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Harnsowl Ko

Student - B.E - Chemical Engineering, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

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Where does our identity as being "human" come from?

This week in my Bioelectricity class we discussed electrical stimulation. Research on electrical stimulation often focuses on the manipulation the electrical fields and currents. An example of this manipulation can be seen in Bill Doyle's TED talk, which deals with orienting cancer cells along an electric field in order to disrupt their replication. Electrical stimulation can also be used in devices such as pacemakers or neuroprosthetics for injury recovery. As technology begins to expand, the concept of prosthetics replacing major body parts is not far off. Thus, the question becomes does a person lose their given identity because they are not 100% “human”? But before you answer, keep in mind that the bacteria in your gut outnumber the number of cells in your entire body by a factor of 10!

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    Mar 3 2012: I think; if you live in a "developed nation", or "civilized nation" our perception of the "human-being" or "being human" is an un-natural perception instilled by the many institutions which we depend on for our understanding of the human. Organized religion and institutionalized academics are intellectual learning centers composed and edited by other humans who wish to teach you who you are. In reality they are telling you who they want you to be. Each person owes to themselves a personal journey to understand who they are "being". The aforementioned institutes practice what might be termed as homeomorphic paradigms of the human comprehension, creating an un-natural reality that obscures our perception of the human experience. By the time we leave school and/or church our understanding of our identities are so misconstrued we may never find our way home. And, I think imperialistic conquests expressed in war is evidence of this plight amongst us humans that know no other way of life than being human, and ignorant of becoming human-beings. There is a worthy juxtaposition to decipher here.
    As far as the manipulations of the electrical and electro-magnetic fields in our bodies is concerned, I think they are natural to our physical self before being introduced by the dr's of science so I don't see them as adding or subtracting anything from the physical. I am certainly most concerned about the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual manipulations of our lives by these representatives of the learning instittutions in our "civilized nations", because in that context we have forgotten what it is to be human. There is a very real difference between the "human-being" and "being human".
    Our identity crises originated long before your concerns of medical research and practice with a much more profound detriment to our existence and survivability. Medical research is just another symptom of our loss of understanding. We live in fear, because we fail to know "us".
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      Mar 4 2012: I think you summed it up very well in the line 'There is a very real difference between the "human-being" and "being human".' Very well put.
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        Mar 6 2012: Thanks Anupriy, I try to be the human who exists first as the being who is also human. I think there was no mistake in connecting the words human and being. When I recognise myself first as the being who is also human, I am on the same plane, or level of enlightenment as the other beings in the universe. I know it sounds crazy, I was raised by humans who taught me that we are superior, more intelligent and are the appointed stewards of the earth. This teaching instilled a true, "false" sense of pride in this young man growing up on the farm, I had been ordained by creation to do with the animals and earth as I thought was proper to benifit us humans. I have been confused ever since those early days and I have found it to be very difficult to relinquish my position of authority over the other beings of this earth. I think it also allowed to to believe, for my own benifit that even other humans that were not like me must fall under my protection of knowing what is best for them, as well. The longer I have obeyed the doubts in myself and the questions of our superiority I have had to admit, there are many other beings in this universe, plant, animal, reptile, insect and even mineral and metals, too, I guess. The more i have tried to know them all, the stronger the realisation has made itself evident in my life, the humans have been the most greedy, selfish ones of all, even allowing their fear of tomorrow and all it's obligations to convince them that their behavior is acceptable and expected when we subjugate and measure every other being from the standards of the human comprehension. How arrogant! From a species who exists most like a virus on this planet, always needing more and more, destroying what we consume today for all generations to come, and we rape, murder, and destroy our own species. Are we the superior, the most intelligent?, should we think of ourselves as the noble stewards? I will not lie about it. uni-verse = one-song. Thanks Anupriy.
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      Mar 6 2012: I very much enjoyed reading your comment, especially the distinction between a perception of "being human" and "human being." There clearly is a distinction between the two. To me being a human being is simply the state of being a mammalian creature, while being human is the state of being involved within the bounds of society. There is a distinction between the two, but like you said, the two are related.
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    Mar 4 2012: Our identity is not something perfectly identical with itself.

    Almost nothing within us is permanent. Each of us is a story whose unity is perceived by us because of the importance of the plot to each of the moments of spirit we are within the plot. It is our love for the other moments of spirit within the story that binds the story into one story.

    But to add another layer of complexity, each story is composed of stories, and each story is part of a larger story. Our identity is not something discrete. We are all connected, yet there is difference everywhere that negates perfect identity.

    But, ultimately it is our spirits' love of spirit that holds the stories together. So long as the mechanisms we put in our bodies do not destroy our spirits' love of spirit, those mechanisms do not destroy our identity.

    I do have a fear that at some point in our future, if we are not careful, the mechanisms we put in ourselves to improve ourselves may actually affect out nervous systems to such a degree that we will cease to be truly conscious spirit, much less spirit that loves spirit. If we did that, we would destroy our most precious identity.
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    Mar 6 2012: I've interpreted the question simply as "what defines a singular human consciousness?". If we take transplants, limb replacement, etc to the nth degree, we arrive at a completely believable situation where you have your consciousness backed up to "the cloud". Would that copy be a unique being? Would you own the right to that copy? What would happen to yours (and his) individuality?

    I'm reminded of a book: "The Golden Age" by John C. Wright. In this universe, people live their lives through robotic copies of themselves (much like the movie Surrogates). However, their consciousness is copied onto the robot instead of having them control the robot through the original consciousness. However, only one consciousness is active at any one time, thus for all intents and purposes, there remains a single entity. In the story, the main character's surrogate was killed (activating the backup consciousness), yet somehow the dead consciousness survived, thus questioning who was the real/original/singular person.
  • Mar 5 2012: Being human, merely differentiates us from machines, animals, plants, aliens, or God for that matter. We are a race that belongs to the genus Homo.
    Although evolution is occurring all the time, we are less likely to be shocked by what we evolve into than by what we do to change our own lives.
    By nature humans are selfish, and at an even deeper level there is the selfish gene theory. We will always be striving to improve our lifestyles. Recently we have realised that our lifestyles may change drastically if we pollute the earth, our habitat, yet at the same time we buy cheaper goods that we dispose of in record time. The increasing landfill requirements must be mind boggling.
    Whether we destroy our planet or solve the problems of increasing population we will still be human. Some actions are considered sub-human and there are many misfits in the world, yet they are all termed human.
    Obviously a unit with 0% human content would not be human. I believe that a prosthetic body with a human brain would be human (albeit with incredible self-image issues to overcome), but a prosthetic brain in a human body would not be a human.
    Humans have the "capacity" for feelings. Not all of them display feelings, or display all feelings, but they have that capacity. It translates into emotions, rational and non-rational thoughts and actions and achievement against the odds. It also allows us to generate ideas from mere thought, to nurture them with observation, and possibly to disseminate them with actions or by communication.
    Solving medical issues does not make us less human. It is the moral issues that will determine where we go as a race. Questions like; Should children be allowed to be born to two dead parents, do we pull out all stops to save the life of a criminal, are animal parts permissible to save human lives, can we accept anything a human can conceive of as "human" and allowable, should we engineer the genes of new lives? These sorts of questions.
    • Mar 6 2012: Hello Jeremy,

      I enjoyed reading your comment; it’s definitely thought provoking. I especially agree that as far as prosthetics go, it matters which body part or organ is replaced. There is definitely something special about the brain. The brain is an incredibly complex structure; I doubt scientists will ever be able to replicate it exactly in the laboratory. That is, a brain grown in a lab will never exactly match the human brain. What does it even mean for a lab-grown brain to “match” the human brain? Everyone sees the world differently and has different feelings and perceptions. And, if everyone’s brain is different, how can a “standardized” brain be cultivated in the laboratory? Hence, I do agree that a being with a lab-grown brain cannot necessarily be considered human. In contrast, I don’t think that replacing any body part other than the brain by a lab-grown prosthetic makes the recipient of the transplant any less “human.” Perhaps, this has to do with the fact that body parts other than the brain are not as radically different from one person to the next.
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    Mar 4 2012: A very interesting and a complex question - one that cannot be answered with simplicity perhaps. But scientifically, it could be our sense of cognition, biological similarities and potential of evolving behaviour. Anthropologically, it could be the desire to satisfy not just our physiological needs but to develop our emotional and intellectual self too using culture as a tool. However, the irony in this is that, we yet need to segregate ourselves not just other species, but our own using culture, religion or nation. In doing so over time, we automatically forget that it is not nature that creates this distinction but us (i.e. it does not didactically tell us we are different from apes, we do that). Since it is us, the lines never seem to be very clear as they are done within a context of place and time.

    Would like to leave with something I had written a while back -

    http://heyimalive.blogspot.in/2008/11/who-am-i.html

    WHO AM I?

    Am I just a fusion of different chemicals,
    formed miraculously by some divine intervention?

    Am I just a biological species,
    happening to be composed of cells and tissues?

    Am I just an individual,
    who loves socializing, traveling and sketching?

    Am I just a Mumbai-ite,
    with a happy family and great friends around the place?

    Am I just an Indian,
    living in a metropolitan city?

    Am I just a teenager,
    vainly trying to figure out life and relationships?

    Am I just a human being,
    doing my time on this planet seeing if I make a difference?

    Am I just a carbon speck,
    in this infinite universe soup somewhere in the span of my existence?

    Or Am I just...Anupriy?



    We may be everything, but is it right for us to think within a context to a degree that we forget the rest.

    Perhaps that is why there is never a clear answer about the origin of our identity.
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    Mar 1 2012: The human being identifies with the sensory input an the information it contains.
    The information about family, locality and social group builds up to a personal profile that is conceived of as me.
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      Mar 1 2012: Hey Frans,

      I agree with the definition you have laid out. However, I would add onto it that our reactions and responses to this information also shape our identity. To take a step even further back, I'd like to relate this to Adriann's comment above. Our reactions and responses are results of the human mind and its complexity.

      For a class on the human mind that I was enrolled in last semester, I read an article titled "Minds, Brains and Programs," by John Searle. In it, he discusses that it is really the mere presence of our brains that makes us human. In what other species/technology is there something so sophisticated as our own brain? Here's another question that we struggled with in the class: if we could replicate the brain exactly, and put it inside a robot, it would theoretically think, feel, move, and do everything exactly as we do. Given these circumstances, do you think we could consider the robot as having a human identity?
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        Mar 2 2012: I don't think our brain is much special compared to that of any animal. It can reflect on the world, delay and choose any action by a special use of memory. The brain can't be seen apart from the body because most of the capacity it has is to control and drive that body. Robots don't feel, not with nor without a brain.
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        Mar 6 2012: Hi Andrew,
        No I don't think we could consider the robot to be human, but for different reasons than ariel's. I don't think our bodies or biological development are as important as our consciousness. To be human, we must have a sense of self. We must be aware of our existence and aware of the idea of communication. Since I believe our bodies are secondary to consciousness, I do not think things like neuroprosthetics or probiotics make us any less human.
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      Mar 2 2012: But what if you weren't able to communicate those characteristics? What if you had all the information of your family, yourself and your life, and your conscious brain was working, but you had an injury that meant you couldn't speak, or even indicate that you still are the same person?
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        Mar 3 2012: What if? You would be imprisoned within your own body and other people will take you for what they see.
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        Mar 6 2012: If we had a scenario like Sophie described above and the technology was available to move the paralyzed person’s brain into a complete robot body, I would say indeed that the equipment we saw a second ago as just an assemblage of parts, is now a human being. Consciousness is intimately tied into what we consider human. And truly, there is no way that we know at present to quantify it. I saw a video a couple of weeks ago (a BBC documentary on consciousness called The Secret You) which builds-up gradually, from 'yeah, I knew this!' to much more relevant questions that bridge science and philosophy.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Biv_8xjj8E
        One of the research experiments shown in the video actually does show us that we can just as easily assume the body we are in as ours, as we can for another complete stranger’s body. Literally, the person’s consciousness jumped across space. Our brain is truly amazing but I don’t think that we can solely be defined by the physical connections in our brain. That is only the beginning.
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    Feb 29 2012: This is a timely topic for me as i am dealing with an unexpected set of side effects after a major back surgery. My biggest seriously perceived deficit (often reflected upon) is first my inability to use my computer with ease, my inability to read proficiently and finally my struggles to walk upright without assistance. So which was ME? I think it really was those mental activities that filled my life with joy. Somehow "my" wheelchair or "my" walker are filling my need but the visual impairment is deeply and horribly resented. So in answer, I think "I" has been my brain even though i have had a solid body which I counted on without
    reflection.
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      Feb 29 2012: Welcome back Debra. Hope you recover quickly.
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      Mar 1 2012: Hi Debra,
      I hope you a speedy recovery. With regard to your comment, I think that it brings up a very interesting point. People are quick to bring up the mind in discussing human identity, but your comment raised the following question for me: what happens if our bodies are not quite the fine machine we, as you say, count on without reflection?
      • Mar 1 2012: Good question Ko,

        On the overall i tend to think that who we are physically plays a great deal in shaping us by the experiences that we get through the physicall self. however if you step back and discriminate urself from your body see the experience for what it is, look over and beyond it, ull traverse limits of everyday existense.

        Live strong Debra, much Love !
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        Mar 2 2012: Hi!
        Interesting question which I am not suited to answer. My body has always been a stalwart and ready actor in any activity I chose but now that I must think not just twice but sometimes 15 times before it cooperates, I find that I truly identify most closely with the products of my brain. I hope this is helpful as it is a spontaneous and faithful report of my own curious and very fascinating experience.

        **Big thanks, kisses and hugs for those beautifl good wishes.
        • Mar 2 2012: Debra
          I think that is because in spite of illness the brain still functions and wants to have self-identity. Good to see you back on TED.
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      Mar 1 2012: Very nice to see you again, Debra.
      Hope you will recover as fast as possible.
      Sending you love.
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      Mar 2 2012: Much love from me to you. Surprising things happen to us. I will never forget 4/29/2011 and the love and support you gave me. I miss you on TED. My wish for you is that your brain and body recover quickly and wholly You are on my mind and in my heart. Helen
  • Mar 7 2012: One would have to look further at the nature of identity, and possibly human consciousness itself, to answer this question.

    But to remain concise, identity is ideally dynamic and fluid within a living culture - when one's identity becomes rigid and fixed then perhaps we would say that the culture is no longer allowed to grow and express itself in the way that is a best fit to its environment (internally and externally).

    Gender Identity is a prime example - what would you describe as masculine and feminine and are these potentially different from male and female?

    But to remain on the topic of human identity - we must choose (in my opinion) how we will express our humanity, through social discourses, through culture, through our ability to generate knowledge and technology even.

    Finally though, the point was raised that more bacterial cells inhabit a human body than human cells, which is fascinating - but unless these bacteria had some sort of social consciousness or identity, I would not identify myself as a bacteria colony. Nor would I call myself a machine simply because I use one.

    Question answered?
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    Mar 7 2012: Hello Harnsowl, it is good to meet you . Continuing on this path of understanding who I am, and when I am, I found in myself two identities, sharing alternate worlds. While living and being human I found myself in an illusion of my existence. The human is living in the past where its subconscience has stored memory and reacts to events of today trying to make the most of tomorrow while risking the least, always attempting to give advantage to this human it is creating for tomorrow, much of the time having little regard for the safety or well being of others which brings the human side of me living in a day that is not here expecting rewards for the bahavior of the day before. This is truly a life of illusion. I hope I am saying this as clear as it seems to have revealed itself to my searching. As I struggle to become the human-being, I am still the human but with my priority of being. It is the essence of the moment. It is being, and in a metaphysical interpretation it is only then that I hold any strength of power to change, or to appreciate the connected-ness of my relationship with all other beings. As an earth bound human with limited understanding of the mystery of life, I can only refer to this as the collective spirit or soul. These are such inadequate words for the change this perception has caused in my relationship to all other people and the rest of creation, as well. At the risk of sounding completely of my rocker I reluctantly share this, I experience a whole new perception of myself as one who is known by the ancestors who have gone before, never have I felt so close to the teachings and world views of the ones who have passed on before us. Never have I felt more concern for, or dependance from the ones yet to come, and to those who are here now, I am your brother Harnsowl. As a human-being, there is no other race than the human-race, and all of creation is our family. Uni-verse is not a place, it is a being. It means, One-song. Thanks.
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    Mar 6 2012: I read a while back that we have more circuits in our brain than there are particles in the universe. When you think of how staggering the size of the universe really is, that puts our brains in a truly unique category of things. It is usually hard to imagine how consciousness could arise within a mere material thing. It is only when we contemplate the staggering and unique complexity of our brains, that there is a glimmerring of how that might be possible.

    But still, is the human brain our "identity". Not if what we mean by "identity" is that within us which never changes and thereby quaifies one as always being the same person even though all other aspects of our selves do change. The brain always changes, so it is not something that is permanently identical with itself.

    I have suggested below that our identity is not what remains the same within us, but the unity of our stories, which unity arises out of, and is recognized because of, our concern for ourselves and for each other.
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      Mar 6 2012: Lovely wording...just lovely.

      Thank you.
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      Mar 6 2012: Thank you for your comment. It really is a wonder, how small we are in comparison to the universe we live in. It puts into perspective how our identities as humans can constantly change depending on individual experiences. We still have much to learn even with all the consistent advances we have made as human beings.
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      Mar 7 2012: You completely hit the exact opinion that I have pondering. I feel our identity as humans is best described by John Locke in "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding." Identity lies in our consciousness and not in our substance. A human is characterized by its continuous stream of consciousness or life, the stories or memories that are stored and remembered, rather than our physical parts and functions. Thus, our personal identity is unique and provided we preserve a continued consciousness which we can recall at any time, our identity as humans can exist in any form, shape, or body.
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    Mar 6 2012: Among the notions derived from Unity is Identity. Identity means a thing's own coincidence with itself. It means the conformity distinct things with one another in as much as they have something in common, such as genus or species. It is unity in substance. Our Identity as human is from him who is - God,
  • Mar 4 2012: in answer to the question...

    "As technology begins to expand, the concept of prosthetics replacing major body parts is not far off. Thus, the question becomes does a person lose their given identity because they are not 100% “human”? "

    The answer is it depends on the person. Maybe, just maybe, that's what makes us human.
  • Mar 3 2012: - All cells, our entire body gets renewed. It means that not one piece of our body is now the same at it was when we were born. Does it make us less human? Can you really say "I am my body" without limiting your answer?

    - my dear baby friend is highly handicapped. She is almost blind, she is almost deaf, she cannot even hold her head, she cannot feed herself, she cannot grow without the help of growth hormones. She will be two this summer. She as a human being had, never the less had a major impact on my life. Somehow, she still manages to show her humanity at full.
  • Mar 2 2012: We are human because we have all agreed that that is what we are. Reality is perception, after all. We perceive other humans as being in the same category as us, the same species. We also perceive that this category is different from dogs or rocks or trees. The definition of humanity is ever-changing, with some aspects added, some removed, and some heavily debated. Maybe if we focused less on the fact that we, as humans, are different from everything else in the world, and spent more time exploring what we have in common with everything else, the trend of thought would open an entirely new understanding. The same applies to all the categories we have made: White, black, rich, poor, educated, bum, Christian, Muslim... So many names that do nothing but divide us further into subcategories and emphasize nothing but the differences between us. How's about we identify with the fact that we exist? And identify that we have a responsibility towards and an opportunity to be gained from everything in existence.
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      Mar 3 2012: Hi Crystelle,

      Thank you for your comment. I think you are very right on in saying that there should be more done with the fact that we are indeed existing beings instead of concentrating on all the ways we're different.I like how you introduced the idea that human identities are constantly changing, because you're right. They are. With the world changing around us, so are our perceptions of identity.
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    Mar 2 2012: From our parents? They were human..........verses being monkeys, or pigs.

    I know of no other way to answer this question.
    • Mar 6 2012: I agree that trying to explain our identity as humans is difficult and also turn to thinking about how I was brought into the world. Being born from humans and growing up to look like a human seems like it would make me a human. I remember one of my professors talking about facial recognition and how most human faces can be approximated using a combination of standard faces called eigenfaces.
      Looking at what humans have done through history, I observe that we create technology, explore the world and our universe, and consider a vast range of topics within our brain. Perhaps animals engage in these activities also on a smaller scale, so does effecting the world on a larger scale makes us human? Are we human because of our physical composition or because of the actions we take? Maybe a mix of both? I don't know.
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        Mar 6 2012: Hi Andrew....Well here is some food-for-thought...you can tell me what you think.
        Keep in mind that I have only had one cup of coffee, and that my answer is not scientific,
        but I think it is sensible.

        We are humans because we can have this conversation on-line.

        As humans we ask thought provoking questions.....why are we here? Where does my identity of being a human come from?

        A dog, sitting under a shady tree with his tongue out panting is not thinking..."why I'm I a dog? let me ask around to see if somebody can answer this question for me"......

        And so, in my honest opinion, our identity to being human is innate in us. We are born human.

        That some humans choose to act inhumane, and that we have to resort to human right groups and human right courts is not because we have an identity problem. It is that we have chosen not to be kind, and to love our fellow human......we have free will.

        So where does our identity as being human come from? What do you think?
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          Mar 6 2012: I think that our identity as being human comes from the shared experiences we all share, and ironically enough, that includes our experiences with technology. Our identity as humans cannot be looked at within a bubble; there is so much that goes on in our lives. Our identity includes so many different aspects that cannot be pinned down to simply one thing. Maybe centuries ago, the perception of identity would have been very different. Granted, we are born with the innate foundations of our human identity. However, the things that surround us mold these foundations and continue to do so for the remainder of our lives.
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          Mar 6 2012: HI, Mary,
          I think "We are humans because we can have this conversation on-line." is a killer quote. Good job. I think its the brain made us human. Luckily, we are smart enough to think about other things rather than just basic survivals which is true in most animals. The ability to think and comes up with ideas separate us from animals. Another reason is curiosity, people are curious about a lot of stuff, and one of course is questioning ones identity. I will say the process of thinking about replying to the post itself is already an answer to the post
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          Mar 6 2012: Mary, Harnsowl, Yu-an, and Adriaan,

          I think these you have all made some very insightful comments. I would like to add a few things--not so much in opposition, but from perhaps a different perspective.

          Many humans cannot have this conversation online.

          You don't know what animals are or are not thinking. Particularly mammals, with brains not so dissimilar from humans. Apes can speak sign-language, after all.

          What is it about the way we are born that makes it a human birth? Our DNA? The way we look? Being carried in the womb? Wording this carefully, I think some people might consider in-vitro fertilization to be something other than human since it is a substitute for a process that is, for lack of better words, more natural, but it certainly produces humans.

          And as for human interaction, does a recluse lose his human identity? Is a child raised by a wolf not a human, but a wolf?

          I submit one possible answer to these questions: It's an ensemble of the above categories that makes up our human identity. Our human identity is a multi-dimensional spectrum, not a binary yes or no. What do you all think?
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          Mar 7 2012: Mary,
          I have to agree with your statement that it is the thought provoking questions that make us human. Science may eventually bring us to the point where could entirely replicate the brain's functions and responses, but being human is more than that. It's having a self aware conscienceless that makes decisions, has a sense of morality, and has the capacity to imagine.
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          Mar 7 2012: Andrew,
          I agree that this is definitely more complicated than just a yes or no question. Just quickly if we take a look at when we consider a human being dead in medical and legal terms, it used to be when a major system failed. Now however, with advanced life support this is no longer the case. Instead we have transitioned, I believe correctly, to brain functioning as an indicator for what is considered a human life. If one considers what is different between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom as well as the rest of life on earth is the fact that we unlike all other species have the ability and capacity to question our existence, how we got here, what the meaning of life is. While monkeys may be able to sign you don't see monkey's with organized religions. Thus the brain of the human while similar in many of its anatomical features to those of other species is, due to its capacity for higher learning and complicated thought processing, human. If we lose this capability we are no longer considered to possess human life and therefore either brainstem death or full brain death is considered the actual legal indicator of death.
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        Mar 6 2012: @ Harnsowl, Yu-an, Adriaan, and Andrew...

        Thank you very much for your insightful replies.

        Harnsowl, you said "I think that our identity as being human comes from the shared experiences we all share, and ironically enough, that includes our experiences with technology." I very much agree with you. The shared experiences is a big part.......I never thought, in a million years, I would be sitting in my own office enjoying a conversation with people from all walks of life and all countries simultaneously, and with so much insight. My life has changed. I feel more....dare I say..."human". Thank you Harnsowl.

        Yu-An, I collect quotes....and being told that what I said is a "killer quote", well, that's just about as nice a complement as I can receive. Thank you. And yes, our curiosity about life is also part of what makes us human....and that curiosity has brought us to where we are today.

        Yu-An if you want to know where the curiosity can take us.......go to the conversation on favorite quotes, and then click on a link someone provided to youtube......it is short, but meaningful....talk about a killer quote!!!

        Adriaan, what can I say......thank you very much. I'm glad that my small simple contribution was worthy of your reply.

        Andrew, What do I think? I think you, are very insightful. I love your illustrations, and your many questions to reflect on. Yes, our human identity is made up of an ensemble of things....it is multidimensional.........There is no one answer that would totally satisfiy our complex brain.

        Here is a favorite quote of mine: "The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of new ideas, never returns to it's original size". Oliver W Holmes.

        I want to say to all of you.....my mind has grown quite a bit since this morning...thank you all!!
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        Mar 7 2012: Nicolette,

        Your statement, "It's having a self aware conscienceless that makes decisions, has a sense of morality, and has the capacity to imagine" is very concise and very true.

        Some 18 years ago I was having a conversation with a young man about being human verses animals. He said we are just like the animals. He said he was the same as a dog. No matter what I said, he still insisted we are all animals, and therefore he had no need to believe in God or the Bible.

        I was so shocked at that level of reasoning that I was left speechless. Of course, my brain at the time did not have all the accurate knowledge and understanding it does now, and my ability to make my point was not all it is today.

        Still, now, some 17 years later I still remember the conversation.

        Just the fact that I can sit at a computer and type away, and hit backspace and reword something I'm not too happy with is part of that wonderful "human" factor.

        And yes, because we have a wonderful brain. Nothing else on Earth even comes close to it. We are marvelously made...my soul is very well aware.

        Thank you Nicolette. Our ability to imagine also is important as you mentioned. Here is a beautiful quote on our imagination: "Imagination is the highest kite one can fly".
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        Mar 7 2012: Andrew!!!! I'm so sorry to have to highjack your reply button again.

        Matthew,

        Your words express what I was thinking. Thank you for expounding on the brain.

        One of our neighbors fell three years ago and Lou Gehrits disease set on.....she is now in ICU in the last stages all intubated. She manages to open her eyes and look around, but cannot do much of anything else. Still, each time we run our hands through her hair and massage her feet and legs and arms, she will fix her eyes on the one doing the massaging. I know she is there. Her life is so precious to all of us that know her. She IS HUMAN, even though she cannot do anything I do anymore. It is the beating of her heart and her brain function that still keep her alive, and I truly feel she has the sheer will to live......somehow I sense it......I may be wrong.

        But I know it will come down to her brain........we are not looking forward to that moment. I know her husband is besides himself with agony.

        I wanted to share this story to make this conversation even more HUMAN.....I was inspired by yesterday's TED talk from the PIXAR speaker. Take the time to watch it if you haven't done so yet.

        Be Well.
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    Mar 2 2012: It comes from the desire to make the world a better place for all people.
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      Mar 1 2012: Hi Adriaan,
      Thank you for your comment and two links. I learned quite a bit from them. I understand that we, as humans, have the will and understanding to determine the truth, and that separates us from other beings greatly. However watching Amber Case's TED talk on the relationship between humans and technology raised a question for me. How much of our identity is "stored" via technology? Can't what we say or post on a forum such as this, be considered part of our identity, considering it is our thoughts that we're righting down? I accept that the mind is a component of our human identity, but maybe technology plays a larger role in it than we may think.
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    Feb 29 2012: What you need to consider is whether the human being is the Homo Sapien hominid or if the Homo Sapien hominid creates the human being with its ultra-sophisticated brain as it manages the business of corporeal survival. Intellect obviously exists, and in the same sense that any form of information exists, but it's also obvious that Intellect is capable of dynamic, subjective perception, which is literally impossible for data-centric information. In fact, the Intellect whole - the human mind - is completely self-aware, which is very unique for any identified form of informational existence, and this is where the confusion sets in for that Intellect whole. The issue, of course, being that there are no real existential similars that the human mind can compare itself to, and with its own gestational development tied specifically to the corporeal survival of the Homo Sapien brain, its own unique identity defaults to it - even as the human being seems to know that it somehow exists as separate in a way that it can't quite nail down precisely. Truth is that the human being isn't that hominid and its brain any more than an embryo is its own gestational placenta. In fact that analogy concerning the relationship between the two is extremely accurate.

    If Intellect is the conscious, aware presence of the human mind, then the true human being is not a corporeal mammalian organism, but is actually the informational result of the kind of corporeal brain that is capable of "generating" the sort of gathered informational whole that has self awareness, can ruminate, is dynamically expressive, and provides the corporeal organism that gives it physical existence the quality of sentience in the competitive survival arena that is the corporeal realm.
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      Mar 1 2012: I understand a human being can be identified by the various aspects and characteristics of a corporeal brain. However, can't the external bits of information that are exposed to the world for others to see also be considered part of our identity? A person may know who they are, or at least think. But in actuality, isn't our identity something that other people perceive? In other words, I think that identity can't merely be thought or the ruminations of a brain. There must be further aspects of our world and lives that can be taken into consideration and analyzed as identity.