Aaron Nielsen

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Are the humanities as an area of study becoming obsolete?

There is a quote by an AI specialist, Marvin Minsky, which goes: "With all the money that we are throwing away on humanities and art...give me that money and I will build you a better student."

His sentiment seems to be echoed throughout the academic world these days by scientists and others who view the humanities as anachronistic and impractical. They argue that in an era which places emphasis on technological skills and efficiency/productivity, we should be primarily concerned with technical knowledge.

On the other hand, some scholars have defended the humanities, insisting that their study develops certain qualities in people that those not exposed to it would lack, or that it is fundamental in forming a well-rounded and profound character, among other things.

So, which side of the debate would YOU fall on? Should the study of humanities be abandoned, or would this be a mistake?

  • Mar 30 2011: I hope it does not become obsolete. I am a scientist by training but we need to learn, not only how the world works - the science - but also how the world thinks. They are both integral to understanding who we are. They require different modalities of thinking, but these modalities complement each other. I think that you will find that scientists who are keenly interested in the humanities are people who think more deeply about their work.