What make us human?

Writing doesn’t come naturally to humans.

For millions of years, we communicated with each other solely through words, gestures and facial expressions. Only about 12,000 years ago, when we started harvesting crops did we need to start writing to count them up. The earliest known written script was a partial script, which could describe numbers but didn’t have the words or the grammar to express a variety of feelings. Our brains aren’t inherently good at remembering or dealing with numbers. Writing started off as an accounting tool, and has become so important that we dedicate a few years of education merely to teach our brains to read, write and do enough math.

Fast forward a few millennia and we find ourselves in the midst of machines. Most people today need a college degree to make a decent living, and the most preferred college degrees are in engineering and technology. Communicating with machines is often more valuable today than communicating with humans. Just think of all the proficient, but socially inept computer programmers that you know.

But along with those shifts, we also started working like machines to complement their efficiencies – moving data mechanically from one place to another, following well-defined rules on an assembly lines and driving a bus along specific routes in accordance to a time-table. Further, we have also started working around the clock, in shifts or otherwise. The tech pioneers of our age tell us that working less than 80 hours a week is a recipe for failure. Our vocabulary mirrors our fetish for all things mechanical: stress, break-downs and burnout.

We live in an era of machines, and have transformed our society to think and work like them, one step at a time. The transformation that started with the written world has progressed onto programming languages and teaching machines to learn. But the more headway we make here, the farther we move from our natural state.

In an era where we have learnt to work and speak like machines, we need to think the hardest about what makes us human.

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