Some fifty-odd years of research have convinced me that the divide is even taller
and steeper than Snow suggested. That that it lies, in fact, between information
— that bit-stream so admirably handled by both computing machinery and the human
or animal brain — on the one side, and knowledge on the other; that knowledge is
what information is turned into after it has crossed the mind-brain barrier; and
that among other things this conversion is what ensures that true “artificial intelligence”
will never exist since machinery, no matter how sophisticated it may doubtless become
in the digital age, does not have a mind and we lack the capability to provide it
It was half a century ago in 1959 that Snow, in his Rede Lecture for that year, famously
put forward the notion that since Newton and Darwin the entire basis of Western thought
had become divided; that on the one hand we have the sciences, which are empirical
and which stand or fall with the results of observation presented as evidence, and
on the other the humanities, which are held to be mainly creative and speculative.
So persuasive was this view that the title of his lecture, “The Two Cultures”, has
become part of the language of philosophy.
I’ll examine this postulate further as this this site develops but, for now, let
us simply accept C.P. Snow’s idea of Two Cultures and see how it is handled by books,
and by reading.