Till the Machines do us Part

Believe it or not, one of the greatest things about humans is our diversity. Consider the varying religions, the cultures, the politics, the wars and the peace, the truth is that all those deviations are also the secret to our beauty.

The earth is full of different kinds of humans. Find and you will see people with long hairs and others with the blank head. I have seen green nose men and thick-bearded women. The earth is a colorful planet, and its occupants are separated along those color lines.

Moreover, as our colors differ, so does our beliefs, our cultures, our religions, and our overall perception of life. The only problem is that where differences exist conflict abounds. Consequently, it is reasonable to see how humans can achieve peace by eliminating our differences. Indeed a mono-human world is a noble idea. But it will remain just an idea till the machines do us part, and humans seize to exist.

On September 1987, President Reagan gave a speech urging unity among nations. Of course, leaders before him had also made a similar appeal for global unity. But Reagan took it a step further by invoking the extraterrestrials. Below is a caption from Reagan’s speech.

In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.

President Reagan UN Alien Speech
President Reagan UN Speech

Thirty years after that speech we are still struggling to find a rallying subject to unite us. Worst still, the rise of nationalism globally tend to emphasize again that the human nature is incompatible, and that we have the desire to remain different.

To understand the direction many people want to go, one need not look beyond some of the electoral processes globally, from Turkey to the Netherlands, France, and even the USA. The influence of nationalism on the results are obvious.

Arguably, this resurgence of nationalism is an indication of the fact that a lot of people prefer a mono-cultural society to a multi-cultural alternative. The British vote to exit the European Union shows their desire to maintain a unique identity. The election of Donal Trump in the USA was only possible because of his campaign promises to focus on the USA. In Turkey, President Erdogan could become an Emperor today if he asks for it, and that is not because Turkish people wants to be one with the world.

The opposition to these conservative ideas and the proponents of open borders argue that we humans are all one people. And that everyone should be seen as special instead of “others” and minorities.

Last week, I came upon a TEDx speech delivered at the University of Nevada by Mariana Atencio. She is a journalist by occupation. The topic was “What makes you special?” On seeing the title I said to myself here we go again, another feel-good speech for people with an inferiority complex. Some things are hard to explain, like the fact that identifying people as “special” can be less desirable than just calling them “normal”.

Mariana’s speech was more of a lecture on tolerance. She tried to explain how it was the moral obligation of the privileged in societies, to recognize immigrants and minorities as normal, instead of “them others”. The first step to achieving this multicultural utopia was to recognize that there is no real difference between people. And also that we are all special, irrespective of race, cultural and religious background. Her speech was often emotional, but nonetheless compelling.

Mariana Atencio’s Speech

Not that I am necessarily spared from the troubles emanating from this discussions. But as a spectator like most people, it is often interesting to watch how arguments are shaped, and how the come back to haunt those who created them in the first place. Still, the core question in this debate is whether humans are actually different or the same.

To that question, my answer is that we are different. Certainly, I would be happy to see the day when we can finally and definitively say that we are earthlings. That is the day we can conclusively determine that all the UFO sightings were after all genuine. Because only then will the words of President Reagan assume their rightful place. For humans to put aside their differences, heaven will have to open in daylight to beam us with lights and stars.

Our difference will remain till the machines do us part. In other words, until our transformation from humans to robots is complete, we will continue to be different. One thing we can do right now is to change how we celebrate humanity and its diversity.