Definitely an eye-opening reading! The question you pose (“what gives us our humanity”) makes me think 100 different things after reading “The Machine Stops”. A couple things stood out to me from the story:
During her first conversation with Kuno on her “round plate” (holy shit, the first iPad!!), she can’t be sure if he was sad, as “the Machine did not transmit nuances of expression”. I immediately thought of the conversation we had in class about how difficult it is to determine mood over text messages (the ominous, “I’m fine.” or our ever growing use of emojis), and even FaceTime has limitations (regarding how high quality the video streams, not able to see body language, etc.).
I believe this idea of “good enough” will continue to rise in our society, even though innovators may seek to improve on it (sort of paradoxical). In terms of responsibilities, of a society, I think it’s important to reaffirm the power of face to face communication whenever possible. No doubt, technology like FaceTime has been incredibly helpful for people separated by geographic distance (e.g. the ability for someone in the U.S. to “see” family in Europe), but harmful when abused (e.g. a long email conversation addressing an issue that coworkers could simply get together in a room and discuss more effectively in person).
Another passage that hit hard (spoiler alert!) was as Kuno described his voyage to the surface:
“It was naked, humanity seemed naked, and all these tubes and buttons and machineries neither came into the world with us, nor will they follow us out, nor do they matter supremely while we are here.”
I can’t help but think of the generation who doesn’t know a world without Facebook, Instagram, snaps, likes, and favorites. I recall a classmate describing a younger cousin she had, and how seriously she took the number of favorites (or lack therof) she received on Instagram posts. Now obviously, most people should be able to keep it in perspective, but my point is all the technology around us, while designed to make life easier, can make what’s important a tougher decision.
All for now. Looking forward to class discussion of this!