The historical bifurcation of technical and liberal education may result in technological “advances” that are not always well-informed or in the long-term, best interest of society. Pirsig in the neo-classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, points to a possible cause, “What’s wrong with technology is that it’s not connected in any real way with matters of the spirit and of the heart. And so it does blind, ugly things quite by accident and gets hated for that.”
Historically we have “trained” engineers in very narrow vocationally oriented disciplines ready to be “productive” on the job as soon as they graduate. Indeed, Woodrow Wilson relegated the “skilful servant of society along mechanical lines” to the non-ruling class. “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class to forgo the privilege of a liberal education.”
Fortunately, history is not destiny and Pirsig provides a ray of hope. “The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both.”
Domenico Grasso, President AEE&S, Sept 2001
Fortunately, history is not destiny
and Pirsig provides a ray of hope.
(Another engineer sees Pirsig as a ray of hope. See my plea about the “engineering” skills needed to get a planeload of anthropologists airborne in my review of Dawkins’ Devil’s Chaplain too.)