What does being human comprise of?

As a designer, I’ve always thought of the human as the end beneficiary of my work. Being unable to define the term, put me in a rather uncomfortable place. I think it is essential to define the human, as a centrepiece, not of the reality we reside in, but as the centrepiece of how we understand it. Our world does not revolve around us, but our understanding of the world does. When thinking of the human, and what it means to be one from the new perspective of these readings, I find myself dwelling on a few key levers to this problem:

1. Identity (both collective and individual)

and how it comes to be

I must clarify what I am trying to define when I try to define human. I feel it is important to separate my lens from the overloaded connotations the word human possesses in our global vocabulary. When talking about the human, I’m alluding to the larger system and ecology that the unit human exists as a part of: a meta system that is a sum of its constituent parts, but the resultant effects of entire system feedback into each of the individual parts again. A great example of this would be the Kurdish Collective.  The basic values of this collective, are something a lot of us in the design clique will identify as being basic ideals of a utopic state. It is a rather interesting occurrence, that amidst everything that, we in the rest of the world describe as obstruction to an ideal state (terrorism, violence, war, gender inequity etc), is born, a rather comfortable idea of a state. The sum effect of the individual behaviour feeds back into each individual and changes the sum effect in an endless iterative loop.

2. Intelligence

as currently defined by us and what the limitations of such definitions may be

The human possesses intelligence. While we may not possess the definition of either of these words or more accurately, idea vectors, I claim that all of us know exactly what they are, for it is the collective of what each one of us thinks these are, that ultimately makes them. These are fluid iterative human constructs. It is an idea, not dissimilar to the idea of Quality, as described by Robert Prising in his famous work – Zen & the art of motorcycle maintenance.

3. Memory (both individual and collective)

and how it comes to shape our future

The human has memory and this memory is a much imagination as it is recollection. The process of remembering, itself causes, a mutation of memory. As such, there is always a net loss of exactitude and a net gain of creation. From this standpoint, how do we contextualize our past and what we learn from it, and how do we extrapolate this to making sure our future makes a net movement forward (as we define what forwardness is at any point of time). The human, exists outside the boundaries of our own perception of Time. We find ourselves able to categorize painting made by multiple individuals over the space of over 5000 years, in a neat group together. It’s as if time was never a dimension.

I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly to a lot of what the Xenofeminism Manifesto lays out. The creation of a more just, equitable and self-correcting world system (society, government, economics, science etc.), has long been a mental bone I’ve relished chewing on. My own thoughts around this, had long settled upon, as a inception seed, the setup of a self-correcting socio-economic framework that will in turn be able to churn out socio-economic goals, which lead to new prototype world systems, and which in turn feedback to formulate a new set of goals. A recursive system – much more in tune with the recursive nature of our own reality.

I’d like to leave you with a few questions that I thought could help scaffold further discussion on the idea of what the human is:

  • What are the hard or fuzzy boundaries of what a human is?
    • Can the human be modelled as a sum of its unit cells, or are there more dimensions?
  • What does it mean to be intelligent, and in corollary what does it mean to not be intelligent?
    • As we enter a sort of level-up of synthetic intelligence, how do we define intelligence to be broad enough without constricting our ability to understand and analyse it?
  • How do we model lost information while looking at the past for context, and ensure that we factor in that loss in planning for the future?
Anurag Dutta