Quit Your Technology Job and Get a Humanities Ph.D.

(May 11, 2011) Dr. Damon Horowitz is a philosopher and entrepreneur, exploring what is possible at the intersection of technology and the humanities. He discusses the value of a humanities Ph.D. in a world that is being continuously inundated with new technology, and how to apply the degree toward a successful career.

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45 thoughts on “Quit Your Technology Job and Get a Humanities Ph.D.

  1. Well, you can hardly be a decent humanist without having participated in another field. You can't do philosophy if you don't do purely production oriented work, you simply wouldn't understand. You can't be a philosopher, you have to be an economist philosopher, a mathematician philosopher, medical philosopher, psychology philosopher, mechanics philosopher, computer tech philosopher etc. Anything else is simply being a bullshit artist. You don't need a PhD in philosophy unless you plan a career in teaching it in academia or high school.

  2. Cool story bro, nice to hear about you brag about how awesome your life is. But a Ph.D. in humanities is not very practical for most humans, maybe read some books and take some courses would be better.

  3. You seem like using philosophy as a tool for positive technical goal. As long as we are trying to use philosophy as a weapon, we never will understand philosophy because we will always interpret towards the goal. If we really understand philosophy, we won't really use it for anything.

  4. While I like this,  to many people in society are shaped by what they know,   philosophers included.  If you doubt Computer Science is a philosophy as well as a mathmatics, as well as Engineering.  I would contend a Mathmatics PHd would give you philosophy and a means to express the philosophy in tangable ways.  But a PHd in humanities can include this also.   Doug Schmidt is a prominent example.

  5. This is so excellent!

    Yeah, there were a few "uh"s and "um"s, but, excepting those, Horowitz is certainly one of the most articulate people I've ever heard deliver a lecture.

  6. Probably has something to do with him having been a tenured professor of philosophy at UPenn, and his current status as In-House Philosophy / Director of Engineering at Google, soo.

  7. Good points, esp. about technology leaders becoming more aware of cultural implications of products. But you don't have to quit your job to pursue humanities education! Lots of school, including Stanford, have part-time humanities masters programs. See: mla.stanford.edu

  8. He seems like a great person and I like his point. I think someone should just talk to him regarding his speaking skills. Again, truly, nothing against the guy himself, just the constant "um, uh, um" after every sentence really throws off a great speech.

  9. um…what? They don't teach Sophocles in medical school you twit. Sophocles was an ancient Greek playwright, having nothing whatsoever to do with medicine or science.

    I love the humanities, but there is no need to be stupid about like the speaker in this video or you.

  10. @tubub The world is not losing poverty; the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger in many countries. About half the world lives in third world or relatively poor countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. You might say they are poor because they lack technology but its technology that allows them to live so long and overpopulate their countries. This overpopulation is a cause of the poverty. Also, living longer is not necessarily positive. Its about quality over quantity.

  11. @tubub This is exactly what people SHOULD be hearing. Go into humanities, technology is destroying our world. The world is losing its culture, language, integrity, health, and nature. All that technology is doing is facilitating human laziness, destroying the environment, inducing obesity, and disconnecting us from each other and the natural world.

  12. What an idiot. He had to get a philosophy degree to figure out what everyone should be able to figure out on their own. It doesn't take a useless degree or meaningless terminology to be intelligent or caring about society and anyone who things so is extremely narrow minded.

  13. @dojohansen123 "the humanists I've known are comparative lightweights and often only superficially interested in understanding or truth" spot on my good sir, well put

  14. Oh my.. what an exercise in mediocrity. So he didn't realize tech is providing means to an end until he went to philosophy class. Pity his philosophy class hasn't equipped him to understand not all are like him.

    I guess MY personal experience is about as interesting. It is this: techies tend to be intellectuals; the humanists I've known are comparative lightweights and often only superficially interested in understanding or truth.

    If you can't build it, you don't understand it.

  15. The lady "knowingly" eyeing the younger woman chewing between 3:31 and 3:43 was well spotted (perhaps her daughter). I think the camcorder operator definitely combined technology with morality. Well worth watching for that. This video should be watched with his speech at TED ("moral operating system"). He makes a valid point.

  16. @lilchimy
    Sorry :(…
    I liked the Presentation, Made me think about things, wasn't boring or anything, the information presented was good. Just mentioning that the man giving it, should have paid a little bit more attention in his public speaking classes.

  17. @SamaelTePersigoaTi It can help shape the conversation that may allow for the creation of AI. Also: philosophy is not evil. Your rant seems to target one aspect of philosophical discussion: rhetoric. However, you should remember that in philosophy, rhetoric's purpose is to convince others of goodness for goodness sake (whatever you may define that as) if you want to use rhetoric as a ploy to do things that aren't good then you're a sophist and not a philosopher.

  18. @DarthKazi Why this isn't an argument is explained in the last 3 minutes. This video doesn't explain why you should live off just a PhD, or why just anyone should get a PhD, it explains why 'technologists' – people already in the technology sector – can benefit from adding experience with the humanities to their education. Also PhD programs tend to be funded; you don't take out loans or work at burger joints.

  19. @SamaelTePersigoaTi A human brain is not the only place intelligence can exist. If we can define intelligence, something that philosophy can help you do, then you can begin to work through how to replicate it.

    Asking the right questions is imperative to solving a problem.

  20. @SamaelTePersigoaTi I think sentience is probably much harder or more confusing without massive parallelism. The thing is that von neumann machines (the type of computer we have) can simulate all these features to an arbitrary level of accuracy. It is just a question of speed that is why they can handle massively parallel processes like protein folding, weather simulation, and the like but it requires supercomputers or distributed computing.

  21. @SamaelTePersigoaTi LOL, Sorry I screwed up the, LTD is the more common one. I had a prof that always used to write that and we made fun of him. Now after 20 years I do it 😉

  22. @SamaelTePersigoaTi LDP (long term deprssion) it is the opposite of LTP. STP is short term potentiation and is thought to be important in working memory and perhaps sense memory. Sensitization is a non associative learning process that aids sense memory and probably object reacquisition in noisy data streams.

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