To answer the most profound question that we all ask ourselves, in one way or another, which has been asked since the beginning of our existence, which has perplexed all the philosophers from the beginning of time, which puts to perspective and questions our very own existence: What makes us human? The answer must be put in one sentence, must be convincing, must be concise, must be clear to all humans and those above humans. The answer must start like this: “The human being is the only animal that_________.” At this point I may have a vague idea about what makes us human, but to make sure that I am right about this, I would like to analyze my thoughts openly in this post and I will leave it open for discussions. I promise to publish all your thoughts and comments on this matter.
So, what makes us humans, human? I decided to answer this question after reading some pages from “The most human human” by Brian Christian last night. As I found his explanations very accurate and fascinating so far, I also noticed that some information in regards to Aristotle’s and Plato’s philosophies were not quite accurate. Some ideas were slightly changed as this information was copied and paraphrased from one book to the other. And I want to say, that it is not that Brian Christian changed that information, but it is the way this information is presented in many different books before, on which Christian referred to, in order to drive his own conclusions. However, by reading many books at the same time, a condition due to my ADD, which I now consider a blessing in disguise, I realized that some of that information from the original works of Plato and Aristotle, were taken out of their context. I would like to discuss these ideas and what has derived from misinterpreting them and the danger derived by taking them out of the context, but I will do so in a future post. For now I want to just focus on the fact that some of these parts taken out of the contexts keep repeating in almost every book we read. Hence, the future generations that do not have time to read the original sources, due to the fast pace demands in our daily lives, would often rely on the most recent studies, which are presumed to have studied the original sources of information and to have concluded the right conclusions. We trust all this information based on the fact that these authors are either best sellers or someone with big titles in their names or a big authority in the field. Unfortunately, when we are bombarded with the same phrases and same ideas over and over, we would believe them as true. Continuing this way, in each generation the new books are produced by relying on the previous generation’s information. However, by slightly changing something in the context and their interpretation would lead the next generation and others that would come afterwards to believe in pure lies and take them for facts. This deception is getting even bigger, and is spreading even faster nowadays that the technology is taking over our lives with the speed of light. Here I am not saying anything that others don’t already know, and I am not doing this to spread panic either. In fact, I am doing this to debunk the theories that machines can be more useful than humans. So bear with me.
The reason why I started to talk about the deceptions created when words are taken out of the context is because I was surprised to read from different reliable sources that Aristotle believed that humans have souls. In fact it was quite the contrary, Aristotle saw humans like thinking and sociable animals, but soul meant nothing to Aristotle, while it meant everything to Plato. Aristotle did speak about some sort of advanced mental activity when he tried to divide the organic matter into plants, animals and humans. He therefore, pointed out the differences between the three categories, but not in the sense of the soul as something divine, like Plato did, but in the sense of advancement on what one can do and is capable of doing. In fact, as Freud would also emphasize centuries later, human behavior is a result of habits, experiences, result of dogmas and theories that we are taught and believe on, and also act upon. Reading Aristotle’s original work, one would understand that Aristotle saw human beings nothing more than beings of habits, nothing more than animals with a craving to be noticed. Hence, the question presented earlier was based on Aristotle’s idea, “The human being is the only animal that_________.” Thinking of ourselves as derivation of animals would require us to distinguish ourselves from other animals by whatever makes us superior, in order to maintain our position as a superior being. Is our superiority based on thinking? Is this our human power? Thinking? If we answer yes to this question we are doomed my friends, and here is why.
“Can a computer think like a human?” Alan Turing asked this question when he created his first thinking machine known nowadays as computer. I hope you now understand the real danger we find ourselves in at this point. We have to prove ourselves better than animals and also prove that machines are not better than humans but these machines capable of holding millions of data and processing these data much faster than us humans, are in fact dumber than us. Can we do that? I am afraid we cannot. So far, we can say that facts are undeniably against us. Freud and Aristotle proved that humans are driven by instincts of aggression and sexuality, by concluding this way that nothing can make humans different or better than animals. At the same time, if machines can think like humans and even faster than humans, by passing the Turing test, then humanity is doomed.
Even though the chances of human survival and proving themselves useful at this point look pretty bad, I would proudly say that there is something that none of these theories has taken in consideration. Hence there is still hope for us. Let me explain this by first pointing out that these two extreme views that are used to prove humans useless are both wrong. One of these views, which derived from Aristotle’s argument that humans are sociable animals, indicates that humans are not better than animals since we act in similar ways based on the same instinctual feelings. The other view which derives from Plato’s argument that soul, which is reason, is pure since it comes from God, but it becomes impure and evil once in contact with matter and physical bodies. This reduces the importance of human’s existence to simply thinking, which unfortunately can render a machine with AI much more useful than a human that deforms and misinterprets the information that comes from higher sources.
These extreme views are both set ups to make us believe that we are nothing special and we do not deserve to exist. I cannot argue against the facts that some humans do act based on instincts of aggression and sex, but we forget to mention the fact that these are not humans’ primary states. These are the states in which humans are lead and forced to live in, and inspired to believe that the only way to secure their survival is to be aggressive and use sex as means to an end. However, among all the humans, there are also some of us, myself included, which have been put in many difficult situations and yet we have past these tests by proving Freud, Aristotle, and Plato for that matter were wrong about the fact that all humans are merely animals that think highly about themselves, or that humans tend to misinterpret information by adding their own point of views and according to Plato this was evil. In fact, we may interpret information based on our personal experiences, and personal belief systems, but it is exactly this that makes us human. Plato was right, but being human is not evil. Putting that superior information into our own context is not evil; it is a means to an end. It is a special way to see and experience the universe from different perspectives and fix and improve any previous misunderstandings we may have had regarding certain matters. I can speak about this fact with certainty because many years ago I believed that love did not exist. I believed that humans are here to merely think, marry, reproduce, and mind their business based on their qualifications, and so on and so on. I believed that not only love was just an illusion but in fact everyone was faking it. I was convinced that humans all lie about how happy they are with their sex life, love life, family life, careers and so on. If one would have asked me back then if a machine is more useful than a human, I would have said “Yes,” and I would have argued that a machine can think just like a human and even better, because a machine does not fake it. Today however, things have changed. My perspective started to change 10 years ago, when I met and experienced love for the first time in my life. Therefore, today I have a pretty strong argument against Plato and Aristotle, and against anyone else who wants to prove that humans are useless, and can be substituted by animals or machines. Love is the key, and is the only thing that makes humans human: We love. We fight for love, we go on a quest for love, we conquer in the name of love, we build and create for love, we become heroes for love, we live and die for love. Animals can have sex, animals can even have sex for the fun of it, yes, dolphins do that. Animals can empathize and socialize, monkeys do that, animals can lie to one another and be deceptive too, just like humans, in order to survive. Animals can learn to speak some words, follow some commands, and communicate in many different ways. Animals can build tools, and use them. Animals can fight to survive and to protect their off springs, but humans can do that and even more, in the name of love. Humans can sometimes sacrifice more than one can think of in the name of love. Love is the test we should perform in order to find out if a machine or an animal can be more useful than a human. Animals are not capable of love in the same way humans are. But how about a machine with AI, is a machine capable of love?
A machine can write love letters. They even say that nowadays they can build a machine that can have sex with a human. Yet, I do not believe that a machine can make me fall in love with something so empty inside of it, soulless. And even if I am such a fool to believe that I am in love with a machine, yet this machine cannot love me back, and sooner or later I would want to break free from that fruitless relationship. I know this and I can speak so confidently about it because when I fell in love with that man, the only love of my life, it did not happen just because we had an amazing sex, good chemistry and easily accepting and understanding each other, but love occurred in a fraction of a second, when we said goodbye and saw each other in the eye. All my previous conclusions, beliefs and theories I had about love as a beautiful but hurtful illusion were undone in a fraction of a second, when I looked into his eyes and I saw the adoration he had for me. I realized at that moment that I was wrong, and for the first time in my life I was happy to be proven wrong. This man proved me wrong, because he loved me and I saw it in his eyes, in the way he looked at me.
Eyes of a human can show more than just sadness, anger, lust, cleverness, deviousness, surprise, pleasure, joy, helplessness. Humans’ eyes are unique because are capable of showing love, showing more than just thinking, more than just instincts. Animals cannot show love, and machines definitely cannot show love in their eyes. It was because of what I saw in his eyes that made me believe that he had fallen for me. At first I loved it, I was touching the skies. I finally felt love in my life, and I found someone who also felt love for me, but the moment of glory did not last for too long. Another test, a crucial test was waiting for us, to prove whether humans are worthy or not. If humans would experience love and then they lose it or risk losing that intense love, how far would they go for love? Would they be so selfish to just maintain that love for themselves forever? Or would they become so depressed that they may give up on living? Yes, we were both tested and we proved that love makes you a better person, a better human, not evil. The way this set up worked was that I was informed right from the beginning, based on the circumstances that we met, that this man cannot be mine. Hence, even though I felt love for him, something that I never experienced before or after meeting him, and even though I realized that he also had fallen in love with me, which was the happiest moment of my entire existence and the greatest accomplishment in my life, yet, I concluded that I must sacrifice my happiness, and let him go. I refused answering his emails and phone calls, even though this decision hurt my feelings and my entire being, and even though I was aware that this decision would have hurt him temporary, I decided to make this sacrifice in the name of love. I did this because I believed that he had other responsibilities and a different future, and by falling in love with me, this would have prevented him from fulfilling his duties, or doing what he was meant to do. It is because I loved him that I let him go.
So, now tell me: Would an animal make such sacrifice and overcome their instincts to give up on pursuing a female or a male mate? I don’t think so. What about a machine, can a machine override their programming and stop pursuing a “lover” if that is the right moral thing to do, not because of dogmatic morals, programs and protocols, but because for the love of another human being? Can a machine override its programming, even if it realizes that if it continues with the same persuasion other human beings may get hurt as a result of these actions? No, I do not think so. A machine cannot override their program because a machine cannot think like a human; a machine does not use emotional intelligence. Humans think with emotions, which neither animals nor machines are capable of. It is the emotional intelligence that makes us useful and that make us love and heal ourselves in the name of love. Therefore the answer is: The human being is only (animal) being that can conquer in the name of love.