Author Steven Johnson:
Looking back now, I realize that beneath all those surface obsessions, a theme was running through my interests like an underground river, and it didn't fully surface until my mid-20s: the sense that the most fertile and engaging space in our culture lay at the intersection between new technology and the humanities.
In a funny way, the Mac played the same role for me that "Catcher in the Rye" or "Easy Rider" played for earlier generations: Experiencing it expanded my consciousness in ways that took me years to fully understand. Almost all my engagements with the technology world since then—the books I've written and the websites I've created—have been animated by the basic principle that digital machines work better when they are crafted and interpreted by people whose sensibility is shaped by the world of culture as much as that of technology.
This passage from Johnson’s essay has resonated with me for a long time. It might seem a little silly to refer to a computer as consciousness-expanding, but the Mac’s (and in turn, Apple’s) relentless focus on simple design played a formative role in shaping the way I see the world.
Johnson goes on to mention Steve Jobs’ discussion of technology and the liberal arts at the iPad’s unveiling, which is worth watching:
Our cultural conversation around the intersection between technology and the humanities has evolved a lot since 2010, particularly in the wake of the social impact that smartphones and social networks have had on our world. But the core argument remains the same: The devices and services we rely on everyday are better when they’re designed with a liberal arts perspective.
(As an aside, Johnson’s books are worth checking out. I’ve read a couple of them, and his work is both extremely accessible and fascinating to read.)