Top 10 Questions Humanities will Answer (2013)

In an effort to promote conversation and thinking about humanities, ASU is launching “The Top 10 Questions Humanities Will Answer This Year.” Each month a new question will be posed and answered in different formats by individuals across the globe and from multiple perspectives.

1. Are we losing our humanity?

Obviously, we cannot physically cut our souls out of our bodies, but might we be “losing” them just the same, and entering the territory of a Data-like person?Simon Ortiz, Regents’ Professor of English and an Indigenous poet of Acoma Pueblo heritage, says not necessarily.“We’re not losing our humanity. We as humans, get or act stupid, irresponsible, neglectful, and such, but unfortunately that's part of being human,”- Ortiz says.
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2. How does technology affect what it means to be human?

ASU experts examine how technology changes and affects how we communicate and socialize in our everyday lives. From gaming to social networking, technology can broaden what it means to be human and provide different, creative outlets to say who we are and who we want to be.

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3. How do the humanities impact business?

Robert Mittelstaedt, dean emeritus of ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business, feels that educators must combine business ethics and the humanities to produce graduates who will excel in their fields. “For business majors, we try to ensure a healthy mix of hard-core business subjects and general studies that will help students build the base that will lead them to success – but it is only a start. We all have to keep learning more about the humanities and business over our lifetime,” he said.
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4. Why is it important  to know other languages & cultures?

As we go through life we usually just get to be one person," says Robert Joe Cutter, director of ASU's School of International Letters and Cultures. "But when you study another language and when you use another language, you get to have the opportunity to be a different person. "Putting on another language is like putting on a different suit of clothes."


5. How do the humanities help us imagine the future?

“In the past, people imagined, then created technological advances, like the telegraph. Today, technology is helping us imagine the future. Technology is enabling us to analyze situations, and devise and test solutions we would not have been able to on our own. From nanotechnology to genomics to computer animation, technology is expanding our vision in all aspects of life,” said Denise Meridith, owner of Denise Meridith Consultants.
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6. Why do we fear what we do not know or understand?

What is fear? What is prejudice? And how are the two related? Director of Project Humanities, Neal Lester, and professor of psychology, Steven Neuberg, shed some light on these questions in this look at how certain human conditions can engender irrational responses and how we can learn to overcome them.

7. How do we determine what is "good" for society?
In economics, public goods are described as services that are available to everyone at no cost. Under this context, the consumption of these goods by a single person does not have an effect on the ability for others to consume this item. A few basic examples of this are fresh air, knowledge and information goods. With this broad of an outline, who determines what is “good” for society and how do they do so?

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8. Is Social Media creating a digitally dependent culture?

“People want to talk about social media as if it is groundbreaking, which it is on many levels, but ultimately, it is just an extension of something we’ve always been attracted to, like building out our network of friends and colleagues. Platforms like Facebook have just made it easier to curate and broadcast this information like never before,” said Suzanne Scott, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies in the Department of English at Arizona State University.
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9. Is pop culture a direct representation of the views of society?
Everywhere we turn we are surrounded by popular culture. Whether it is on TV in a coffee shop, magazines in a grocery store or music on the radio in the car, we just can’t seem to get away from it. "Pop culture often becomes a manifestation of what we want," says Matthew Whitaker, director for the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. "Sometimes, however, what we want isn’t good for us.”

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