My Thoughts on: "Eliminating the Human"

Updated: May 25, 2019

In an article called "Eliminating the Human", David Byrne discusses the impact of the technological advances that have occurred over the past several decades. He mentions numerous examples of recent modern conveniences, brought about by the Computer Age, that make our lives more efficient. There are advantages to living in this postmodern world, but there are disadvantages, as well. For instance, online ordering and home delivery of products make it easy for consumers to shop, but they miss out on the human interactions that occur in brick and mortar stores. The services provided by downloading and streaming digital music are great, but musicians and music store owners do not interact face-to-face with fans and customers, as they did in the past.


In regard to transportation, there are ride-hailing apps and even driverless cars that provide convenient ways to travel, but people who use these services are either interacting with strangers or no humans at all. Other examples of recent modern technological advances include automated check-out, automated shopping, and even AI (artificial intelligence), robots, that are being used to replace human workers in numerous jobs. AI personal assistants are now available, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo.


In regard to recreation, computer technology now provides a variety of video games, many of which are based on virtual reality. This trend often results in humans preferring to spend leisure time alone, online, rather than with friends and relatives. There are also opportunities for students to use MOOCS, an online educational program that allows them to be instructed with no direct contact with teachers. And then many people spend an exorbitant amount of time on social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.


After reviewing the pros and cons to these technological innovations, Byrne asks the question: "Will less human interaction save us?" He states that, despite the fact that these modern conveniences make our lives more efficient, they tend to reduce the amount of human interactions, which could result in humans becoming less tolerant of differences and less connected to people outside their social networks. I agree with Byrne's assessment. People tend to have friends on such networks as Facebook and Twitter who are similar to themselves in regard to political and religious views. Hence, they do not often exchange ideas with people who hold different opinions from themselves. Perhaps this trend is one factor that has contributed to the polarization in regard to politics and religion that Americans have experienced since the advent of the Internet. Also, social interactions on social networks can result in people becoming unhappy if they feel rejected or ostracized by family members or friends.


Byrne mentions a neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, who worked with Elliot, a patient with a damaged frontal lobe. He discovered that Elliot lacked emotional responses as a result of his injury, which caused him to not be able to make decisions. The point of this story is that humans use their emotions, as well as their rational intellect, to make decisions. Hence, humans need to be emotionally bonded with other humans in order to make the best choices for themselves that will enhance their survival.


I agree totally with Byrne's conclusion. I have a Master's degree in educational psychology, so I have previously studied the psychological research that has been done since the discipline was founded. Psychologists tend to agree that human emotion is an essential component of the human psyche. It is likely that, as technological progress advances, to the point when social interactions are reduced further, people will find innovative ways to preserve their humanity.



https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608580/eliminating-the-human/


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