The Human Business

Being Human in an Age of Machines

The Human Business

Being Human in an Age of Machines

A manifesto for the reclamation of human values

Whether we love our machines or not, they have become an almost indispensible part of our lives. But not just our lives, they’re essential to how our markets, our schools, and our governments work as well. Machines allow us to move faster, think faster, make decisions faster, and calculate things that have never been calculated before.

Machines have become synonymous with our social networks, our business networks, the processes of getting a mortgage, getting into school, getting a job, finding a mate, buying a book, watching a movie, or voting for a president. In fact, we spend so much time with machines, working with them, playing with them, thinking with them, that we often find we have little time for one another.

We stop thinking about ourselves and those we know as separate from them. We stop relying on our own knowledge, our own intuition, our own sense of what is right, or good, or sensible and trust machines to do so in our absence. We stop communicating with each other directly, relying instead on their speed and lack of emotion to do so in our stead. We stop looking deeply into things that aren’t part of the machine–ourselves, our past, our future–and rely on them instead to provide answers to questions we aren’t really asking. We stop thinking of them as tools, and start treating them as us.

They aren’t.

The result is there for everyone to see. Decisions that affect our lives–in matters as great as life and death and as small as in what we eat and where–can be, and often are, made without human involvement. Teams of people discover that they don’t know one another, only the profiles the machine provides. Organizations become dysfunctional as individual worth and competency is subsumed by a reliance on algorithm and asynchronous messaging.

The result is there too for everyone to feel. That sense of uneasiness, of worry, of dread. Individual agency, value, worth–to a mission, to a project, to the state, to one another becomes suspect and occupies our minds. We cease to function to our fullest abilities. We change what it means to be successful, to be right, to be human.

We all suffer. Our organizations suffer. Our world suffers.

The answer is not to do away with machines. The answer is to be better humans, more demanding of those things that have taken us from hunting mammoths, to discovering the warmth and nutrition of fire, to shaping time and space through language, to organizing our individual selves into groups to accomplish things we could never do alone, to inventing tools to make us more successful, more empathetic, more appreciative of the world within which we live and which we have created, to remember and honor what has happened and why.

This is what The Human Business is all about.

Our work with organizations and individuals is about optimizing what it means to be human in a world of machines. It is about recovering those things that have made us great, that will continue to make us great, and rediscovering their power to shape our lives and our endeavors.