It’s hard to give up the notion that you’re not special. Emma Roberts, in her Metaverse post Are We Losing Our Ability to Be Human? believes our “specialness” is the thing that makes us human; that we have souls and spirituality, that we have consciousness and are aware of our place in the universe. And she is concerned that, as machines and artificial intelligence take over more and more of our world and our lives, we will begin to lose touch with what makes us human… and special.
“…I think that without the feeling of spirituality or individualism or ‘self’ we are just another biological being and that’s pretty damn soul destroying.”
I don’t think Emma should be overly concerned, and here’s why.
Speaking as one of those people who believes that our innate sense of consciousness is indeed, as Emma’s puts it, “neural trickery,” just a convenient quirk of encephalogic feedback, and nothing granted us by some mystical or spiritual realm… I admit that the idea that there is no “soul” diminishes me, as it diminishes the possibilities of the universe we exist in. But on the other hand, it humbles me to realize how much I have in common with every other biological organism on this planet.
At the same time, it fills me with pride, knowing how we, in essence little different than all those other biological organisms around us, and given our innate limitations, have accomplished so much and learned so much, and have the potential to learn and do so much more. We’ve demonstrated that we are pretty damned special, and that’s not soul-destroying at all.
I didn’t need the realization of the growing sophistication of our science and technology to inform me of all that. But that growing sophistication of our science and technology is a direct reflection of exactly how amazing we are. We fragile beings have stood upon other planets, sent our robots to visit the edge of our Solar System, and cracked the energy in the hydrogen atom. Imagine someday creating an artificial being that can stand beside us and call us brother… we will have created new consciousness. How amazing, humbling and prideful will that be?
Our “specialness” is what has allowed us to perceive our world so finely, make such significant changes to it and ourselves, and stand on the brink of creating beings comparable to ourselves. Nothing that ever happens can take that away from us… unless we let it. Blaming our technology for dehumanizing us is like blaming our cars for our lack of ability to walk. Instead, we should be lauding our technology for allowing us to do things that mere humans could never do… like fly across country in a few hours… or talk live with people on the far side of the planet… or stand on the Moon. It even allows us to see into our souls (even if just to see if we actually have one).
All due respect to Emma: Our tech does not dehumanize us—it super-humanizes us. We are what we’ve always been… but greater. We shouldn’t be lamenting the loss of something we don’t even know we have; we should instead be celebrating the gain of the many things we have learned to do.