People are so much more than cogs


SummaryPeople are amazing, so let's not let our over-machined society cause us to treat them like machines.
Revised2023-07-21 @ 16:14 UTC

I’m re-reading the Dune series for the nth time, and this time, I’m doing it with a group via the excellent Gom Jabbar podcast. There are some seriously problematic themes in God Emperor of Dune, but the quote below has stuck with me for weeks and has illuminated life for me in a way I haven’t experienced in years.

"I point out to you […] a lesson learned from past over-machined societies which you appear not to have learned. The devices themselves condition the users to employ each other the way they employ machines."
— Leto II, God Emperor of Dune

This quote helped me wrap my head around ways we might inadvertantly dehumanize one another by assigning those around us rigid roles in the context of our daily lives and businesses. Like removing extra dough around a cookie cutter baking shape, we may discard from others that wealth of life and creativity that makes us human, leaving behind only the shapes we expect to see, and this limits and devalues ourselves and everyone around us.

Machines are everywhere and, depending on where you live, are involved in nearly everything we do. We give them commands, and they do something. When a part is broken, we replace that part. When they no longer suit our needs or are broken enough, we discard them. If we are exposed to this thinking every day for most of our lives, how does that affect how we treat and interact with people around us? Through force of habit, do we unintentionally treat others similarly to how we treat machines? Have we always done this, but our current technology makes this more ingrained since it is all-engrossing and demands our constant attention?

The next time you find yourself about to eliminate someone’s “role” at work and lay them off, ignore someone bagging your groceries, grow impatient with your music teacher’s stories, or disregard someone’s ideas because of their station, try to stop and remember that the person before you is a vibrant, autonomous, wonderful being that brings their entire lifetime of valuable experiences before you and exists far outside the box you and/or society put them in.