The Metaphorical Human

The Logical Human

The Most Human Human most-human-human: Our self-conception of what makes us human has varied through time. Greeks thought it was reason and logic that made us unique (in comparison to animals—and for those misogynists, in comparison to women). "Calculators" used to refer to humans—savants who could calculate things quickly in their heads. But with the proliferation of computers (which can perform logical operations accurately and quickly—and certainly much better by leaps and bounds than any human individual), our ego was bruised, and we began looking for some other quality the computers didn't have that would define us.

Illich: humans thinking of ourselves as books, as machines, as systems citation-needed

emperors-new-mind vs godel-escher-bach (non-computability of cognition vs "strange loops" in computation giving rise to cognition)

The wood wide web is a no less anthropomorphic term. Not only are humans the only organisms to build machines but the Internet and World Wide Web are some of the most overtly politicized technologies that exist today. Using machine metaphors to understand other organisms can be as problematic as borrowing concepts from human social lives. In reality, organisms grow; machines are built. Organisms continually remake themselves; machines are maintained by humans. Organisms self-organize; machines are organized by humans. Machine metaphors are sets of stories and tools that have helped make countless discoveries of life-changing importance. But they aren’t scientific facts and can lead us into trouble when prioritized over all other types of story. If we understand organisms to be machines, we’ll be more likely to treat them as such.

entangled-lifech. 8

The Average Human

The chief danger to the spirit of democracy in a large power stems from this technical impossibility of asserting itself informally. In mass states, personal influences can make themselves felt only if channelled through forms, fortnulas, and organizations. [...] As a result, the individual declines, and in his place emerges the glorified average man of whom Ortega y Gasset writes that ‘he is to history what sea-level is to geography’.


But who is this mystical, glorified, flattered, wooed, famous, inarticulate, faceless average man? If he is neither one individual, nor all individuals, he is no individual at all. And if he is not an individual, he can only be one thing, the representative or reflex of the community, of society, of the masses. What we worship in the individualistic fiction of the average man is nothing but the god of collectivism.

breakdown-of-nationsp. 100


cf The Fiction of Averages

Machine Men, Machine Minds, Machine Hearts

On the Dangers of Seeing Human Minds as Predictive Machines

Iron Sky by Paolo Nutini makes reference to the final speech from The Great Dictator:

Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men!


most-human-human Christian, Brian. 2011. The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive. Doubleday. ↩︎ 1

citation-needed “Citation Needed”. “Citation Needed”. ↩︎ 1

emperors-new-mind Penrose, Roger. 1999. The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. Oxford University Press. ↩︎ 1

godel-escher-bach Hofstadter, Douglas R. 1999. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Basic Books. ↩︎ 1

averaged-american Igo, Sarah E. 2008. The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public. Harvard University Press. ↩︎ 1

breakdown-of-nations Kohr, Leopold. 1978. The Breakdown of Nations. Dutton. ↩︎ 1

entangled-life Sheldrake, Merlin. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures. ↩︎ 1