Eliminating the Human | The amazing Laura Grace Weldon

A View from David Byrne

I have a theory that much recent tech development and innovation over the last decade or so has had an unspoken overarching agenda—it has been about facilitating the need for LESS human interaction. It’s not a bug—it’s a feature. We might think Amazon was about selling us books we couldn’t find locally—and it was and what a brilliant idea—but maybe it was also just as much about eliminating human interaction. I see a pattern emerging in the innovative technology that has gotten the most attention, gets the bucks and often, no surprise, ends up getting developed and implemented. What much of this technology seems to have in common is that it removes the need to deal with humans directly. The tech doesn’t claim or acknowledge this as its primary goal, but it seems to often be the consequence. I’m sort of thinking maybe it is the primary goal. There are so many ways imagination can be manifested in the technical sphere. Many are wonderful and seem like social goods, but allow me a little conspiracy mongering here—an awful lot of them have the consequence of lessening human interaction.

I suspect that we almost don’t notice this pattern because it’s hard to imagine what an alternative focus of tech development might be. Most of the news we get barraged with is about algorithms, AI, robots and self driving cars, all of which fit this pattern, though there are indeed many technological innovations underway that have nothing to do with eliminating human interaction from our lives. CRISPR-cas9 in genetics, new films that can efficiently and cheaply cool houses and quantum computing to name a few, but what we read about most and what touches us daily is the trajectory towards less human involvement.

Note: I don’t consider chat rooms and product reviews as “human interaction”; they’re mediated and filtered by a screen.

We are beset by—and immersed in—apps and devices that are quietly reducing the amount of meaningful interaction we have with each other.

the downside of technology

Social networks are also a source of unhappiness. A study earlier this year by two social scientists, Holly Shakya at UC San Diego and Nicholas ­Christakis at Yale, showed that the more people use Facebook, the worse they feel about their lives.  While these technologies claim to connect us, then, the surely unintended effect is that they also drive us apart and make us sad and envious.

David Byrne is a musician and artist who lives in New York City. His most recent book is called How Music Works. A version of this piece originally appeared on his website, davidbyrne.com.

A MUST READ: Eliminating the Human – MIT Technology Review

***From L/T…

I do not spend hours on Twitter or Facebook like I used to.  Teaching about social media and blogging, I’m not doing that anymore.  In my own research/work at the moment… I can tell you that some of the greatest minds in the world are sharing generously with us… on blogs… on twitter… and on other social media.  Like David Byrne (read his thoughts above)… Just like so many of you amaze me each week on your blogs.

My online friend, the author LAURA GRACE WELDON has some of the MOST amazing Tweets!  Last week I tried to pick a few you might like 🙂  (One of the nice things about Twitter is you can go back and read all the tweets – and even go back months!)  Please follow her if you are on Twitter.

This is her:   Writer, editor, farm wench, wonder junkie, awkward empath, aspiring hermit.

 Laura has built a treasure on her website and in her poetry and in her books.  (top photo)  Please do this for you and go visit her website this winter.  She’s been such a gift to me.

There were so many great tweets, it was hard to pick!   See you all next week.


  1. Just had to retweet that great cartoon with the old man saying ‘second’!
    David Byrne talks a great deal of sense. When I used to listen to Talking Heads, I always thought he was something of a genius. Thanks as always for such interesting things to read on a Friday.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Eee gads, I somehow find myself on the ever-lively and always mind-stretching blog of a woman I vastly admire, Lara Trace Hentz! Thank you for your kind words Lara, I’m flabbergasted and delighted.

    I can’t help but enjoy the juxtaposition of Byrne’s article about less and less human interaction. It is vital that we humans look at and touch one another as we connect. Loneliness is terrible plague. But we also shouldn’t dismiss the connections we make via technology. We are open to one another in ways never before known to humanity. People are reaching out and sharing ideas, opinions, first-hand experiences, and innovations. They are forming friendships and partnerships. They are offering acts of kindness, sometimes enormous feats of compassion, to people they might never meet. These are real connections, even if not a handshake or hug away. This feels, to me, like a Global Heartening. Of course we have to stay close and connected to the people right next to us, maybe do so more consciously in a world teeming with distractions, but I know my life is richer for the connections I’ve made online. Like my friend Lara Trace Hentz….

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ah, Laura, you deserve wide recognition… you teach me and your readers with each post you make. It’s an honor to have found you… as it happens we are all related. So yes, I hope when I get to your state, we will talk in person. We are at a new beginning and it does feel like a global heartening.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. There might be something to this. It’s absolutely a feature not a bug. I think it might just be giving consumers what they want though. Speaking for myself, I welcome pretty much anything that limits my day-to-day social interactions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Matt, just yesterday I found an article about tech developers working now at FB and Twitter who say they are getting off social media. It grew into something they didn’t expect… makes me wonder what else is coming or going….


  5. A fascinating article about technology and (a)social media, Trace. It actually fits with what I have increasingly observed among students, this semester especially. The majority of my students have not been able to sustain team connections long enough to complete a shared major project. When I tried to encourage one challenged group to talk with me yesterday about how to improve teamwork, they couldn’t take their eyes off their individual computer screens to make eye contact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the tweets, Carol, reflected on that students are not retaining knowledge if they are using tablets and phones instead of real books and textbooks… Aye, I think we have a problem. Not even eye contact? I am so not shocked. (So good to see you here my friend! xox)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lara, if you would like me to do a blogging feature on you, please let me know.
    Send me a short bio, to petejohnson50@yahoo.com
    Any photos you want to add should be attached on a separate email.
    I will link to your main blog, or any post you desire. It will be shared on Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin,and (potentially) viewed by my 2000+ followers. (Personally, I take that figure with a pinch of salt, but I do have some 500+ active and genuine followers, judging by my stats)
    Or if you prefer, you can write a dedicated guest post, about anything you like. I won’t edit it, and you will get full credit. Just send it as a word document, and I will present it as a blog post from a guest author.
    Just a thought…
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is so generous of you Pete. I am about to wrap up a new second edition of Two Worlds. I could write up a dedicated post on all my writing/work/history (short and to the point)… etc. Let me get back to you in a week or two… I have saved your email. ❤


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