My take on the question you raise about starting by defining what makes us human and what “we” mean in the first place is that, unless you want to go all philosophical and attempt to spell it out in absolute terms, it’s much more approachable to achieve that by way of contrasts and yes/no questions.
We all agree that if there were a universally accepted definition of what makes us human in absolute terms, we would in any case have to accept that technology cannot entirely reflect it and help it prosper, as it is both a reduction of complex aspects to a finite number of features and an endeavor that relies on profit-driven interests (which makes for necessary compromises).
If instead, we go by way of contrasts (as many in the humane tech community do), we can easily contrast products (not necessarily “solutions”, as that would imply there was a problem to be addressed in the first place) offered by technology, and on the other hand, their equivalent in the non-digital world.
Take three examples:
Netflix: through recommender systems, Netflix offers users personalized advice on movies they will likely enjoy, be they blockbusters or indie movies. In the real world, you would need to know people with an incredible knowledge of tens of thousands of movies to provide you with a similar experience. On the other hand, Netflix is unlikely to suggest you movies outside your perceived preferences, so it doesn’t help you grow and diversify your interests, but that’s still something you can do through real-world interactions and recommendations.
Netflix follows an approach that emulates the real-world, but goes beyond its limitations. No real conflict here as far as our humanity is concerned.
Uber: We all know the business model and its advantages. A positive one is that it encourages drivers to be courteous as it may impact their ratings. A negative one is that in some countries, regular taxi drivers resent the competition from Uber drivers who unlike them did not have to go through a thorough registration process, nor foot high upfront costs. Such issues should be resolved by regulators, so there’s a due process in place to arbiter. Another possible negative aspect is the exploitation of drivers, who only take home a limited pay despite many, many hours at the wheel. But again, that’s just another aspect of a capitalistic society, and something regulators can scrutinize.
Does Uber change/negatively affect our humanity? Not really. It’s just a product that introduces more - if not unfair - competition.
Finally, our favorite subject of discussion: Facebook. I wrote enough on this thread about the social media giant. The contrast here is very, very significant. One may argue that nothing precludes our humanity from evolving - albeit at an unprecedented and frenetic pace - and “integrating” our new digital habits (I won’t say addictions). Maybe I’m wrong, but the way I see it is, we are at a unique point of history where our humanity (again, without defining it in absolute terms) is undergoing TREMENDOUS changes on a global scale and all of this has been happening within a mere decade or so.
The whole point of the CHT initiative - again, that’s my view only - is to rein in this rapid evolution, or at least to make it clear to anyone what we’re going through and take responsibility for the consequences.
I know it’s cliche, but doesn’t it freak you out to watch people on the street, and notice that at least 80% are holding their phones? Is that “human”? Or has humanity over the past centuries craved for a device they could hold on to 16 hours a day?
Taking another - very stupid example - let’s say 51% of the population gets on crack and crack is legalized. Would you then say “Access to crack should be a human right?”
The point of this stupid example is, it’s not good enough to just state that technology is what it is, what we make of it reflects our human nature, so let’s just live with it. There’s a urgent need for awareness, and from my experience discussing the subject with many people outside this community, they have no care in the world.