Hafta Letters: On Science vs Arts and more
NL Dhulai

Hafta Letters: On Science vs Arts and more

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Dear NL panel,

I would like to comment on the whole engineering vs humanities debate in the context of India.

I completed my PhD in Electrical Engineering from IIT Bombay. First of all, let me be clear, I agree with Abhinandan’s argument about science students taking courses in arts and humanities. I myself did 2 courses on philosophy during my time in IIT. Also, I would like to tell you that not all engineering students at IITs are rabid Modi supporters. I know people from my hostel (at IIT) who campaigned for Medha Patkar in 2014 elections in Mumbai and who in 2015 took a break from their studies to campaign for Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi (who is also an IITian btw).

I mainly disagree with the attempt to paint Humanities students as more ’empathetic’ than engineering students. This notion that the humanities students have a monopoly on empathy is totally wrong. There are engineering students that are empathetic and take part in activism and there are Humanities students that are total assholes. In my opinion, one reason that engineering students are not so much involved with the left (which dominates most Humanities department) is that engineering students do not oppose capitalism. Most engineering students are interested in getting a job or to become an entrepreneur. Sure, Newslaundry panellists might also have the same view, but you have to concede, many of the people on the left are in some way anti-capitalists.

I think most engineering students lie in the middle of the fight and left divide. They do not have a firm position on many political issues like whether or not reservations are necessary, Kashmir conflict, Isreal-Palestine dispute, etc. And since these days, not having any position on any topic is frowned upon on social media, many students do not even voice their opinions on social media. But engineering students do talk about politics amongst themselves, make fun of Modi and the institute authorities on private social media and Whatsapp groups.

I think if there are more centrist voices in public, engineering students would then feel comfortable to air their views. I do believe Newslaundry and channels like The Lallantop are doing something in that direction, and hope you receive more engineer subscribers in the future.

Thanks

Ashish

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Hello NL team,

I am a Newslaundry subscriber for about two years now. I love the work you guys are doing. I strongly believe that if you can sort out the tech via the app, which you already are working on, your subscription should significantly improve.

I am a software engineer working in Hyderabad and always wanted to write to you on a number of issues but those doctorates/postgraduates, brilliant types, always demotivated me from writing. Also, I am lazy.

My primary reason for writing is to thank Madhu Trehan for Newslaundry/Hafta, she is someone who I thought was extremely original. A lot of times I would be surprised with her stand on issues. It is rare now with other regular Hafta panellists. I hope she can be part of more Haftas in the future. Also huge respect for wanting to work with the underprivileged.

My best wishes to her.

Also, I did a review of all the Haftas and found some interesting stats:

1. Out of 250 Haftas, Madhu Trehan appeared in 117 episodes. Out of these she was on time on 53. There were only three times when she was on time for two consecutive Haftas.

2. Out of all Haftas, Abhinandan has given a reference of Newstrack in 137. Having never watched it, I feel now I know so much about Newstrack.

3. There is a reference to CBI story Raman Sir did in 13 Haftas.

4. Anand clarified “I did not say/mean that” 43 times.

5. I love Manisha, so no trolling 🙂

Hafta is my favourite podcast which I always look forward to, keep up the good work. We need independent media so I really hope you guys do well in years to come.

Cheers,

B

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Hi NL Team,

This is with regards to the Arts Vs Sciences question posed by Manisha in the last Hafta.

I’ve studied in an engineering college for my bachelor’s in India and subsequently, a masters in Computer Science and Game Design at the University of Pennsylvania, during which I was lucky enough to take courses in Film and Video Art with the Fine Arts School of the University; So, I think I’m lucky enough to have seen both sides, both in India and the States.

Generally, people in science and engineering – even in American universities – seem to have a certain degree of condescension towards the arts, and I attribute this to a utilitarian attitude which these disciplines necessitate. The jargon that gets thrown around in companies and academia relates more to efficiency, productivity, and goal-oriented work rather than exploration, the discovery of identity, and discordant or unsettling questions.

For example, I think people in STEM fields would value a project that incrementally improves efficiency in a business process over an art installation or documentary that requires you to challenge your perceptions of sexuality, as 1) the technical effort going into the former (writing code, etc) would be considered more arduous than the latter (setting up shots, logistics, travel), and 2) the outcome of the latter is unquantifiable and requires a non-utilitarian attitude to engage with it.

In India, we produce a large volume of professionals from engineering, management, or medical colleges, that do not have the chance to interface with people in liberal arts or journalism or take classes with these schools, and I think this siloing effect causes people to have less empathy with endeavours in these fields –  they tend to think of people pursuing arts as freeloaders, people who didn’t have good enough marks to land an engineering seat, hedonists, or people who “want to take life easy”.

Across the world, the stereotype for a kid who is intelligent is still a math wiz, rather than say, someone who writes poetry at the age of 7, despite the fact that psychology tells us there are different types of intelligence and logical-mathematical is only one of them.

Regards,

Sagar Tetali

NL Subscriber

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Hello NL Team,

….. and I appreciate your work. Now rant.

Techie:

As most of your subscribers listen to the podcast, while commuting or working-out or doing some work. It’s difficult to understand if you don’t have better voice quality, this problem occurs in a few Hafta’s (Hafta 250) where speaker/s join via phone or skype. Please use some audio filters or software to make it clean. Also, do a voice quality check when you transit to get a rough idea. All your reports/articles are readable on the internet. However, it will be beneficial if you could also have the option to download as PDFs, this makes it more accessible especially in flights and printable files.

Science vs Art

I can share 2 cents of my knowledge. My journey started from (BE) Mechanical Engineering to (MS) Nanotechnology to (PhD) Photonics. Science and Technology streams are physical i.e. one can see results of it if one asks what science has contributed in the last 50 years the list of inventions/discoveries is unlimited. However, if the same is applied for arts/humanities it’s comparatively difficult.

Scientific thinking is dominantly good for the left brain while arts for right. Hence both the streams of knowledge are equally important. Currently, technological advances of science are extremely powerful hence, its vital for researchers to have some knowledge of humanities. For instance, it’s up to one on using nuclear energy for bombing or energy harvesting. Similarly, new CJI wants to use A.I. (artificial intelligence) in courts. There are many reports in the USA that suggest that the A.I. algorithm is more likely to punish blacks than whites for the same crime. It’s up to one to decide how these scientific tools can be used. Arts can be helpful to overcome the ethical dilemma one has to face.(https://www.aclu.org/issues/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/ai-and-criminal-justice-devil-data)

Currently, new IITs are including courses like economics, psychology, etc, some are electives while some as compulsory. Lastly, even Arts students need to learn basic sciences and math.

You can do a let’s talk about on NL, your subscribers could help you with literature you guys could compile and articulate well.

With Regards,

K.A.

Newslaundry
www.newslaundry.com