He said British education was split into Science and the Humanities—and that the latter saw itself as superior.
His critique claimed the essentials of the Humanities were the central pillar of British education, and that most educated Brits thought the essentials of Science as little more than incidental.
The lecture became a widely read book, then a widely discussed controversy, and even another follow-up book. In less than sixty years, it is not only forgotten but the tables have completely turned.
Today not only is Science king, very few people (even outside of Science or Technology) see any value whatsoever in the Humanities. As I said in my post of July 20, 2015, “The nerds have won.”
However, having everything your own way is rarely the path to victory. I could just mention the name Midas, or point to the endless stories and fables meant to teach us a little wisdom.
I could give endless examples of how our technology could be improved by adding a human element. There are many related to programming in this blog. However, the big picture are the robots that will be built on the assumptions of artificial intelligence.
The intelligence sought by AI is abstract. AI scientists don’t see the distinct value of human intelligence. They think that somehow a machine can make decisions or solve problems without a concept of self, without consciousness—without empathy for humans.
Empathy is exactly what our current technology lacks. It can be learned directly from experience or indirectly from education. But it can only be learned, directly or indirectly, from humans.
Intelligence without empathy is merely data. How many times have you heard the phrase “thinking outside the box”? Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Using imagination is box-free thinking.
Wikipedia defines “[I]ntelligence … [as] logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, emotional knowledge, memory, planning, creativity and problem solving.” Yet, without imagination, all of these are useless.
Imagining how humans will respond is necessary for human-friendly technology. If we can apply our humanity, we can empathize how people will feel using a technological product or device. We can, if our science is balanced by our humanity.