As Lei Zhang, a successful business leader and Yale alumnus, said, “The humanities are fundamental to reason. Isolating data and technology from the humanities is like trying to swim without water; you can have all the moves of Michael Phelps, but you still won’t end up getting anywhere.”

The humanities provide the context—the possibility of real understanding—for all that the future promises.

Despite the promise of technology to connect people, too often we remain isolated in our own narrow circles. Joining the humanities with new digital tools can help us reach across divides—through time and space—and allow more people to explore our rich cultural resources.

We have been here before. In 1939, as war raged in Europe and Asia, Yale President Charles Seymour worried that the liberal arts would be neglected. Although the public did not think they were “useful,” Seymour was convinced the humanities were indispensable. “Without them,” he wrote movingly, “the heritage of the human experience is impoverished.”

Excerpts from an article by Peter Salovey, President of Yale University, World Economic Forum.