Becoming Better at Being Human
While on vacation and visiting my family, I’ve had some time to muse about some topics that have been on my mind for some time now. Travelling and observing people in various contexts has reinforced my conviction that we are not living as fully and well as could be possible. In the next several posts, I’ll try to further elucidate my ideas, concerns and hopes.
Over the past months, I’ve been thinking about, and discussing with colleagues how new technologies will effect our lives. Things like Google glass and the “internet of things” will make our lives easier, but at what cost? What will happen (or is happening) to our health, well being and purpose in life if we let machines live our lives? Many of us already let big companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook suggest what we should buy, read or who might be a prospective friend. We’re letting algorithms do our thinking for us. If this continues, will we let the machines and big companies live through us, or will we use our newly liberated brain power for higher purposes? And what could we do that distinguishes us from algorithms and processors i,e., being human.
But what does it mean to be human?
While this is a vast question, Futurist Gerd Leonhard provides some insight in a recent video talk on the future of our jobs (click here to watch the video). In the video, Gerd predicts that as machines take over more and more menial tasks like accounting, regulating supply and demand and even diagnosing sicknesses, we’ll need to do more of the human things like creating, storytelling and interpretation. If we don’t want to be overtaken by machines, we need to raise our level of human excellence and become even better at being human. This is happening in many fields already, like sports, management and teaching. However, when you read the statistics on the world’s population, our health isn’t fairing well, and that doesn’t bode well for keeping pace with the machines.
So what can we do?
We need to regain our human movement abilities so that we can use our minds and bodies more effectively in being better humans.* We need to continue to improve our creativity, compassion and learning abilities. What does movement have to do with creativity, compassion and learning? This quote from “Bodies of Knowledge” (Thanks to the blog, “The Brilliant Report,” from Annie Murphy Paul for pointing this out, (click here to read) sums it up pretty well. The better we move, the better we think.
“When Friedrich Nietzsche quipped ‘Never trust any thought you have while sitting down,’ he was acknowledging the importance of the body in thinking, and thereby anticipating the science of embodied intelligence. The science of embodiment, or embodied cognition, is an emerging area of research that demonstrates and illuminates the intimate relationship which exists between mind and body. It seeks to explain how the way we think depends on what we are doing with our bodies and how we are interacting with the physical environment. Our body is not just our mind’s container and perambulator; mind itself is one aspect of the whole bodily system. What do you do when you are struggling with a complicated problem? Do you sit quietly and close your eyes, doodle absent-mindedly, pace up and down, or go for a run? How we answer this question moves us into the territory of the embodied mind. For it is increasingly clear that the quality of our thinking differs according to what our body is doing at the time.”—Guy Claxton, Bill Lucas, and Rob Webster, Bodies of Knowledge
It’s painfully ironic to realize that as we let machines/technology do more for us, thinking life will be easier, we’re giving up more of what makes us human. And that in turn makes us less intelligent and less capable, so we turn to technology to help us, thus entrenching ourselves even further into the quagmire of de-evolution. Of course machines/technology have their benefits and we should embrace them, just not at the cost of being human.
In a later post, I’ll write about how movement can help us reclaim our humanity and abilities. Until then, go out for a walk, play, or do whatever makes you feel alive!
P.S. If you know someone who would also benefit from these posts, please share. We’ll both thank you! If you’d like to receive my newsletter, click here to join.
*By “better humans’” I don’t mean that in a moral sense but rather by excelling at things that make us human. Of course caring and compassion are important aspects of our humanness.