A Cyborg Walks Into A Bar…

Getting a computer science degree at Northeastern University now requires the completion of a course in theatre and improvisation, taught by professors in the drama department. “The class is a way to ‘robot-proof’ computer-science majors, helping them sharpen uniquely human skills, said Joseph E. Aoun, the university president. Empathy, creativity and teamwork help students exercise their competitive advantage over machines in the era of artificial intelligence”

This is basically a restatement for the computer age of the special, critical, role that the Arts and Humanities have always played in higher education, and in public schools in general. Just replace the word “machines” above with the word “incomprehension” and presto. The Arts and Humanities expose students to well-rounded thinking, thus fostering qualities essential for cooperative citizenry in a democracy. That is why they have always been at the core of general requirements curriculums. From personal experience, the first assignment in the first CS class I ever attended was to watch two specific famous movies (art). Those movies helped set the intellectual frame for much of the subsequent learning and production in my career. Neither of them had anything to do with technology. Sadly, recent enrollment and graduation trends show the diminishing influence of subjects, like history, english, philosophy, art etc. which, if it continues apace, may render most universities as glorified vocational schools. That may not bode well for our form of social contract.

Comedy, on the other hand, almost always bodes well…

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