On Being Human

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It has been said that we live in a post-human world. A world in which the concept of humanity, as classically understood, is redundant – a Renaissance ideology of the autonomous, rational, free-thinking human – now replaced by a technological fetishism of man-machine co-existence. Human nature is not a universal state, a higher plane of existence that separates us from our tree-dwelling cousins; if human nature is anything, it is a default setting to not only embrace, but to absorb all technological advancement. We are all, some would have us believe, the real-life examples of a sci-fi vision. In other words, we are all cyborgs.

It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? There’s no doubt that technology plays a gargantuan role in the day-to-day lives of most people – from time-pieces to mobile phones, media, transport, clothing, accommodation – it is seemingly inescapable. But are we all really so integrated with our technological world that we no longer feel the need to exercise that other classical trait of what it is to be ‘human’: human relations? The answer, it would seem, is yes. Or at least it is as far as the university is concerned.

Now, let me take this juncture to make my position clear: I love technology. I really do; I am techno-geek through and through. It enriches my life, and it infuriates me to the extreme; but I love it all the same. I also love people, and I have yet to encounter a single piece of technology that can produce anything approaching a convincing smile. The smile of, say, a librarian.

The library situation is a moot point about campus. Some love it, some hate it; most probably don’t care either way. I’ve used the new system umpteen times and I have to say it was rather a painless experience. It was quick, it was efficient, it was clinical. But so is a tooth extraction and only the most sadistic amongst us would relish the thought of that experience every day. It’s just so impersonal. I miss the librarians! Sure, I never enjoyed a particular rapport with any of them – no swapping of funny anecdotes over a mug of tea in The Venue, God no, – but there was an interaction nonetheless, and I miss it.

Student-tutor contact is at a minimum; the dependence upon LUVLE is such that the slightest murmur in the system brings productivity grinding to a halt. Registration is online, lectures are conducted via podcast, the Learning Zone is a glorified chat-room. If the university had its way, I’m pretty sure the campus would be patrolled by a crack squad of ED-209s* with the sole purpose of enforcing the university’s smoking regulations. (*RoboCop reference: I told you I was a geek).

Technology’s all well and good in its place, but not at the expense of human interaction. Until they invent a machine that can hand me a book with an insincere “thank you” and a disgruntled smile, I’ll take a librarian any day.

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