Are we human, or are we…just a brain?

“Jesus, Siri. People aren’t rational. You aren’t rational. We’re not thinking machines, we’re– we’re feeling machines that happen to think.” (231-232).

Reading Young Park’s blogpost (which can be read here: about consciousness being “costly and inefficient” brought my mind back to this quote, a quote that stuck out to me during my reading. I think both parallels and challenges his argument, while bringing up other ideas about what sets humans apart from other forms of life, both realistically and in Peter Watts’ imagined, frustratingly confusing, and alien world.

Consciousness and self-awareness are what make humans so utterly human, the things that set humans apart from many other life forms. As Young points out, these concepts are entangled with the idea of higher-order intelligence as we know it, a connection accepted as gospel today and one that is arguably difficult to…well, argue. After all, don’t we have to be self-aware to argue our own self-awareness? However, one reason I selected the quote that I did is because the idea presented by Robert Paglino to Siri says that while yes, humans do in fact think, we are driven less by the intelligent aspect of our being and more by the b side of our being, that of emotion and reaction. So, does this thinking, the distinct human way of thinking that is so tied to concepts of self-awareness, in fact get in the way of humans being “feeling machines,” or does it enhance that aspect? This quote disassociates feeling and thinking, while I tend to consider self-awareness and consciousness tied to both; is it not consciousness and awareness that tell us we are what we are (as Ke$ha says) and that we are connected to others in ways that make us feel empathy and love?

I have worked my brain into confusion simply writing this post, but what I ultimately mean to say is that humans will never overcome the simple fact that they do live their lives based on feeling and not thinking, no matter how much intelligence one might achieve.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Are we human, or are we…just a brain?

  1. young says:

    Thanks for reading my post!

    I think what Peter Watts is saying is that humans are primarily driven by emotion and instinct but we like to think we’re rational and thus IN CONTROL. I mostly agree with him; people are not completely rational actors. Now, I don’t know where consciousness fits into this discussion because (at the moment, at least) I think it’s something that is quite apart from both feeling and rationality, but they do somehow interact. I don’t want to say too much and betray my ignorance on this subject but I think consciousness is what makes us aware of the emotion/logic dichotomy or creates a false distinction where there shouldn’t be one!

    For example, the aliens in Blindsight have no consciousness. And they are driven purely by instinct, but their actions are perfectly rational any way we look at it. Maybe consciousness create the incongruity that so many of us feel.

  2. young says:

    Oops. I should’ve written creates not create.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *