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Technology and the Human Experience

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Larry Summers believes that technology enabled by sense has shaped history more than any other single force. Lawrence Summers: So it seems to me that technology that is brought by science, and the way in which that technology is organizes and applied, is the central force that drives history. And that has both a scientific and a technological dimension. And it also has the social scientific dimension; the domain of economics; the domain of politics; the domain of sociology, of how society organizes itself as all of this changes. And I emphasize the importance of this in part not to say that human nature doesn't in a profound way shape history; not to say that the forces of jealousy and anger and love and greed and the stuff of great tragedy aren't central in shaping history. But they are relatively constant, it seems to me, the range of human emotion, the response to provocation of human beings. I doubt these things are fundamentally different today than they were in the times of the classics. And yet the world is hugely different today.   Recorded On: June 13,  2007
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Connecting NYU's micro-communities. John Sexton: Technology will become a very important part of NYU's global network university.  The global network university is an attempt in this technological century to maintain human community.  The incarnated university, even as we break the time-space barrier by using technology to permit connectivity in a highly complex organism, which is the global network university.  So the fundamental premise is first that technology is highly useful in breaking that time-space continuum, that we can have a class that's going on simultaneously in Abu Dhabi and New York.  So a 9:00 a.m. class in New York is a 5:00 p.m. class in Abu Dhabi.  It turns out to work perfectly in the two cultures.  You have with immersive technology students in both locations, a professor in both locations, and the professor in New York can see the student in Abu Dhabi raise his or her hand, can hear his or her question and/or comment, and can respond to it and all the students in the class can be participating.  That can be networked in with other students in Prague and Buenos Aires and so on.  So the technology breaks the time-space continuum in a spectacular way for us.  On the other hand, the global network university is an attempt to incarnate on the site as well the human interaction, yes of a microcommunity that's part of an organism which is the overarching community of NYU worldwide.  But that incarnate presence allows for the human interaction that frequently is serendipitous.  So it's the human interaction in the cafeteria between a student that's working on a project in discipline A and a student who's studying discipline B, where the student in discipline B asks the question that just never gets asked by anybody inside of discipline A, because they're so much caught up in the models of their system.  It tends to be the question that challenges a first premise and asks, "Does the king have clothing on?"  It frequently can be the catalyst for the most important idea that student A thinks about.  Utterly serendipitous, simply because they both sat down at the same library table or they both sat down at the same dinner table or they happen to live in the same dorm and they're discussing what each other is working on.  Of course, there's much more formal stuff, too.  The interdisciplinary work and so forth that goes on in a human community, plus the iterative conversations that go on in a human community, which may not go on in the same way in technologically-based communities, because one has to make an a priori decision about to whom you're going to speak and where you're going to go for your conversations.  One tends to do that in strange ways.  There's an analogy here, just to arc to a completely different subject to make a point by analogy, the way the American public is getting its political news today.  People choose to get their political news from a place that gives them the political news they want to hear.  So we're in information loops.  My Reagan Republican cousins out in Central Long Island watch Fox.  They get what they want to hear and they end up hating the Clintons.  No surprise.  Meanwhile, there's a liberal counterpart to that, which ends up with its QED's that are self-preferential and circular.  The analogy, of course, is that if you become totally technologically based, it's very easy to get in an information loop.  You go to the familiar.  This then exacerbates disciplinary problems where within disciplines there tend to be divides that people end up speaking to and cheering for each other.  Then you end up losing the rigor of the discipline and the real conversation within a discipline.  The rigor and the conversation is the advantage that caused our disciplines to grow.  The reason we have departments is because by creating templates and frameworks, we create rigor.  You have to live to a certain standard.  Now what's ended up happening is, at least in some disciplines, people have imported the functional equivalent of Fox and MSNBC.  Depending upon whether you want to think that McCain or Obama is the next coming, you turn on the channel you want.  That's happening somewhat in the disciplines.  Technology, if you don't also have this incarnate serendipitous community is likely to press in that direction. So the global network university is an attempt to get the best of both worlds and both break the time-space continuum and allow the kind of continuous conversation that the technology allows, wonderful. On the other hand, maintain the human element, which of course reaches its zenith in the Jesuit high school well done.Brett Dobbs:  I can't thank you enough for coming in here and taking Recorded on 5/19/08
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Better communication gives us a greater global perspective and a greater ability to empathize with those in danger. I think one thing that you could say the world is doing right today is that there is a more global perspective. People are, because of the communications revolution, better able to understand and potentially identify with people on the other side of the world. Certainly that process of identification has been absolutely key to the human rights movement. You know if you go back 100 years, the only thing you could have a human rights movement about were great big trends. You know you could talk about, you know, slavery or colonialism -- some of the . . . the big kind of abuses that didn't really change day to day, and therefore you could really build a movement about. But the idea of generating pressure to stop this particular war or that atrocity was impossible because you wouldn't even know about it until it was too late. Today, because of communication, there is this greater capacity to . . . to see the person on the other side of the world both literally, but I think more importantly to figuratively identify with that person. And I do think that there is a growing globalization spirit which we are doing right. There's a long way to go. Still many Americans don't even have a passport. They've never traveled abroad. It's a big country, and there's often a feeling that, you know, why do you need anybody else? You can travel for 1,000 miles and still only find Americans. But that's beginning to change, and I think that's for the best because it will make America a better global citizen; perhaps a more humble citizen, but one that is more willing to live according to the values that it's preached for many years.Recorded on: 8/14/07 I think one thing that you could say the world is doing right today is that there is a more global perspective. People are, because of the communications revolution, better able to understand and potentially identify with people on the other side of the world. Certainly that process of identification has been absolutely key to the human rights movement. You know if you go back 100 years, the only thing you could have a human rights movement about were great big trends. You know you could talk about, you know, slavery or colonialism -- some of the . . . the big kind of abuses that didn't really change day to day, and therefore you could really build a movement about. But the idea of generating pressure to stop this particular war or that atrocity was impossible because you wouldn't even know about it until it was too late. Today, because of communication, there is this greater capacity to . . . to see the person on the other side of the world both literally, but I think more importantly to figuratively identify with that person. And I do think that there is a growing globalization spirit which we are doing right. There's a long way to go. Still many Americans don't even have a passport. They've never traveled abroad. It's a big country, and there's often a feeling that, you know, why do you need anybody else? You can travel for 1,000 miles and still only find Americans. But that's beginning to change, and I think that's for the best because it will make America a better global citizen; perhaps a more humble citizen, but one that is more willing to live according to the values that it's preached for many years.Recorded on: 8/14/07
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Google Tech Talks November 15, 2006 ABSTRACT What is it about technology that does not change? What persistent patterns can we learn—can society at large learn—in order to understand and evaluate the technologies underlying our important personal, political, social, and economic decisions? The author of "Technology Challenged" and director of nonprofit corporation KnowledgeContext, Miguel F. Aznar, will share stories about Hawaiian bobtail squid, North Korean radios, and nanotechnology to illustrate a strategy for understanding and evaluating any technology. This strategy is the seed for a technological literacy curriculum that KnowledgeContext has been offering in a grassroots attempt to...
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The journalist and author believes that the extent to which technology benefits humanity is up to us, its users. To learn more visit our special "Humanizing Technology" series: http://bigthink.com/series/humanizing-technology
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[Recorded: October 25, 2013] I have made things clear to some extent by the origin of numbers from 0 and 1, which I have observed is the most beautiful symbol of the continuous creation of things from nothing and of their dependence on God. - Gottfried Leibniz In the days in which mainframes ruled the earth, there walked among us a programming priesthood. Just like the monks of old who would studiously labor over the production of their elegant manuscripts, programmers would do likewise. Each character, each line was important and so required their utmost concentration and the perfection of form. Their work completed, they would cautiously carry their precious cards to the sacred place of computation and hand their offerings to intermediaries locked away in their cold, sterile rooms. The members of this programming priesthood would in turn submit those gifts to their waiting machines, all hoping that they had carried out their rituals just right. If the machines were indeed well pleased, they would signal their reply with precise although not necessarily useful answers; if displeased, they would offer curious divinations, requiring hours of study to decipher before the ritual could begin again. The coming of the minicomputer and then the personal computer brought an abrupt end to this curious period of computing, in a fashion not unlike Martin Luther's subversive declarations that similarly broke the stranglehold of the church in the Middle Ages. And therein lies a story: does technology liberate the individual or does it make us a servant to the machines we ourselves create? Does computing contribute to our spiritual well-being or does it disrupt it by encouraging an interrupt-driven life that is filled with the noise of digital ephemera? This presentation is the next in our series for Computing: The Human Experience. No matter your individual position on the matter, it is a reality that faith is a powerful element of the human experience, and so it comes as no surprise that computing intersects with the story of belief in many profound ways. In this lecture, we will examine several of these stories, leading to an understanding in how different faith traditions have reacted to and in some ways contributed to the advance of computing. From Pope Benedict's blessing via Twitter to the growth of the Digital Sabbath movement, from the technology-driven exegesis of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the rise of the virtual church, computing has impacted the ways we believe and the means by which some make their faith manifest. Belief systems came into being in part as a means of explaining the unexplainable, but along the way gave rise to important traditions that contributed to the advance of humanity in a number of unexpected ways. Yet, computing has been important tool in pushing back the edges of what we know we do not know, and so just as it has been with all technology, it is both a threat as well as an aid to faith. There's even more: at the confluence of computing and physics, there are some who have proposed a very different kind of creation story for a fully digital universe, and so we are led to ask if there is even a deeper spiritual mystery that awaits us. Lot Number: X6988.2014 Catalog Number: 102746821
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Enlightenment scholar Professor Jonathan Israel will explore the role of human rights in our core moral and legislative values.