Advocating for Tech Firms to Hire Philosophers


I have spent the better half of the last two years trying to convince companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, DeepMind, and OpenAI that they need to hire philosophers.

That’s Tobias Rees, Reid Hoffman Professor of Humanities at The New School and director of “The Transformations of the Human” program at The Berggruen Institute.

In an essay at Quartz, Rees writes that tech companies “have helped create realities that we can no longer navigate with the old understanding of what it means to be human”:

We need new ones—for ourselves, so that we are able to navigate and regulate the new worlds we live in, but also for the engineers who create tech products, tools, and platforms, so that they can live up to the philosophical stakes of their work. To make that possible, we need philosophers and artists working alongside computer and software engineers.

Rees has in mind developments in artificial intelligence and related areas. He says:

The vast majority of cutting-edge AI research is carried out in companies. The problem is that most of the people who lead these companies don’t know that they are radically reinventing our definition of what it means to be human. They think of themselves as just people who work at tech companies. One of the major ambitions of my work is to change this. I want these labs and companies to understand their enormous philosophical responsibility: the self-aware design of new possibilities of being human and of living together.

His article reports that his effort to place philosophers in contact with major tech innovators has had some successes:

We have philosophy and art teams at Element AI, Facebook, and Google, and also at AI labs at MIT, Berkeley, and Stanford. Our researchers are in regular conversation with DeepMind, OpenAI, and Microsoft.

You can read the whole article here.

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