Nigam Nuggehalli is the Registrar of the National Law School in Bangalore. He seems to have written this piece in the Indian Express to a piece published in the New Yorker recently: “Last week the New Yorker published an article titled ‘The End of the English Major’, that discussed dramatically lower enrollment rates in the humanities in US Universities. The number of English graduates at Arizona State University fell by half over a decade. Even Harvard has not been spared this trend. The writer notes that Harvard graduates would be employable even if they do a degree in somersaults and yet their parents tell them that they are not meant to study ‘basket weaving’ there. They are meant to study STEM courses which will guarantee stable employment in the future. At some level, I am happy that American and Indian parents are similar.”
Mr Nuggehalli makes the case for why Humanities will stage a comeback: “Humanities will also become important in a technology-driven world because technology will need to be publicly regulated. As soon as Microsoft released their latest version of an AI-enhanced Bing, a blog by a senior employee talked about both ethical responsibility and AI technology. Seven years earlier, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in an article in Slate talked about AI and responsibility. Check out the web page of the Google-driven DeepMind project. Responsible AI figures prominently there too. What does fairness mean for an algorithm driven process? What is the relationship between technology and privacy? We will require a big tent interdisciplinary approach and people with humanities skills will flourish in such ecosystems. But what are these skills exactly?
An ability to be creative and imaginative. A talent for communicating effectively with different audiences. Possessing advanced interpersonal skills. The humanities are much better placed to impart these skills compared to the hard sciences. Perhaps an appropriate response to the question ‘Is the humanities dead’ is probably that the question is a bit hyperbolic. Traditional humanities might be out of fashion for now , but will take forms that will make the domain relevant to a new generation.”
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