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Ayesha Sayed

Student, UAEU

TEDCRED 500+

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Are we becoming less human?

I was chatting with my friends last night and we got on the subject of work/education. As I was listening, I was shocked to discover almost all of them speaking of their work/studies as being very robotic, not human, emotion less. And when I pointed it out, they were equally shocked to realize that they don't really feel human whilst working/studying. They feel like they lose parts of themselves and become like a device that executes this or that. Are we becoming less human?
A second part of the debate was what makes us human, are we losing our humanity as well? I realize it's a very open question but I wanted to put it out there.

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  • Jan 11 2012: The quality of being human includes being able to empathize, communicate in order to empathize, bond together for a higher value than self preservation and to become familiar with the laws that govern the organization of the universe. In order to function on the level of a human being we must have an intention that serves others. If we examine why we use technology, education and work...its usually with the intention of satisfying some singular, selfish, temporary desire. Technology and education can definitely help us to enhance our journey towards "humaness". We use it for the wrong intentions. It is possible that a more convenient life causes us to feel a false sense of independence and we slip into a dream state where we believe we are independent, powerful creatures. I've experienced this while living in a remote mountain community. When the roof blows off, a singular person cannot put it back up. He is dependent on others and knows he is at the mercy of the forces of nature, so he makes it his business to interact carefully and protectively with others. When I moved to a city, everything was easy and I was separated from nature and protected by walls and infrastructure with access to fire stations, hospitals, grocery stores, etc. These conveniences gave me the illusion day after day that I was independent and had no need to connect with others. I had to consciously seek people out and make time to listen and find ways in which I could be of service to retain my sensitivity. I had to ask where the food was coming from and think about those who produced it to remember and appreciate the reality of food production in the city whereas in the mountain regions I was growing it myself and understood the labor of it intimately. In the mountains I shared and traded the produce. In the city everyone had their own produce and when I attempted to share some of what I had, nobody wanted it. With convenience we must work harder to be human.
    • Jan 11 2012: You make some great points, Cher. Just yesterday on the news, a small town was hosting a memorial day for its one year anniversary of a flood that took many lives. The major said 'why must it take such adverse circumstances for us to get to know our neighbors'.
      The spirit of citizenship and society that came during that time 1 year ago, the community banding together and helping each other, these were richest that sadly may not have occurred any other way. If only it wouldn't take such adversity for us to act like the community of humanity we really are.
      One couple, who got married on new years day, met each other when their neighboring houses were damaged. They had lived next to each other for years but never knew each other until they needed each other. These 2 quite and reserved people might not have found each other at all, despite being right next door.
      • Jan 12 2012: Hello Deb! Sometimes it really does take tragic events but what I've experienced is that all it takes is the recognition that we need each other on some level. I was speaking to someone the other day and they are absolutely convinced that if they sequester themselves and work on their creative projects and only think positive thoughts they will achieve abundance all by themselves. When I suggested all the variables to this little equation and all the ways where his plans could be interrupted and how dependent the plans were on good health, continued economic vitality, the right connections with the right people and sometimes even the weather along with being in the right place at the right time, he conceded that really nobody "makes it" alone. There are in fact generations which preceded us and set up our circumstances before we were even born. So, again, understanding the entire path of history and the ways in which we actually develop is a unique ability of humans. It plays into your example too, imagine all the events in both sets of lives that led them to "connect" after that flood. We are truly bound together by a huge unseen network.
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    Jan 11 2012: cont, here
    Because of these findings, it has been said—maybe with some exaggeration—that the current "Me Generation" is one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history. One possible explanation could be that the current generation of college students grew up with a huge exposure to violent media and video games that tend to trivialize violence and to numb people to the pain of others.

    And there is also the influence of television, which is a cold and passive medium, because it tends to isolate people from each other and predisposes them to be victim of propaganda..."
    heres the source for full article "For a Better Global Civilization" http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/tremblay=1135.htm
  • Jan 11 2012: I saw this sci-fi movie once called "Dune". In it, a prince was being tested by a female religious order to determine whether or not he was a human being. He had a choice in this ordeal: remove his hand from a box (that was sending him the sensation of pain)and die, or bear the pain and live. Actually, this only demonstrates that the prospect of continued existence was a greater pleasure to him than the potential for relief from removing his hand from the box but immediate death. For now, the ability to calculate toward continued existence over immediate gratification constitutes a human being--or at least a very smart primate. However, I have to disagree with the idea that awareness of our feelings and desiring change make us human( even bacteria exchange chemical data and seek the ideal tonicity of whatever medium them exist in), these traits merely make us talented opportunists and exploiters of others and situations for personal benefit. Should we start realizing and acting consciously within the system of connection between people-be it economic, political, or psychological( or most human, all of them together) -toward the system's benefit and not for self benefit, this would be closer to Human. For the time being, our actions are like those of individual neurons that think the data and sensations they perceive constitutes real awareness and are content with that level of being. However, were they to link with other neurons and and function toward the edification of the revealed connection and all the wonders manifested therein, they'd never revert to their small chemical + and - existence again.
    • E Pines

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      Jan 11 2012: Monte, I think that your point about the "gome jabbar" needle ring is very pointed indeed (triple pun intended - :) ). And indeed per Shakespeare, that is the question: "Whether t'is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or..."

      I was a bit of a Frank Herbert fan myself, and I think that we see still further in his thinking, that the road to being human starts wth the choice of life with its pain, or death with its appearance of carefree oblivion. However, the one who successfully completes it can end the true leader of humanity -- here, Herbert's Dune messiah, the "Muad'Dib".

      I agree with you and Frank Herbert too, in that being intelligent apprehension of our emotions and following our desires only makes us clever beasties -- not humans. What makes us human is to strive to rise above the beast and rather than merely being a slave to the pull of lust and the push of pain, actively understand where we ae to evolve to and of our own free will, become a partner rather than mindless part in that path. One can't fight Nature, but one can willing join it.

      We see where the world is going: technological leaps and globally limits on growth that bind the globe in evertightening interdependence between all people, and even the ecology/climate. And that direction is two-fold. One is a chaos of evergrowing problems in an evergrowing number of dimensions, per Einstein's dire warning that the human mind produces technologies whose problems are beyond it ken. The other is a communication/computational linking of all of Humanity -- in other words, we are being evolved by high tech lust into a megacolony -- a supermind -- that IS capable of lthriving in this new world.

      The problem is our puzzle pieces are not being nicely fit together by Nature but are being shaken around to fit. Will ourselves to mutual concern and guarantee, and we will all fit smoothly. So lets will to do what those bacterial megacolonies do mindlessly --that's true human.
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    Jan 11 2012: Cont. Here is an insert from an amazing article written by a professor of economics Rodrigue Tremblay (the entire article is a worthwhile read)

    IV- Troubling findings of A Recent Study

    And some moral tendencies are also worrisome.

    It is even possible that we have entered a period of moral regression, not of moral progress.

    For example, the current generation of college students in the United States has been found to show an empathy index that is about 40 per cent lower than 20 or 30 years ago.
    (See study by Ms. Sara Konrath, a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, of 72 different studies of American college students conducted between 1979 and 2009).

    Compared to college students of the late 1970s, indeed, a recent study found that college students today are less likely to agree with statements such as:
    "I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective"
    or
    "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me."

    There seems to be a growing emphasis on the self, self-centered goals, and on personal greed and on personal success at any cost, accompanied by a corresponding devaluation of other people and of their needs.

    Moreover, it has been found that the biggest drop in empathy took place most recently, i.e. after the year 2000. In other words, the moral environment seems to have taken a turn for the worse at the beginning of the new century...
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    Jan 11 2012: Hi Ayesha, thank you so much for raising such an important and extremely relevant question conversation in our shared global crisis present predicament. You and your friends together hit on a deep conversation which is a great sign because you guys are exploring internally inside yourselves due to external situations circumstances. So thats a great thing because this is a direction towards searching for meaningfulness and sure beats just spending time together for a cup of coffee or watching a soccer game or whatever. Your questions here reminded me of a short article I read on one of my favourite sites yesterday, heres an insert from the article and I will add some other things that perhaps you may also be interested in reading
    "But this has been the problem as of late. I feel like I’ve been striving for quantum leaps, but missed small iterations. I feel like I’ve tried too hard to be transformative, but failed to see the smaller steps, the little successes necessary for growth. I feel like I’ve leapt away from “science” because I felt like it stripped away my humanity, rather than finding a way to use science to support my own humanity and that of my students."
    http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/metrics-and-success/ This is a great site with a wonderful group of teachers and students striving for human education . Ill add some more here but dont have enough space in one comment box. And thanks again for sharing your thoughts & question.
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    Jan 7 2012: I find it hard to believe we are less of humans when social netwroking, blogging, facebook, twitter, and almost whole of world wide web borders on bringing us together. TED talk is doing the same as is this conversation. If we have to talk about social evils and other such issues that throw the humanity into this vortex of dehumanization, I believe that having an ideal or utopian concept of life is misleading and dangerous. Being human essentially means responding to the situation and adaptiing such that we can susatain ourselves atleast. Although it may not be relevant, I feel the need to point out that you have referred to only work and studies, something that almost no one likes to do. If a 5th grader made the same excuse, we know what our response would be. Occam's Razor- sometimes the simplest explanation is right. We have opportunity to do our own business, pursue our interest, healthcare facilities, and loads of other stuff. Infact, we are spoilt for choices. No one ceases to be a human merely due to boredom, repetition or disinterest. Our need for change is in itself a sign of humanity. Our capacity to identify and empathise with the unwarranted dynamics of life and world makes us human. Your conversation with friends that provoked you to explore it and the sharing of their opinions makes us human.
  • Jan 7 2012: Might as well finish.
    The sole intent and purpose of religion is the complete annihilation of the human spirit.
    Yes, your friends are still someone sane and mentally balanced because they are still
    able to recognize the lies being embedded within their psyches.
    Robert Trivers discovered that humans hold both truth and false simultaneously.
    However, the false is held in the conscious mind while the truth is held in the unconscious.
    Therefore, not only is it becoming more difficult to access that unconscious truth, people are at risk
    if they do so, or act upon it or even speak it out loud, but more and more conscious lies, drown out the
    truth that calls one from within.
    After a while it is not only not heard, it isn't even listened for. It has nothing to do with God
    It is YOU, calling to you.

    There is more slavery in the world today than at any time in history.
    Inequality, leading to poverty, begets slavery and increases crime and greed. Crime and greed also came from those who committed them in order to create inequality, poverty and slavery. They next invest in the most profitable businesses of all, war and death. Yours and mine, and no God ever intervenes.

    We say we believe we are a "higher animal" or a "higher being" yet we allow ourselves to live more like animals everyday and more become poor and enslaved for the profits of "god-fearing Americans".

    Unless you become part of the power elite or the financial elite, there is a very good chance of your not only going to prison, but also that another human will eat you for food.
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    Jan 11 2012: i wonder if a farm worker in england, 1200 would agree to the notion that our jobs become more robotic and emotionless. i'd rather continue to write computer software than plow. maybe we have romantic views of past times and realistic views of the present.
  • Jan 7 2012: We are being made less human.
    Artificial intelligence is not coming in the form of robots or machines.
    It is first being manifested in humans, through centuries of propaganda, demonizing, shaming and making humans feel guilty for being human, through the education systems, religious and otherwise, the media and other forms I cannot think of right now. People are told what to believe. They are told what to think. They are told what to say and then they are told what to do. Conversely, they are told what not to believe, told what not to think, told what not to say and told what not to do. That is being robotized and being made artificially intelligent.
    The work people do is slave labor that benefits only a few.
    They are made into criminals through the passage of laws, limiting the freedoms they need to survive, and they are threatened all the time with persecution, prosecution, incarceration, brute force, the false threat of outsiders and best one of all, going to hell! A place that doesn't exist. The reason for the lie is that they never consciously recognize with enough power, that they are in a hell already, so that they will not resist it, fight it or over come or over throw it. Over time, all of it, or most of it, developed by religion and carried out by the so-called "good people of God" through the millennium, and into politics. Politics is something we don't even need! They need us to keep believing we need them when they have never solved the problems humans have and they never will because they have no intention on doing so.
    Less than human came from religion which is the source of evil in the world and always has been. Humans need to get rid of everything that doesn't work, be it people, institutions, organizations, ideas and beliefs, particularly those that are false. Mental illness, other than from organic causes, is mainly caused by lies and today, Americans especially, worship lies in a dangerous way. Many do around the world as Christianity spread.
  • Jan 7 2012: Interesting question. Does the concept of being less human translate to not being valuable as a person? We are human, but are we living according to God's intent? Do the friends believe in God? Is God irrelevant to all of them?

    I understand there actually is a fragment of the spirit of the Father God indwelling each of us. If true, how then would a person be worthless? Such a fragment is a superb gift and this Spirit works tirelessly, without need for rest, in our minds to make adjustments in our thinking. How can we feel worthless when such a gift is continuously present and loving us? This concept of divine Indweller is not owned by any religion, but is an ancient one that has many names within religions.

    We are not less human, but we can drift away from God and lose sight of value and purpose. So, for your friends, why are they studying? For what purpose? If purpose is not defined for last value, I can see how life would seem less human.

    For clarity, what would be yours and your friends' definition of human? Are they feeling worthless in life?

    In friendship,
    MK
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      Jan 12 2012: Thank you for your reply.
      Not worthlessness exactly, it's more of a feeling of disconnection. We we are now doesn't resemble what we remember of being human. Especially in the areas of compassion, empathy and equality, I guess it's the effect of living in an ultra modern community where materialism takes precedence over being.