Technology and What Makes Us Human

By Steven Cinelli,

Last evening, I was watching one of the news stations, and as expected, the discussion of Iraq yielded to a commercial.  It was about the NEW Buick or Chevrolet or Ford, that allegedly drove with a force field, alerting the driver of impromptu objects which due to either distraction or negligence were uncaught.  This prompted a couple of thoughts, some captured personally and then few through observing the younger generation.

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I can remember the days that I did “remember” everyone’s phone number, all 984 of them.  Now, no need, with speed dial on a smart phone.   I can recall actually trying to make headway on a map, occasionally asking directions along the way, and using a bit of instinct as to which direction the sun rises and sets, to find myself at the appointed destination.  Now, turn on the NAV system, and let Helen, with her lascivious British accent, instruct me to turn right in 122 feet.  (Deference to Google Driverless here.)  I can recall sending a message to my paramour, which may be in the form of note, a letter, each handwritten, delivered personally (or snail mail), and then anxiously awaiting her response.   Now, it’s texting with fervor.  Email, no problem.    Immediate excitation.  The kids have this down.


Technology is an amazing thing.  To move from app to app. The ability to store and retrieve countless numbers and names and pictures and messages.  And the faculty to communicate to so many, so frequently, yet so unlettered.   In many ways, we are advancing our capabilities to capture more of the moment, from seventeen angles, but, in a skewed tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Are We Experienc(ing)?


Questions beg:  Are we still sensing and emoting or rather just processing?  Is technology enhancing the human experience, or is it shadowing and numbing it?  What is it to be human?  With tech, are we “devolving” one’s mind and soul when we act not react, when we absorb and take time to convey a thoughtful note rather than immediately texting an emoticon, or when we think about directions, challenging the mind to make it to your destination off-road, rather than subscribing to Helen?


One might say that the application of technology enriches life, as one can do so much more, though impersonal it may at times be.   I wonder if the definition of “what is human” is becoming redefined.   Recall the ability to remember, to emote, to direct, to communicate, and to handwrite, person to person…. without silica intervention.  One may reminisce on some of our old human practices.  And then wonder whether technology just may dull our shine a bit.


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