Berggruen Institute Member Fareed Zakaria Defends the Humanities at the LA Launch of His New Book, "In Defense of a Liberal Education"

On April 27, CNN host Fareed Zakaria defended the humanities as part of the L.A. book launch of his new treatise, In Defense of a Liberal Education. Zakaria is a member of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council. The WorldPost hosted the launch.

Zakaria spoke on a wide array of topics — chief among them the subject of his book: the importance of a liberal arts education. In a time when both the left and right are questioning the utility of the liberal arts on the grounds that it is not the skills-based training needed to prepare one for today’s workforce, Zakaria argued that, in fact, a liberal arts education is “the special sauce” that has helped make the U.S. economy one of the most robust, innovative, and dynamic economies in the world.

As Zakaria explained in his remarks, the very skills that a liberal arts education helps teach – creativity, critical thinking, flexibility, and common sense – are the skills that make for successful workers and entrepreneurs, and are the skills that are the hardest to replace with AI. Technical skills, on the other hand, are the easiest to replace with AI. This was not to diminish the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math, but rather that the STEM disciplines should be married with the liberal arts to bring about the most creative, dynamic, and successful economy possible.

Zakaria also answered questions from the audience on a variety of other topics, including ISIS, Iran, Israel, Palestine, and space.

Attendees at the event included, among many others, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, financiers Steve Schwarzman, David Bonderman and Mohamed El-Erian, California State Senator Bob Hertzberg, former California Governor Gray Davis and Hollywood producers Brian Grazer, Lawrence Bender and Mike Medavoy. Economist and member Nouriel Roubini, essayist Pico Iyer and Harvard historian Niall Ferguson also attended.

A gallery of the event can be viewed here.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.