A typical human being looks like this:
What shape is that? Well, it’s kind of a lump, with some interesting parts. Some stick out, some are inward. That’s hard for us to think about:
Because complicated things are hard to think about, we use simplifications. A ‘person’ is one such simplification. A ‘person’ is an idea we use to interact with other humans — and some nonhumans. A Person looks like this:
Hey! What do you know! Our human looks basically just like the person, except with some added features. When we consider the Human as a Person, they look like this:
Hey, that works pretty well! Except this Person has some flaws- but that’s OK. After all, they’re only human.
Those other parts we’ve removed — Well, those are part of the Human, but they aren’t important to Person-hood, you see. Perhaps your best friends understand that you are warm, empathic, and good for talking to when they’re depressed — but People don’t get depressed, only Humans — so People don’t need to know that. Keep that to yourself.
Personhood is great! It lets Humans do things like form corporations:
Well Hey! Look at that! The corporation looks just like a person — certainly nothing like a messy human. The corporation is made of persons all fulfilling their own roles, and together, they act like a single Person. Isn’t this great? Personhood lets Humans work together — which is essential for our survival as a species.
Personhood also lets us pass laws — to make sure that life is safe for People, and to ensure that things work out OK for good People who work hard. This law says, “only one person can come through at a time”:
Now, what about this guy:
This Person clearly has some problems. He needs to work on himself. That was me a few years ago. I knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what. I tried taking a good look at myself, to see what was wrong:
Ahh, there’s the problem! I’m missing something. Let me try to grow a bit in that direction.
Well… I guess that’s… better?
Now remember, I’ve been working on myself — but on the outside, I still look like this:
To others — I’m still the same flawed person. Those other wavy lines are neat, I guess, but those are part of the Human Mark. Mark the Person is still just a huge flaw, clearly one piece short.
I took another look at what was wrong with me:
And I figured maybe I just didn’t grow enough. So I worked harder and grew some more:
The whole time, on the outside, Mark the Person looks like this:
Those wavy lines are too complicated to explain — and besides, they are part of the Human, not part of the Person. They don’t count towards Personal growth.
I’d seen a lot of myself — enough to understand that I was growing the wrong way. I had to try growing a new way. Whew! This is hard work! Nobody ever teaches you how to grow — but they’re often happy to tell you what’s wrong with you.
Wow! That was hard.
I was proud to have grown. The others saw it, too. I was starting to get better.
I had the feeling they didn’t understand how much I’d grown, but that was OK— I was happy for them to see me growing at least. So now, on the outside, I look like this:
But in reality, after working tirelessly on myself for years, looking hard at my flaws, trying to fix them, failing, trying again, straining myself, and finding balance — I look like this:
Even though, on the outside, to People who don’t know me as a Human, I still look like this:
I suspect this is happening to everyone else.
I think our overreliance on ‘Personhood’ as an interface is the cause of racism, sexism, homophobia, and all of our other problems relating to one another — we’re ignoring this:
Because it’s complicated, and instead treating each other like this:
Now, if only we had some technology which was capable of dealing with complexity for us — then we could use that technology to define our Personhood interfaces, and let the technology find ways for us to act together as a flock of butterflies, rather than a gelatinous cube devoid of emotion, suffering from its humanity, speaking through the Personhood interface.