People within STEM should value rhetoric or history 10 times more than they do currently. People that study and work in STEM fields have stereotypes that they are not high-level, conceptual thinkers. They do not understand people, markets, and the problems being solved. There is lots of innovation for the sake of innovation – rather than being solutions for problems, and there are gaps in knowledge versus intelligence. All of these stereotypes would go away, and our engineers would be more prepared for the world, if they had a better understanding of rhetoric and history.
There is no shortage of intelligence in STEM. The most innovative entrepreneurs and the brightest workers come out of science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. They are the most capable people that can develop an understanding of rhetoric and history if they applied themselves.
STEM individuals should study rhetoric and history for three main reasons: to understand technology cycles, to understand people, and to innovate for society.
Understand technology cycles
Studying history will give the student an understanding of the cycles that individuals and entire societies go through. These are naturally occurring cycles of growth and decline, rise and fall. History gives the keys to understanding how these cycles come about, how to handle yourself in the middle of them, and how to get out of a period of perceived doom.
Nearly all human problems have occurred before. The technology may be new, and it probably is, but the problem humans face is probably not new (except my foil-hat AI problems). How people get from one place to another, how we communicate with each other, how we find love – these are all problems that will not go away, these have been solved in a variety of ways, and will continue to exist in the future. Engineers should understand how to prepare for change as well as the effects of their proposed changes.
Changing how we do things not only saves the end user time and money to do those things, but there may be secondary consequences. Facebook changed the way we communicate with each other and made it easier to stay in touch with others. However, people are finding it harder to maintain strong relationships and to build communication skills now that it is easier to be social. Ease is attractive, but it may not be best long-term.
Cycles of ease and hardship have occurred before. Understanding these cycles will help the engineer profit, keep society from falling apart, and maybe find love.
Engineers will benefit from this knowledge because they can apply new technology to problems that continue to occur. Solutions can be developed to mitigate or solve problems that are almost certain to happen again.
Engineers are the introverts on campus – the nerds, the “non-people persons”. It doesn’t have to be this way. Rhetoric and history both will teach an individual the importance of developing speech and social grace. From the inventors that never received their credit because someone more charismatic beat them to it, to the psychology that goes into connecting with people, rhetoric – the art of language and communicating, is as valuable for engineers as for the marketing majors.
Marketing departments and communication teams are the “social people” in an organization. What they really are is an added layer of complexity and inefficiency. When the engineer understands the people he is serving – the customers, his boss, and team members, the role of the manager and marketer that works alongside the engineer is diminished, and the builder moves one step closer to interacting with the actual customer.
When the engineer can connect with an audience, he can eliminate the need for the manager and marketer. In this world, where additional layers of management and marketing departments are common, the engineer would be much more profitable in his own employment, or by convincing his organization to eliminate those positions for his profit.
Innovate for society
The current world is technology-driven. There are constantly new technologies and competition for market-share and funding are fierce. To guarantee your product will secure its funding and market, understanding of both history and rhetoric will help.
Rhetoric will help for the reason listed above. The engineer can add the value of the marketing department and sales team if he can connect with his audience and relate to them.
Understanding history helps with this too. Most problems have been seen and addressed before. By understanding the cycles that humans go through, that technology goes through, and that societies go through, an engineer can orient their technology to fill a gap that will be valuable long-term.
The goals of new technologies are to make society – whether all of society or your family or your company, better. Profits come when society is willing to pay for your product because it adds value.
An example of technology for technology’s sake is a change in a user interface that doesn’t make the experience better, but maybe looks shinier. Lightshows at a rave look cool but don’t do society a lot of good (at best). When cab companies create an app that allowed you to book a cab, that may be helpful if it has your position built-in, but it still requires hiring a cab and waiting for one to come from the airport.
Uber is innovative. It took the cab application and turned the ordinary commuter into an employee. It gave users trust in the drivers and gave the drivers accountability. It completely innovated both the efficiency of getting a ride, the quality of the rides, and the economics of driving and receiving a ride.
Transportation is a continually disrupted industry. Cab companies were as unprepared for Uber as the train companies were unprepared for the automobile. This will continue to happen, and technology giants, including Uber, are correctly spending money to prepare for the next disruptive transportation technologies – self-driving cars, drones, and underground travel.
People within STEM should value rhetoric or history 10x more than they do currently. Dedicating time to read non-technical papers will serve their careers, companies, and all of society. By understanding societal and human cycles, the people their product touches, and the problems they are solving, engineers will be much better positioned to add lasting value and make more money.
Two conflicting ideas can be correct at the same time. Both sides of one argument can have facts that support it. That doesn’t mean the conclusion is logically sound.
Two ideas that are founded on values can both be correct.
It’s when ideas are founded in mathematical fact that have conflicting ideas that we must remove opposing views. Differentiating between fact and feeling is important to this, but we must address both situations carefully to avoid emotional outburst and physical conflict.
Math is provable. Scientific experimentation can show correlation or causation.
An example of a mathematical debate is the shape of the earth. It is round not flat.
There are two sexes, which is proven in biology.
There are other “hot topics” that are rooted in the hard sciences and because they stem from the hard sciences they have solvable solutions.
An example of this is the gender debate. How many genders are there? There are two genders. This is provable from studying biology and the evolution of any animal, including human.
“But gender is the sex you identify as, not your private parts.”
I’m skeptical but I’ll even give you that. Even if that’s your argument, the psychology of male/female dynamics evolved from the biological differences related to the private parts. There were no additional private parts to evolve from and therefore only the two genders evolved.
Psychology evolved from biology which evolved from chemistry and physics. 30 genders on a job application evolved from screaming lunatics that deny science.
Liberals and conservatives are weird and selective in their science denials. Liberals deny the previously laid out logic and conservatives deny climate change.
Both of these rely more on the observation over time – the evolution of the planet and the species, and scientists support both climate change and no more than two genders.
These scientific claims are based on math, experiment, and observation showing causation.
I caution against claims not based on these. Not against their merit, but in their absolute rightness. Many claims are made in absolutes that don’t have the bullet-proof reasoning to back them up. Many of these claims, the political ones, are based on values.
I caution against using correlation when making your passionate argument. With large enough data sets, there will often be a correlation in favor of the other side of the argument. Correlation can be shown with all sorts of cherry picked statistics.
Conflict is fine. Ideas compete. Physical conflict isn’t.
So let’s talk about it.
Let’s focus on the grey areas. They aren’t even really grey areas though. These areas are black and white to people with one set of values, and white and black for people with the opposing set of values.
What are these values?
There are numerous values that have a virtuous opposite. Sharing versus self growth. Pleasure vs discipline. Honesty vs kindness.
All of these values show up in political debate to some extent, however there is only one that attempts to define the law.
I believe freedom is the core value that politics tries to define.
On one side of freedom you have capitalists that believe you are more free if you are enterprising and create in order to earn your keep. On the other side are socialists who believe everyone is more free if we all contribute and help the lowest out of their reliance on measly sums of income for their livelihood.
On one side of freedom you have feminists that believe women are more free if they can earn the same incomes as men and challenge them in the workplace. Traditionalists say women are more free if they don’t have to provide for herself and the family and instead focus her energy on growing said family.
Gun rights people find freedom in their ability to defend themselves from evil. Gun controllers say there is more freedom in walking around knowing their neighbor doesn’t have a tool that can kill them.
Globalists want to integrate and bring other cultures together, and eliminate the dependency and thought of culture. Nationalists say we can be more free by promoting and embracing our own culture, which they deem best. One wants to just be and the other says it is our culture that allows us to just be.
There are two sides to all of these debate topics and I argue that neither is wrong. There are numbers to support both. Not bulletproof math. But numbers that can show different correlations.
Socialism may not even have correlations to positive attributes. But there’s numbers to prove a capitalist system isn’t working, just as there are examples to show that it is.
This argument that two sides can both be correct bring up more questions.
Can an idea be incorrect? What makes an idea incorrect if two opposing ideas can be correct? Where do these values come from? And, naturally, what do we do about this – how do we live peacefully and productively with people that will never agree with our politics?
One at a time.
Can an idea be incorrect?
If it is not founded in science and is not solvable either by math or repeated experiment and observation then one could argue the idea is not incorrect.
There can be a morality behind some ideas that are unpopular but cannot be logically bulletproof.
An idea can have little political support, or moral support from others. But if 49 of the population thinks we should live in a capitalistic society and 49 percent think we should be socialist and one percent think we should have a national socialist party that forbids Jews, maybe that person has had poor interactions with Jews that shaped his mind to believing this.
It’s hard to prove the idea wrong with logic, and he would have facts to support his side that point to how Jews are a net negative on the planet.
Now, there are laws that dictate you can’t commit genocide to a group of people, and that was determined by a court system to be objectively a good thing. I agree. By the way.
The actions should be suppressed. The idea should not be suppressed. The better idea that appeals to the larger population should win out in politics.
What do we do about this – how do we live peacefully and productively with people that will never agree with our politics?
Not without removing emotion from the picture. You have to be objective and to see things as they are, which includes seeing people as these emotional side-takers.
This is hard. You can’t have a productive discussion of politics because you are challenging someone’s core values.
Core values don’t change. They are built in. Also built it are emotions. Emotions evolved from needs to survive and replicate also. So while they do help us avoid burns and to pursue sex, they evolved before there was a need for political agreement among tribes across a nation or planet.
This middle ground is politics. And it’s messy. Because of the inherent values in individuals, no one is happy in the middle. We are, by nature, extremely conservative or extremely liberal. We can deny this, and many do, but that’s not being honest.
That’s why politics are, by the nature of those arguing, so divided.
Let’s acknowledge that and move on. These huge battles that move the scale a little to the right or left are not only productive, but they are the only way to maintain peace in a world that will always, deep down, vote right or left.
We all want to be free. But freedom is different based on the side of this value-dichotomy you align with.
For modern conservatives, freedom is the ability to choose what matters and pursue that, uninhibited by the wants and needs of others. For modern liberals, freedom is the ability to do whatever, whenever, and if necessary to share so that others can do the same.
Accepting this doesn’t make decisions easier. It does allow you to understand why there is another side to, what appears to you, the obvious truth.
Acceptance of this view allow you to be less emotional and more detached from the decisions that have slight control over your life. You do not allow these decisions to change your emotion, because it’s natural that they will try to do that.
Why is the country split so massively in the core values it holds? Where do these values come from?
I have an answer to that, but it’s messy, and requires a post of its own.