With technology, I sometimes wonder if it’s the direction we’re bound for and it’s just our evolutionary path as humans to someday become the technology or if we’re getting caught up in it and we haven’t learned to properly harness its power in our day to day lives. At the end of the day, we are mother nature’s best tech. The question I see asked with more frequency is, “are we controlling our lives, or is technology overtaking our lives?”
I think it’s safe to say we’re spending more and more time with technology than with actual humans. It has opened our eyes and expanded our reach to the farthest corners of this earth. It has also propelled us further in the past two decades than the past two centuries. Concurrently, it has built walls around all of us. We’ve all become a little “less” human in one way or another and what I mean by that is I feel like we’re less tolerant of one another, in person. It does make you wonder, at such rapid pace, if us humans are able to keep up.
What does it mean to be human, anyway?
First thing I did was try to think about what it meant, but then 5 seconds later I decided it’d be easier to see what Google could provide me. Here’s the first result from the National Museum of Natural History, which I found to be a good starting point.
Part of what it means to be human is how we became human. Over a long period of time, as early humans adapted to a changing world, they evolved certain characteristics that help define our species today.
The new question for me is, are those characteristics that helped define our species still relevant today when a new species of technology, built by us, is upon us? After all, isn’t that how evolution works? Along the way, every species creates a better iteration of itself?
Funny enough, that rabbit hole was not the intention of my writing today. If anything, my intention was the complete opposite. While I still hold on, tightly, to what it means to be organically human, I find myself having to continually remind myself to see the humanity in the people around me. With us spending more time with technology, we have a growing affinity towards it and, conversely, a declining affinity towards other humans. This logic follows the simple laws of attraction.
Are we becoming less humane?
Maybe it’s an effect of the city I live it, Los Angeles, or maybe it’s my neighborhood, Downtown, but sometimes I start to wonder if people are becoming less humane. Luckily, I also live in a city where much of the world comes to visit. I was just stopped on the streets of LA by some British tourist last week who just wanted to ask where I bought my Nikes. They luckily ran into a guy who had a natural affinity for striking up random conversation so I ended up getting to know them and giving them ideas for LA. However, how many times do we shy away from strangers these days instead of being curious?
I had someone tell me the other day that I was very “Midwestern” because I always like to smile at random people, say hi, or make small talk. However, through my travels I noticed it’s not just an occurrence with Midwesterners, but of people around the world. There is an innate human curiosity and audacity to get to know your fellow man.
I think part of the problem is the fear that’s force-fed us through media today. That’s part of the reason I shy away from mainstream media, aside from the non-sense news and focus on negativity that sells. If you read and hear too much about how scary the world is, you’re going to believe it. Americans, especially, are unfairly burdened with a sense of fear and it is really driven by the media and not the reality. Are all Muslims terrorists? Are all cops bad? Is the world going to shits? I don’t think so. No, I know it isn’t so.
Human history has always been, and will forever be tasked with challenges. Since the beginning, there have always been bad people and violence. There have always been murders, mass-killings, wars, and other societal adjustments. But up to this past decade, the news of these events have never been so pervasive, as if it’s happening to anyone, everyone, and everywhere all the time. An interesting quote from 1971 by Herbert A. Simone stated:
What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.
And that was in 1971, before the advent of the Information Age! Unfortunately, this is the downside of being connected all the time, everywhere. We have yet to learn how to throttle the firehose of information that technology has provided us. In-turn, most of us have allowed this hose to poison our minds with absurd and ludicrous fears. Almost to the point that I really do think people are afraid to connect with their fellow humans around them. They feel more comfortable, and safer communicating through their devices and I honestly believe it’s making us less humane and empathetic.
I’m curious what your immediate thoughts are when you see this photo below.
It always happens to me when I see children. I see just that… a human being. But for some reason, the photo really struck me this time because I caught myself realizing that I didn’t have any thoughts wondering about their ethnicity, religion, social class, etc. All I could think about, or rather feel, was just how happy they were. I wanted to be there just to witness it and feel it with them.
Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe times are changing… but for now nothing feels more human to me than sharing feelings in the presence of another human. Nothing feels more human than trying to understand another human being. Nothing makes life better than having an affinity towards another human being. The definitions of empathy.
The ramifications of having less understanding, less empathy is what leads to us having miserable lives. Having more empathy is what helps me better understand life when someone cuts me off on the road, or does something rude. I can easily brush it off because I don’t know what’s going on in their lives. Maybe they’re rushing to a job interview, or to a hospital… or they had a bad day. And that’s the thing about being human… the more empathy you have, the better life is and gets.
Traveling definitely helps because it turns on your innate instincts to be curious and audacious. Be more curious towards your fellow humans, and in turn you’ll feel more human and not like a helpless cog in the machine.