Technology *and* liberal arts

One of the most misguided notions I’ve seen in my life is that in one’s career and education you have to choose between a technical path and a non-technical one. It is a false choice. Anyone who has worked with a great engineer who also is a gifted communicator knows what I mean. In an increasingly complex world, people building the products and systems we all use need to be well-rounded and better-informed more than ever. As platforms deal regularly with issues like ethnic violence, having some history and political science majors in the room along with the computer science experts should be considered downright necessary. We should be encouraging liberal arts majors to spend more time studying technology and the engineering majors should spend more time outside of the tech buildings on campus. Yes, and. . .

Instead, we have a culture that still largely diminishes the study of liberal arts as un-serious and enrollment in humanities programs is falling across the country (see this recent New Yorker piece: “The End of the English Major.”) As technology has become fully embedded in our daily lives, most of the issues we face are cultural, historical, sociological, and political. We need people who engage with and understand those contexts more than ever.

In his last address to Apple developers before he passed, Steve Jobs himself challenged this notion, saying:

Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.

I agree with Steve. It’s technology *and* liberal arts.