A Lens of Humanity Through Our Technologies

Expanding on a tweet, perhaps unveiling the aims of our humane moments

As my weekend drew to its halftime, I settled onto Twitter to revel in some of the discussion of the day. Of note, a boxing match was getting ready to commence, and therefore looking for other conversations around that event proved to be something of a challenge. However, I don’t need to go very far before finding other topics, such as:

Watching one of the better tech analysts become fascinated with cycling is itself sorta fascinating.

On its surface, this comment does seem to point to something easily observable. Those people who look at technological change with a fine tooth comb tend to have an interest in cycling, or other endurance sports, that goes with and beyond the technology. A comment doesn’t a topic make. But, Twitter has a way of turning a few stray comments into a topic worth seeing differently. It was this comment to that tweet which did it for me:

It made sense not just on the surface, but in the depths of what I have been discovering for myself. I tweeted in response:

And then it hit me. Well actually, it hit me before I even tweeted the reply. An interest in automobiles and astronomy in my youth led to an appreciation of computers — the craftsmanship in hardware and threading within software that binds them together. When merged with the design skills still forming in my late teens, this became an appreciation and an evolution towards understanding the implications of mobile technology and ultra-connectivity. Seemingly, as the flame of mobility and its novelty would burn out, I began to look into cycling as an outlet. In this space, I quickly found many of the same aims in moving individuals forward, how policy and technology connect communities, and what it means to develop in sync with our environments. Cycling was a view into local, regional and global trends in some respects more evolved than the conversations and policy directions found in mobility and PCs.

Could it be that mobile devices, connectivity, computing, and even cycling, point to an amplification of humanity — or maybe simply show as some of our best-invented descriptions of what it means to be human? To commute (bike), to communicate (phone), and to calculate (PCs) ain a uniquely humane manner.

If we start with descriptions, we may stumble into something:

  • Bikes: the most efficient form of human-powered transportation; one of the 1st applications of rubber and tarred roads; greatly contributed to women’s suffrage movements in the USA; its modern popularity has opened the box on enhanced athletics and the industries supporting/fighting them
  • PCs: 1st thought of through the lens of an accountant’s tool, it evolves to a code breaker, then switchboard, then office assistant, and finally an adjective towards computation, creation, and dissemination; the irony being the closer the hardware gets to one’s person, the less personal the software has been able to be tuned (without specialized skills)
  • Phones: taking the physical space and time between voices and shortnening them to the speed of emotion; an evolution of radio, later of TV, and later still of computing, its often mocked that mobiles are appendages to many — and such is true for the appendage phones represent is the cord between one another

Looking at these descriptions, the thing I seem to stumble upon this augmentation. Specifically, where it means to augment some kind of condition that biologically we lack. I can’t speak over miles, so I use a phone. I can only count up to a certain amount of digits, and stack those counts accurately, so I use a computer. I am only able to travel 12 miles unladen and not feel the affects of carrying my own body weight — or I can utilize a bicycle and make the most of the energy I generate to push and carry. It would seem, I’m on a path of seeing these knit across the space of augmentation.

If the conversation is to go here, and augmentation of human senses (speech, motion, calculation, and a few others), then what can we point to as other tools we use, which on the surface seem like little ripples, but in the greater view actually shift humanity? Surely writing and language would be there. But what else? Or rather, what augmentations haven’t we stumbled upon because we have either never discussed them, or never noticed them to be discovered?

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