The most creative innovations of the digital age came from those who were able to connect the arts and sciences. They believed that beauty mattered. “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” Steve Jobs told me when I embarked on his biography. “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” The people who were comfortable at this humanities-technology intersection helped to create the human-machine symbiosis that is at the core of this story.
Like many aspects of the digital age, this idea that innovation resides where art and science connect is not new. Leonardo da Vinci was the exemplar, and his drawing of the Vitruvian Man became the symbol, of the creativity that flourishes when the humanities and sciences interact. When Einstein got stymied while working out General Relativity, he would pull out his violin and play Mozart until he could reconnect to what he called the harmony of the spheres.
We humans can remain relevant in an era of cognitive computing because we are able to think different, something that an algorithm, almost by definition, can’t master. We possess an imagination that, as Ada Lovelace said, “brings together things, facts, ideas, conceptions in new, original, endless, ever-varying combinations.” We discern patterns and appreciate their beauty. We weave information into narratives. We are storytelling animals as well as social ones.