What is Microsoft Talking about at Davos? Liberal Arts

“It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.” — Apple CEO Steve Jobs

“As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important.” — Microsoft President Brad Smith and EVP of AI and Research Harry Shum


The war between Apple and Microsoft is over and liberal arts has won, declares Business Insider based on a new book on full display at Davos this week, “The Future Computed,” by Microsoft executives, President Brad Smith and EVP of AI and Research Harry Shum. Seven years ago, Apple CEO Steve Jobs declared the imperative of liberal arts in the advancement of technology. Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, on the other hand, argued that, “a liberal arts education would hold back college graduates in the modern economy.”

The differential growth in these two companies’ stock valuations today pretty much says it all about who was right. But, spurred by the rise of AI and its capacity to outperform humans in the technical areas that Gates valued so much, Microsoft has also come around to seeing the light. As these Microsoft executives write in their new book,

“…one of the most important conclusions of Microsoft’s recent research into artificial intelligence is that lessons from liberal arts will be critical to unleashing the full potential of AI.”  

In this new AI world order, they write, languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, and psychology will make this new technology viable by empowering us to navigate the complex challenges AI poses to society around issues of equality, privacy, safety, reliability, and accountability.

You don’t need to convince Brown of this. Our excellence in critical and interdisciplinary thinking has generated quite literally centuries of innovative leaders across the world known for their ability to see new opportunities, inspire stakeholders and teams to strive toward shared objectives, and drive change.

We embed this liberal arts infused pedagogy into our executive master programs to empower professionals to impact industry in today’s complex, global and digitally paced economy. Join us to see the world through new lenses to create a more just, prosperous and equal world.

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