The Washington Post recently ran a blogpost entitled “Technology is not dehumanizing. It’s what makes us human.” She takes issues with an Intel survey that found that a majority of millennials believed “that technology makes people less human and that society relies on technology too much.”
I think the point is missed by both the survey respondents and the millennial who takes exception to the survey. Google the question “Is technology making us less human” and you’ll get hits arguing either way. What no one seems to do, however, is to define “human.” What does it mean to be “more human,” or “less human?” The Washington Post piece fell back on the anthropological take that humans are notable for tool use, technology consists of tools, ergo, technology makes us more human. Of course, that’s like saying “humans are notable for warring, thus more wars make us more human.” Clearly, technology has not inoculated us against post hoc logical fallacies.
However, when asking whether a thing makes us more or less human, it’s imperative to identify what we mean when we say “human?” Do we mean kind, gentle, sociable, generous? Do we mean egocentric, selfish, potentially genocidal, and solipsistic? All are aspects of our humanity. A better question might be: toward which of the human tendencies does ubiquitous technology drive us? Do we use our tools to isolate ourselves from the larger world around us? To ferret out truths based on facts, or justify or justify our emotional prejudices? To enhance your relationships, or confuse the merest acquaintance with meaningful contact?
“More human” and “less human”… just empty words. There are many shades to humanity and accordingly, we put our tools to many uses, always have, always will. Some will be good, some benign, and harmful, and some downright evil. Technology is no different.
-Leonce Gaiter, Strategist & Sr. Writer