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Could machines be human?

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It’s 2020 and, since I was born in 19-whenever it was, I cannot think of a more challenging year.

We are being forced to isolate, stay indoors, go nowhere and stay well.

As I’ve blogged a few times, that’s good news for digital but bad news for humanity.

I think this year has really brought home to me the essence of what being human is all about: connectivity.

I’ve connected with friends and family more than ever this year … via Zoom, Facetime, Skype and such like. But I’ve really missed time with friends and family face-to-face, one-to-one.

You realise that, during these challenging times, the most important thing is human-to-human contact. You can augment, supplement, include and add digital to that human-to-human contact, but that human-to-human contact is still the core. The real thing. The handshake, the hug, the kiss, the embrace which, as usual, brings me back to physical versus digital.

It’s all well and good being digital, but if you forget the humanity in the process then you fail. I’ve seen many companies automating with technology and forgetting their humanity. They think we are all coders, programmers, humans without souls … but we’re not. We are all human, end of day.

And that’s what I think this crisis brings home to many of us: being human. Being connected. Being with other people. And the things we miss during this time away from each other.

I cannot imagine how it feels to be a friend or relative of someone on a ventilator and not being able to visit them or attend their funeral. That is why this is such a terrible year. The only good news is that it won’t last. It’s only temporary. It’s just a year or so. But it feels longer.

I’m guessing I’m not alone in missing my friends, my network, my community, so we WhatsApp, we Messenger, we do the things we have to do to keep in touch. Sometimes we even telephone each other.

And I guess this is the most poignant aspect of this crisis. For those who cannot be together for birthdays, funerals, ceremonies and more, it’s the loss of our human relationships. Sure, we can replace these with digital relationships, but it’s not the same thing.

This is the critical factor: you cannot replace humans with machines.

We spend so much time talking about replacing humans with machines; adding artificial intelligence and robotics to humanity; replacing human activity with software automation; creating machines that are cleverer than us; and such like … but is that what life is all about?

Life is about emotion, blood, relationships, people, humans and humanity.

Life is not about machines and software and data and programming.

Whoops! Sorry. I just went off on one and got a bit philosophical.

Can machines be philosophical?

Can machines be emotional?

Can machines be human?

What can machines be?

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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