Balance between the sciences and humanities creates innovation

In a word, innovation encapsulates the social and economic changes in industrialisation. It informs a new or substantially improved product, process, service or invention that is economically beneficial. Many are chasing revolutionary innovation, but how exactly do innovations emerge?

Ogan Gurel is a doctor, researcher, speaker, and writer, but above all an innovator. Over the course of his career, he has accumulated experience in a number of fields, from marketing to medicine, while guiding both small and large companies in developing innovations.

“Innovation is a state of mind, and there are no quick fixes or fancy tricks to achieve it. The most important thing is to think about things from different angles,” Dr. Gurel says and continues by sharing an anecdote from one of his earliest memories in elementary school.

“We were asked to give a presentation about our favorite planet. So I talked about Jupiter. But not because it was the biggest planet, but rather because I proposed, based on something I had read, that it was not a planet after all, but rather a failed star. I think looking at things from a different angle, trying to be different, has always been with me,” Gurel explains.

In previous Industrial Revolutions — the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd — each revolution was largely defined by a specific technology: the steam engine, electricity, and computers respectively in turn. Now, the 4th industrial revolution has brought with it, among other things, IoT, artificial intelligence and machine learning, which benefit from know-how in many different fields. In other words, the revolution we are experiencing now is not about a single, dominant technology, but rather about technology convergence. Specialisation in one field is no longer enough today, there is a need for broader skillsets. But what does all this have to do with innovation?

The two cultures do not communicate with each other

“The surest recipe for creating new innovations is to bring humanities and hard sciences together. Innovations require a base in training that combines art and science. We need cooperation between scientists, humanists, technology and the arts, but often education systems do not promote interaction between these fields. The lack of convergence gives rise to two different, distinct cultures,” Gurel explains.

The concept of two cultures refers to a famous 1959 lecture by British polymath C.P. Snow. Snow saw that there was a deep gap between the fields of science and arts, and there was no dialogue between them for this reason. The lack of discourse and interaction has led to further sectoral differentiation. The effects of this are still evident today. Without interdisciplinary interaction, it becomes harder for new ideas to emerge to revolutionise the world.

“The current pandemic shaking the world is, to some extent, a result of this very problem. We have anti-scientific leaders as well as a scientific community that has clearly been incapable of speaking to citizens. As C.P. Snow said, the two cultures are not talking to each other,” Gurel says.

But how will this situation be resolved? According to Gurel, there is a need for education where these two sides of science really come together. Not so much science students dabbling in humanities courses or art students taking a smattering of science classes – this is done rather well by anyone who undertakes a liberal arts education – but rather educational experiences that truly integrate both of Two Cultures. Massive and complex problems such as climate change cannot be solved unless scientists and humanists understand each other and build bridges between disciplines. These bridges also make it possible to create new innovations that improve society as a whole.

 

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