The two cultures, revisited

Written by Ken Perlin on November 19, 2018

In 1959 the British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow gave a highly influential lecture in which he lamented the two cultures of the sciences and the humanities. He pointed out, rather accurately, that each camp had a tendency to look down on the other. while remaining ignorant of the great works on the other side of the divide.

For example, many scientists would not think the works of Shakespeare to be worth taking the time to understand, while many in the humanities would feel the same about the Laws of Thermodynamics. In each case, works of supreme beauty — pinnacles of human thought and expression — were being summarily dismissed and discarded.

Of course many artistic disciplines require a highly technical level of expertise. The modern production of music, cinema, architecture, and many other cultural fields, are deeply intertwined with technology and the engineering disciplines.

In our mandate as the Future Reality Lab, we are very interested in production of cultural achievements yet to come. As technology continues to advance, it will always continue to bring new opportunities for artistic expression.

At our lab we don’t believe in separating the cultures of science and the arts. Rather, we see them intertwining through all time, in a beautifully ascending double helix.

Sometimes, after I give a talk about our lab, somebody will come up to me and ask me whether I consider myself a scientist or an artist. I just say “Yes.”

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