Where does Humanity Begin?

This is a hackneyed question, but one that bears more investigation: Where do humans end and machines begin?
Norbert Wiener engages this question directly, concerning the human control in antiaircraft guns. J.C.R. Licklider, too, confronts this idea, with the very notion of “symbiosis” in computers and humans. But this concern reaches even further, when we consider human-enabling technologies, such as prosthetics and even eyeglasses.
I suppose it’s important to consider, in addition to the above question, what value wee place on certain abilities. Is walking something that is critical to our humanity, or seeing clearly? This seems different than considering the value of solving differential equations or sharing selfies, yet smart phones have become, for some, an extension of the human body as significant as a prosthetic leg or glasses.

The idea of a symbiotic human-computer relationship is still intriguing. Computers require human input, just as humans rely on computer output. I am grateful for in-text searching in Google Books, but I know that much of it would be impossible without humans telling Google what certain words and letters are. Often, I enjoy face recognition, especially when one of my kids’ faces is recognized as my own, but it wouldn’t work if I (or someone who knows me) hadn’t already recognized me.
Does this make this software human? I don’t think so. At least, it’s not entirely human. But as computers become physically closer to humans, such as with Google glasses, they certainly seem more human.

About j.d.grunert

Historian, Science and Technology Studier, Librarian, Academish
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