What does it mean to be human? I was fascinated by the Steve Fuller talk – so much to think about.
Humanity may not be an easy thing to define but I feel that it is something that one human being is able to recognise in another human being. For example, we may recognise something of ourselves in animals (probably different things with different animals) and see that we have some things in common with robots (human copies, or not), but none of those are human, and we recognise their difference from ourselves. Some scientists might tell us we are just made out of meat, and that there is no scientific evidence of ‘a self’ , and they can’t find ‘the mind’, within the human body – but this doesn’t make the experience of having both a self and a mind any less real.
Accepting the concept of “being human”, even though it can’t be explained:
Thirty minutes or so later, Gentleman has finished the dissection. Brain tissue is spread out over the table in neat 10 millimetre slices, like some kind of macabre deli counter. “The convolutions of the brain are like fingerprints – no two are the same,” he says. “These were individuals. I still see it as a privilege to dissect them. But I have to have a practical disconnect, and I still have no idea how a pile of fat – a lot of lipid membranes – can represent a person”.
Rowan Hooper, Your brain in their hands, New Scientist, 09/02/2013
In the recent Channel 4 episode of Black Mirror, Be Right Back, we are given the message that being human is more than looking human, more than acting human, more than the sum of our memories, and when that human-ness is missing then something is obviously just not right.
I came across the work of Kristine Schomaker on Second Life last week. Kristine’s art work relates to identity and self image. On her website there is a video where she explores the idea of transforming into her Second Life avatar. This interested me because it is somehow back-to-front. Kristine also projects a relationship with her avatar (Gracie), where Gracie appears to have become both real and separate from Kristine.
This made me question how other people relate to their online avatars, or to their online persona, and to take a look at how I identify with my own presence online. I rarely use a photograph – I think Facebook is the only place where I’ve used a photograph to identify myself online. I usually use an avatar instead. To me, my avatar represents me, and doesn’t have any life of its own. Even my Second Life avatar is representing me, and represents my presence in that online world. I don’t spend a lot of time in Second Life and the image of my avatar changes often, yet somehow it is still me.
The avatar I use for websites and forums is more consistent. Originally I had a little pixelated picture of myself , but now I tend to use this lego version of me…
Wherever you see this avatar, you see a Human -> Me.
Btw. The outside world has something of a breezy, cool feel to it, and smells of salt, sea, and sand…