The Power of Story, 2014 Edition
That storytelling, one of humankind's oldest activities, is topping the list of 2014's most compelling "technologies" is a testament to the power of a good narrative to transform even the most challenging situations. Narrative helps us to understand where we come from, and explains who we are to others. Narrative limns life's possibilities, and inspires us to extend ourselves beyond what we believe is possible.
In recent weeks, the news media have been awash in reports of the challenges faced by technology firms in diversifying their workplace, and the consequences to those firms, and to our country’s economic future, if we fail to fill those jobs with Americans from all backgrounds. Google, standing at the apex of today’s global economy, has revealed its own shortcomings in fostering workplace diversity, and has publicly affirmed its commitment to rectifying the problem. Yet, the company is still searching for more effective ways to boost the numbers of women and minorities in the pipeline for jobs in computing, technology and the sciences. Could the power of storytelling be harnessed to solve the problem?
Writer and editor Walter Isaacson, in his superb 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture, not only contends that the humanities and the sciences are natural bedfellows, he enchants us with the story of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, who was a mathematical prodigy and, as the first computer programmer, the progenitor of the women whose stories we are telling. Isaacson presents this pioneering female technologist as the epitome of the intersection of the sciences and humanities. The goal of The Human Computer Project is to approach this intersection with the strengths of both the humanities and technology: use history and narrative to provoke a discussion on the participation of women and minorities in science and technology; use technology to enhance the impact and the diffusion of this story that must be told.
National Endowment for the Humanities 2014 Jefferson Lecture: The Intersection of the Sciences and the Humanities with Walter Isaacson