It’s ironic, I think, how robots are often characterized as stiff and mechanical, but I don’t encounter many human beings who don’t also fit this description. It’s been like that throughout my life. I’ve always been the weird one, the intense one, the authentic one. The rare one that stands out in the lives of those I know. Why is that so despite the dire need for authentic interaction we all share that has most of us walking around life zombies starved for the life force that comes with really being seen and heard and valued. How can we achieve this connection when low self-esteem and the need for validation and acceptance, more rampant and real than most are able to admit, drive us to show a facade in place of our real face?
Everyone thinks everyone else has it all together. No one else believes that each person belies an insecure wounded inner child, dying for comfort and reassurance. As a life coach, I know this is the rule and truth rather than the rare exception. Every person strives to be liked. In fact, according to social psychologist Roy Baumeister, it motivates most of human behavior.
But in the absence of self-acceptance and reciprocal authentic relationships with others, it’s robots we actually already are, interacting with each other in stunted, terse rituals as Erving Goffman described.
At work as an extension of our lives, we merely go through the motions. We duck and dodge the opportunities to reveal our real selves and hold that space for others when they try. We keep it light, simple, superficial. Despite our innate need for connection and a body that produces tears as an empathetic response to suffering and a brain that can process fear and nerve endings that provide pain and pleasure and a mind that can imagine transcendence and communion, we are actually, more often than not, anything but real.
So perhaps robots would be an improvement to the current model of the inept human machine. They could perhaps be programmed to utilize the tools and technology they’ve been given to actualize their potential. Their supercomputer brains could sense and detect a threat just like ours but override with more accuracy, precision and speed. They would truly manifest what we mean when we say emotional intelligence.
But would this mechanized mindfulness render joy obsolete? What about that feeling of elation or subtle equanimity that floods us once we overcome suffering and adversity? Could or would we feel the clarity of close communion without first encountering the suffocation of isolation?
Perhaps the struggle and purpose of being human is to emerge from a “robotic” existence, imposed upon us by socialization and culture, to a more responsive, adept and interactive version. An upgraded, new-and-improved prototype for humanity.
Might we actually become the robots we need now in our not-so-distant future?
Dillan DiGiovanni is an internationally-certified health coach for conscientious people and companies.