What Is “Human” and What What Do We Become if We Think Differently?

The following are some thoughts that I had while at the gym today. They may not make much sense, since they will probably seem like unsupported pseudo-philosophical statements. However, these thoughts are based on a question I’ve asked myself for a little while already. (By the end of this post, if you decide to read it, you’ll realize how incredebly ironic that statement is.)

It should be noted that this has not been edited and much of it is “stream of consciousness” type of thought. As such, don’t expect a clean post. It’s not meant to be that. It’s mean to be a “this’ll get you thinking” post. Mostly, it’s a post to remind myself later of what I was thinking today because it’s a line of thought I wish to continue with in the future.

Thought: The only difference between god and man is the ways in which we can think.

Note: Throughout this post I’ll be using terms such as “god” and “man” in a different manner than most of us are accustumed. For our purposes, there are two types of “god”. The first is the status of “god”, someone or something whose thoughts transcend the capabilities of man, just like the thoughts of man transcend the capabilities of a computer, for example. This is to differetiate from the being of “God”, creator of the universe. “God” is an individual (again, for a lack of a better term, but for our purposes this will have to do) whereas “god” is a title, something that, like a “manager” or “CEO”, something or someone can grow or evolve into being. Again: “God” = particular being, “god” = title or state.

Have you ever thought that the reason you see the world the way you do, or have the thoughts you have, is largely due because of the construct of the words that you use? For example, in English “green” and “blue” are two separate words, two separate concepts. While they are both colors, each is a distict color, each with its own set of individual properties and applications. But what if instead, we used the same word for “blue” and “green” as part of our language. Would we really be able to tell the difference between blue and green, at least as sharply as we do now? Let’s say that word was “bleen”. We would refer to the sky as being “bleen” and plants as being “bleen”. The sky just happens to be a lighter shade of “bleen” than the grass, which is “earth bleen”, or “dark bleen”. Again, “sky bleen” and “earth bleen.”

Of course, that example again takes us to the path of two different colors, but as you can see, the lines between the color of trees and grass and the color of the sky is blurred slightly. Let’s continue with this example:

If you’ve ever been on an airplane, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the sky nearer to the horizon is a lighter blue than the sky straight above you. In fact, if you’re high enough, the sky above you gets close and closer to being black. So the shades go from “light” or “sky” blue, to dark blue.

Forllowing the “bleen” example, suppose that the color at the top of the sky wasn’t known as either “blue” or “black”. Suppose it was called “Ackue”. So what we now know as “black” would be “dark ackue” and what we see in the sky is “light ackue”. So in essence, the sky is not “blue”, the sky is two colors: bleen and ackue. As such, our kids, when they drawing the sky and earth in kindergarden, may paint the grass and lower part of the sky one color — basic “bleen” — and the top of the sky “ackue”

How would that affect the way we do things like paint or decorate our houses? How would that affect what colors we consider “fashionable” and what colors we don’t? And isn’t it interesting how the paradigm we set up for the language is now the paradigm we have for our thoughts about those items?

Let’s take another example: Suppose we didn’t have ten fingers. Suppose we had only one fingers. We couldn’t count from one to ten, at least not naturally. We would count to “one”, We would count “Zero, one…. many”. Of course, we would devise better methods than that. Eventually we would probably come up with binary. (Funny how a person with 10 fingers figured out binary.)

Now, suppose we used binary. In our current number system — based on ten numbers, because we have ten fingers — there are 10 numbers: 0 – 9. When we want to add another number, greater than 9 we add a “1” to the ten’s place: “1” and “0”; “1” and “1”; “1” and “2”. Eventually we started calling these “ten”, “eleven” and “twelve”, and we called that leading number as being in the “tens” place. Eventually we figured out how to deal with larger numbers: 23,000, 989,454,345 — and even parts of numbers: 834.12, 85,9023443, 1,4142136. We made up words like “tens” “hundreds” and “thousands” to show how many “tens” we had accumulated, or were accounting for.

In the binary system, we make that jump of leading numbers as soon as we hit “two”. 0 = zero. 1 = one. 10 = two. 11 = three. 100 = four. 101 = five. 110 = six… and so on. That leading character, in binary, is called the “twos” place. If there are three numbers shown (100, for example), that leading number is the four’s place, so that leading “1” in “100” represents the number “4”. 101″ would be “1 in the four’s place” plus “none in the two’s place” plus “1 in the 1’s place”, which is “5”.

(To clear it up, think about our number system: 475 is “a four in the hundred’s place” (meaning there are four-one hundreds) plus “seven in the tens place” (meaning there are seven-tens) plus “fife in the one’s place” (meaning there are 5), This gives us “Four-Hundred Seventy Five”)

If we all only had one finger, how would you pronounce “101”? Would you say “one-houndred one”? No. You’d say something like “six” or “six-oh-oh”. (On the bright side, this would probably cut down the number of bad sequels an initially successful fim could have.)

With all that in mind, let me ask, how do we know that we can even ever ask the right questions? Is there any way for us to move away from the paradigm we’ve set up for not only our language, but our species (biologically) and start thinking in other ways, tying things in ways unimaginable to us now?

It’s like music. Why was Mozart such a genius? We consider him so because he took the patterns set up before him by other composers and imbued his music so deeply with them that he, in essence, perfected classical music. Here’s what’s even more interesting; He never invented any sort of music. He never deviated from the rules set forth for that type of music. It took a deaf man, Beethoven, to break out of the classical mold and “create” the new “romantic” paradigm. Once that realization was made by others, people like Berlioz, Lizt, and Chopin began to stretch those forms as far as they could take them. It got to the point where people like Mahler would create these incredibly long lines of music, all within the romantic framework. Then, out of left field, came Charles Ives, who brought into the world of classical music a completely different paradigm. “Poly-melodic poly-tempo? What’s that?!”. After him we had Stravinsky and “The Rite of Spring”, Schoenberg and his “twelve-tone scale”, Lizt and Debussy with their “whole-tone scale” melodies. Then again, out of left field, after sufficient evolution, we had John Cage, who dared to say that one day we would be using non-musical sounds to make music. (He said this because he saw music not as a construct, but as blocks to build upon.) To this day, you trun on the radio and hear something by Bjork and — guess what? Cage was proven right. Most techno attests to his ideas.

And it’s all about building blocks. One cube block on top of another cube block on top of another cube block. We’re like children playing with building blocks. And we applaud ouselves and our “geniuses” for putting the blocks in arrangements we never thought about.

But it’s all cube blocks. Then we meet another culture and realize that they’ve been using dodecahedrons. Now, we’re building with blocks and dodecahedrons, and more complex methods are being developed, and we appalud ourselves for these accomplishments.

All the while, those who would be “gods” aren’t even building with blocks. They’re past that. They oversee us playing with blocks and think “how cute”, as they do other things and think in ways unimaginable to those of us playing with blocks.

And words. They’re the same thing. Frankly, it’s because of this that although I’m a writer, I hate languages. Languages limit what we allow ourselves to think.

I think in English. Somethimes I think in Spanish, and sometimes I even jump over to French. Most of the time, however, I think in thoughts, not words. But I can’t transfer thoughts. I can only transfer words. So, I clumsily figure out how to turn these thoughts into words and — well, you know the result. You know how hard it can be to get someone “in sync” with you.

Wouldn’t it be great if we never had to communicate with words? If we could instead communicate with thought? How incredibly great would the world be if that were the case?

There arises another question: what does the thinking? Where are thougths stored? And why did we, a collection of cells and minerals, start thinking of ourselves as one cohesive unit? —

We run on electricity. That much is known. Electricity powers our nerves with powers everything else. The question then arrises, what makes us “us”? Do we require our biological components in order to be us? I’m obviously not my arm or my legs. If those were cut off I’d still be me.

It is believed that we are our brain. And while it is our brain which “contains” the information which we collect throughout our lives, what about our electricity? Is our electricity also like our legs and arms? If you take it away, but preserve the brain, is the person still there? If you then run electricity back through that brain, does the person turn back on like some sort of Frankenstinian monster? (Hmm… “Monster?” Is that what we call it?) Or is the electricity that which makes our soul? When we “turn off”, what happens to that electricity? Does it merely dissepate into thin air? And can we only be us when that electricity and our biological brain are working together?

Can that electricity — for all intensive purpoises, the “chi” — garner consciousness? Is it conscious and can it be se apart from its central information storage and processing unit?

Can we ever really ask the right question, or will we be condemned to thinking only in the way which our limited biology dictates? Will we ever grow past our language and mental barriers and transcend thought?

And will doing so allow us to earn the status of “gods”? Or is a god born a god? It’s like asking if a sufficiently advanced enough machine can ever really ear the title of “man” (or “human”), or whether that’s relegated to a biological body and brain? Or to DNA? Or to those who are “born” as humans? Or to those who, as in Speilberg’s “AI” and Asimov’s “Bicentenial Man”, can “die” a human enough death? (This brings up the question of “is an immortal human still a human”, but that’s a subject for another time.

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