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Who Are These People?



Who are these people?

They’re Frankensteins.

Or at the very least “a new form of human”1.

Whose old minds – “the ones that were capable of calm, focused, [long, linear thought]”1

are being canabilized by new ones

that take in a dole out information in this short, sharp, disjointed and often overlapping bursts”1.

They’re distracted.

And skittish.

They seek style over substance.

And they skate

upon the surface of life1.

They also believe they are smarter

because of the phone in their back pocket.

And its uninterrupted tether

to the internet and to Google.

They have extended their minds2

by way of technology.

And are “cognitive geniuses”3 because of it.

But ask one hundred and fifty of them in a lecture theatre to point east without using their phones and

they cant do it.


they don’t know as much as they think they do.

“To remember, is to safeguard something entrusted to your memory

whereas to know

by contrast [and the contrast is massive]

is to make each item your own

and not be dependent on some original

or constantly looking to see what the master said”4.

And for these guys the master has unfortunately

become Google.

They have outsourced their memory.

They have outsourced their minds.

And they have outsourced themselves.

They are awash in information.

Relentless, fleeting, white online noise.

And they cant remember a damn thing because of it6.

This is a problem for education.

But more so for them.

And their sense of self and self identity.

There is a chance they have no idea who the f*ck they are6.

These people do not need more online content.

They need a hug.

And a kick up the arse.

I’ll let you decide the order.

Either way

they need you.

In the flesh you.


On the environment we live in.

The past and the future.

We stuffed something up.

Around a decade ago.

With web 2.0.

“We designed it to act as if people are machines.

Like we were “building a gigantic electronic brain of a planet

and people were just components of it”7.


Attached to the giant computing clouds.

“We aggregated their expressions into dehumanized data”8

and then gave that data more rights than we gave people8.

We reduced them.

We demeaned them.

And we made then subservient to the structures of giant computers7.

We forgot humans were special.

On the ‘future world of work’.

A phrase I have heard time and time again but have yet to hear detailed or defined let me take a shot at it ||

We “step into a new era.

of automation and artificial intelligence.

We step into a second industrial revolution”9.

“The first was about artificial power.

This one is about artificial intelligence.

“Everything we electrified we will now AI.

And then we will distribute that AI across the grid.

Just like we did with electricity”9.

Every job that can be measured in terms of efficiency

will go to the machines the code the bots and the robots.

Don’t cry about that so it should.

No one wants to do that shit anyway.

And efficiency is a horrible term to associate with

or throw at

a human being.

Everything truly important to us is inefficient

And learning is just one of those things


“You would be horrified wouldn’t you

to be principally described as an efficient lover”10

Then don’t desire students to be efficient learners.

The best stuff takes the time it takes.

And “the time it takes can’t be fought”11

Learning analytics for example.

That fights time.

And leveragse it

For its’ – and others’ – own gain.

It is tracking and logging of the online actions of students.

It is “an instrument that measures these super small units of time.

And generates reams of data that our brains can’t comprehend”11.

For which we need more and more computers.

“Machines can do things with and in a picosecond”11

But we will never be able to experience anything like that.

The gap between what we measure and what we can actually perceive and use here is huge.

Students are not machines10,11,12

Don’t treat em like they are.


On putting technology and digital first

Wait what?

Tell me

Who’s second?

This is a fundamental mistake.

Not as a business strategy

But as a way to approach life.

And as an educational ideal.

And those two things should be highly aligned.

This is a loud and clear statement.

That technology comes first.

And humans come second.

And whether you can hear that yet is irrelevant.

Because that’s the statement that has been made here.

“The more elaborate we make our means of communication

the less we actually communicate”13

“It’s an illusion.

That will cheat us of being in touch deeply with the people breathing right next to us”14

Or those that should be.

We have a number of defining fights of our times.

This is one of them.

“We need to make sure that machines stay what they are supposed to be

the slaves.

instead of the masters of men [and women]”15

And hey

If we don’t fight for this now

we have no right

to cry

about what happens to us later.


1. Simmonds, A. (2015). The Frankenstein Of Social Media. Womankind, August – October, 44-47.

2. Clark, Andy, and David J. Chalmers. (1998). The extended mind. Analysis 58: 7-19.

3. Case, A. (2013, November). Superhero of the mind. New Philosopher, Issue 11, 46-51.

5. Case, A. (2014) “Seneca, L. A”. 

6. Case, A. (2014). Losing ourselves to technology. New Philospher, Issue 26, 37-38.

7. Scwartz, O. (2013). Jaron Lanier is a humanist. Dumbo Feather, 37, 80-92.

8. Anonymous. (2010). Editorial Review – A Q&A with Author Jaron Lanier. (January1). Retrieved April13, 2015, from

9. Kelly, K. (2016). How AI Can Bring On A Second Industrial Revolution. Paper presented at TED Summit, June, Banff, Canada.

10. Boag, Z. (2016). On Project. New Philosopher, Issue 11, 13.

11. Dawesar, A. (2013). Life in the “digital now” Speech presented at TEDGlobal June 14, 2013 in Edinburgh International Conference Center, Edinburgh, Scotland.

12. Burkeman, O. (2016). A frictionless existence. New Philosopher, Issue 11, 21-22.

13. Priestley, J.B. (1957). Thoughts in the Wilderness. Heinemann, 1957, p. 201.

14. Popova, M. (2013). “Nin, A”. The meaning of life and the dangers of the Internet. Dumbo Feather, 36, 28.



The Resistance :)


Simmonds, A. (2015); Clark, A & Chalmers, D. J. (1998); Case, A. (2013); Case, A. (2014) "Seneca, L. A”; Scwartz, O. (2013). “Jaron Lanier”; Anonymous. (2010). “Jaron Lanier”; Kelly, K. (2016); Boag, Z. (2016); Dawesar, A. (2013); Burkeman, O. (2016); Priestley, J.B. (1957). p. 201; Popova, M. (2013). "Nin, A”;

Image Size

148m x 210mm (A5) Portrait

Image Detail

Harding 2020 ⎮ Photography ⎮ Digital Collage

On 'We Are Eternal'

The type lockup, "WE ARE ETERNAL" was on a student's t-shirt. With their permission I captured an image of it and then used it in my last announcement at the end of the semester. It had seemingly become - over a period of six or seven weeks of discussion - the answer to one of the first ever propositions I offered up for debate, "Who Are These People"

On The Piece

Originally written upon invitation to speak to colleagues on 'technology and teaching in higher education'. I then modified it slightly and delivered it as the opening to the first lecture of a first year undergraduate course on the philosophy of technology. The only slide behind me a black screen with the question, 'Who Are These People?' set in white. I often delivered it without warning. Straight up after saying, "Hey, I am your lecturer for the semester". The first section of this was also used as a prompt for academics in a creative writing workshop held in New Zealand in 2019. Out of that workshop came multiple responses (some for, some against) and an ongoing discussion. I would share some of those with students too. As an example of open debate and to prime them for how the course was about to play out.

Publication Date

29 ⎮ 03 ⎮ 2020