In this world of growing technological advancement, can a philosophy degree (any degree in the humanities) have any value? In this interesting article, David Horowitz outlines why a degree in the humanities and specifically philosophy is not only valuable, but is critical for being a good technologist. As someone who has a graduate degree in philosophy and also works at a high-tech company, I can unequivocally say (something very hard for a philosopher to do let me tell you) that his claims are completely accurate.
The fact is, even if you work with computers all day, the business of computers is conducted with people. Not only do you rely on and collaborate with other humans to get the work done, if you want to create computer systems that humans can actually use to enhance their lives, you have to understand what it means to be human and have a solid, and balanced view of how computers and technology fit into the human condition. These are not computer science problems but philosophical ones.
I wanted to better understand what it was about how we were defining intelligence that was leading us astray: What were we failing to understand about the nature of thought in our attempts to build thinking machines?
And, slowly, I realized that the questions I was asking were philosophical questions—about the nature of thought, the structure of language, the grounds of meaning. So if I really hoped to make major progress in AI, the best place to do this wouldn’t be another AI lab. If I really wanted to build a better thinker, I should go study philosophy.
It’s not surprising that a prominent technologist has made a similar claim particularly when you consider the company he runs.