What it Means to be Human: A Questioned Question

I found myself one day just sitting by my windowsill and daydreaming. I must’ve forgotten that I had my piano lesson at six o’clock that day. It was the day eight-year-old me discovered his very first philosophical question through a short Youtube clip. I can’t recall all the details in the video, but the main theme was somewhere along the lines of, ‘what makes a human human?’. Funny thing is, only after 15 minutes or so I realized I had been sitting still doing nothing but think. The spark of thoughts mixed with feelings of awe and frustration kept on piling with a little bit of this and a little bit of that and AAAAAA.. I’m so dead if my mom knows I skipped my piano class!

Now I’m 21 years young, and I’ve picked up this mini hobby where I tackle philosophical questions every now and then, with one condition: I must talk it out with another person. It is just amazing to hear the endless stream of ideas and opinions towards these mind-bending questions. Now let me kindly put one out there for you: what is your most precious possession? I got this one from someone else dear to me, and it is one of my favorite questions to bring to the table, and you are going to find out just why in a moment. Now, where was I? Oh right. So, I will not define the word ‘possession’ for you because it lowers the value of your own interpretation of the word. Okay, now that you and I have already locked in our final answers, what happens next? Well, you are going to live to tell the tale I suppose.


The answer can be anything ranging from something with sentimental value like that one old necklace from your grandma that she gave you when you turned 17, to something that is so simple, like your phone, cause just face it, it’s 2020, no one can bear a single day without their phone in their hands. Even non-physical things can be your most precious possession. You may think your most precious possession is your knowledge and wisdom because without it you are but an empty shell in this whole wide world, or your ability to taste because FOOD IS LIFE! Anyway, different people can come up with all sorts of different fascinating things. Even the very same person can have different answers ten years ago, now, and in the coming ten years. One time when you were a helpless little kid, your most precious possession can be your adorable soft toy on your bed that you hug every time you cry. One time when you are older you might change your most precious possession to your local public transportation as it lets you commute easily between your home and your workplace. Another time it could be your capability to shed tears as it comforts you during your hard times. The possibilities are crazy! But let’s not stop there.


What if you ask a human-made AI, a supposed simulation of human intelligence processed by machines to be able to learn and reason based on the input of information, the exact same question? I don’t know about you, but my intuition tells me right from the get-go that they simply can’t answer it properly, can they? We humans even tend to change our answer from time to time, adapting with whatever comes our way and keep ranking our possessions based on the battle we currently fight. Or perhaps I am just hoping that they will never be able to. Because if somehow, someway, the AI gets jacked with a ton of data, and by that I mean every possible variable and piece of information known to mankind to the point where it is as if I am talking to a human whose answer I can relate to heart-to-heart, then it can only mean that humans are gods, no? I mean, we humans just created a human, right? 


Now let’s slow down. Reminiscing back to my eight-year-old self and the mixed feelings that lingered in my heart after encountering such a simple question of what it means to be human. Even now, I still feel the kick after a good session of positive open debate and conversation with my friends. Oh, were you expecting me to provide you with the answer to the big question myself? But I just did. Personally speaking, what is your most precious possession is the open-ended question that answers that big question. It’s unfair, you say? To answer a question with another question? Well now, it’s just so beautiful, isn’t it?


For the cherry on top, we must ask ourselves again, are we really ready to live side-by-side with highly sophisticated AI? Do we really want to run our society as though interactions with machines are more valuable than human interactions just because human errors occur more often than computational errors? And no, by all means, I’m not saying that we should stop improving. I’m talking less about ambition and more about attention. Look around and feel the power of saying “thank you” to the waiter who picks up your order in the restaurant compared to just clicking buttons and confirming your order from a screen at your local Maccas. Miracles exist daily when we engage with others. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and get rid of the beauty of looking someone in the eye and connecting with them immediately. Let’s not have a clunky metal and heater system from a battery to ever replace the intense body temperature when they hold you real tight whenever you have the idea of feeling someone’s warmth. Let’s not change our babies’ first words from “mommy” or “daddy” into “beep” and “boop”.