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Humanist Archives: Nov. 15, 2022, 6:31 a.m. Humanist 36.257 - the dehumanisation of technology

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 257.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2022-11-14 11:19:48+00:00
        From: Bill Pascoe <>
        Subject: Re: [EXT] [Humanist] 36.256: the dehumanisation of technology

Thanks Maurizio,

Yes, I was playing on the ambiguity. I guess I meant 'human' more as an
adjective, in the sense that people describe activities like making pottery or
building shelters or sharing a story by a fire, or playing a guitar, as very
human, but think of computers as inhuman, alien, or antihuman. One point is
computers are very 'human' in that sense, not that a computer is a human (at
least not until someone invents genuine artificial intelligence, but maybe we
leave that can of worms unopened for the moment).

I think Salvo might have been more meaning in the sense of Latour and inter-
actor theory and post humanism (Hayles) etc. Where, in the Latour example, the
combination human+gun has a different set of action potential to just human or
human + something else, say human+bubblegum (my example). We can think of
human+x as a distinct 'entity' in terms of potential actions in a network of
causal events.

Luckily, I've managed to stay away from the law so far, but, to try to make an
analogy in juridical terms, you might say, a person who went and got a gun prior
to an attack would be judged differently to someone who didn't. Also, we would
judge someone who put a gun in the hands of an angry person to be partly
responsible. These differences in judgement at very least acknowledge that the
human+object combination is a distinct and recognisable entity to human-gun, and
that we judge such entities differently.

So the point of the neologism 'HomoLogatus', or whatever word is chosen, is to
propose, or highlight that point, and furthermore, that what is distinctive and
characterises humans is that, in fact, as 'tool using animal' we combine
ourselves with objects (to enact will, to interact with the world, etc). So to
use more conventional terms, among the 'necessary and sufficient conditions' of
being human is tool using and language use, ie: human+object (or
human+object+language). (and from this, again but in another sense, a very
'human' object is a tool for information, ie a computer)

So if what a human definitively is, entails this +object part, then '+object'
becomes redundant, in that it's implied in simply in the word 'human', and yet
because the typical assumption is that 'human' means '-object', then we need to
use a different word to assert the point +object.

So the proposition isn't that computers are human (ie not the same legal entity,
or object), it's that computers are human (both as an adjective describing
something humans would typically do or make etc, and in terms of being
definitive of what it is to be human in so far as we are defined as tool using
and language use and computers are language tools) 😉

Perhaps this latter point is that what it is to be human is the irreducible
complex of human+object, since without the +object we are 'animal'. And to try
to reduce to 'human' belies the older problem of whether you can chop off an arm
and still be human, or a leg, and where does it end - the mind? And then what if
my thoughts differ from one moment to the next? ie: even considered as organic
only, or mind only, 'human' is an irreducible complex. And to labour the point -
what difference does it make if my arm is organic or prosthetic - am I less
human if my arm is an inorganic 'object'? I don't think so. And so the stick I
hold to reach the fruit, or the vacuum I use to clean the floor, - is it any
less part of my body, while I have as much control over it as my hand?
Intuitively we think such tools aren't, which is understandable because they are
so temporary and easy to detach. They don't come with us every where so we don't
think of them as part of us. Our limbs do come with us everywhere, usually so we
think they are part of us, until we lose them, and only when we carry on without
them do we realise they aren't necessary to carry on being ourselves. For those
in a wheel chair for a long time, so I've heard, the chair becomes part of their
personal space, as if it were part of their body. The distinction between
organic and mechanical objects then is just a matter of degree and probability
and time. The distinction is not definitive, it's accidental. What is
definitive, in terms of distinguishing from animals and plants, is tool and
language use.

Hang on a minute - aren't there some animals that use tools and language, so
isn't that just a matter of degree too? Well yes, but wouldn't we say those
characteristics are what make them seem most human? So they are definitively
human characteristics.

And don't we also connect ourselves to animals, as well as tools, like horses
and dogs, and communicate with them? Yes indeed.

(btw, I should acknowledge these aren't my ideas, they come from an old
philosophical education, I'm just trying to explain those arguments in plainer
and more conventional English, because some of the authors are notoriously


From: Humanist <>
Sent: Monday, 14 November 2022 5:54 PM
To: Bill Pascoe <>
Subject: [EXT] [Humanist] 36.256: the dehumanisation of technology

External email: Please exercise caution

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 256.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2022-11-13 09:24:02+00:00
        From: maurizio lana <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.255: the dehumanisation of technology

Bill, and Salvo:

in juridical terms, the dichotomy between legal subjects and objects
cannot be overcome, tertium non datur.
computer are objects. complex objects, indeed, but objects. objects are
not human(s).

in the phrase (1)"What could be more human than a computer?" "human" is
meant in a metaphorical sense.
very different sense from that in the phrase (2)"All human beings are
born free and equal in dignity and rights".
and very different from that in the phrase of Vittorio Arrigoni
(3)"restiamo umani" (let us remain human).

no sense of (2) and (3) (and of (4), (5), (N) which cannot be properly
mentioned here for limits of time and space) is suited to a computer, i

and, sorry Salvo, but i have never been "omologato" (homologated) and
the same is true for a lot of other persons here in Humanist and in
world around. so in your phrase "we have always been HomoLogatus" the
extensive "we" appears to be insufficiently grounded.
and the assonanceHomoLogatus/homologated makes me uneasy.

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