Digital Humanist

What is a ‘Digital Humanist’?

Someone who believes that it is our responsibility to understand how our shared humanity can define the systems we create and control.

Science – guided by reason.
Society – inspired by compassion.
Contribution – informed by experience.

How did Digital Humanism begin?

In 2015, global research and advisory business Gartner, launched the concept of Digital Humanism. Gartner’s Brian Prentice proposed that “businesses should seek to understand how our shared humanity can define the systems they create and control”. He connected the concept of ‘Digital Humanism’ to the 1933 Humanist Manifesto (revised in 1973 and 2003), which put most simply states that it is our “responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity”.

Short history of Digital Humanism (1933 – 2021)

Humanist Manifesto 1 (1933)

Written primarily by Raymond Bragg (1902-1979) and largely connected to Unitarianism.

“The time has come for widespread recognition of the radical changes in religious beliefs throughout the modern world. The time is past for mere revision of traditional attitudes. Science and economic change have disrupted the old beliefs.”

The 15 tenets of the Humanist Manifesto (1933) paraphrased:

  1. The universe is self-existing and not created.
  2. Man is part of nature and emerging from a continuous process.
  3. Holds an organic view of life, rejecting the dualism of mind and body.
  4. An individual’s culture is influenced by the culture of their experience.
  5. Humanism does not deny the possibility of realities as yet undiscovered.
  6. Time has passed for theism, deism, modernism.
  7. No distinction is drawn between the sacred and the secular.
  8. Our development and fulfillment is in the here and now.
  9. Cooperative effort should promote social well-being.
  10. Follows that there will be no uniquely religious emotions and attitudes.
  11. Man will learn to face the crises of life in terms of his knowledge.
  12. Foster the creative and encourage effort that adds to the satisfaction of life.
  13. Transformation institutions to enhance human life.
  14. A free society in which people intelligently cooperate for the common good.
  15. Affirm life rather than deny it, and seek to elicit the possibilities of life for all.

Humanist Manifesto II (1973)

Updated 40-years-later after events such as Nazism demonstrated the depths of brutality humanity is capable of, and highlighted some of the naïve optimism of the 1933 manifesto.

Created in the main by Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson in (1973), it was a much longer and detail and less accessible exploration that reintroduced the role of religious institutions to some degree and tempered the optimism contained in the original work.

It was signed by over 250 supporters, with many philosophical luminaries of the time, including people like author Isaac Asimov. It did however lose some relevance in driving thinking of the day, as it had become too much of a philosophical debate in academia rather than a simpler statement of changing views of the human condition.

Humanist Manifesto III (2003)

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without super-naturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The life-stance of Humanism — guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience — encourages us to live life well and fully.

It went back to a much simpler (6 aims) and accessible text, paraphrased core tenets are:

  1. Science: knowledge derived by observation, experiment and rational analysis.
  2. Future: we are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.
  3. Ethics: each person has inherent worth and dignity, freedom with responsibility.
  4. Fulfillment: Animate our lives with a sense of purpose finding joy in existence.
  5. Society: We are social by nature finding meaning in relationships and mutual care.
  6. Progress: Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.

Humanists are concerned for the well-being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

Digital Humanism (2015)

In 2015, global research and technology consultancy Gartner launched the ideal of ‘Embracing Digital Humanism’, a conceptualization based upon the Humanist Manifesto (III) explained primarily by Gartner’s Brian Prentice.

Digital humanism is the notion that people are the central focus in the manifestation of digital businesses and digital workplaces.

DIGITAL HUMANISM MAKES PEOPLE BETTER NOT TECHNOLOGY BETTER.

It never really took off. It’s audience was CIO’s involved in driving the technology of the day, not philosophers, futurists or other audiences concerned directly with the future state of humanity and the individual happiness of humans. Gartner even (apparently) wrote a ‘Digital Humanism Manifesto’, but that never saw the light of day.

In 2017, reflecting on Gartner’s failure to get traction, writer Martin Recke discovered an article by French professor of digital humanities Milad Doueihi, which defined Digital Humanism as follows:

DIGITAL HUMANISM

Digital humanism is the result of a hitherto non-experienced convergence between our complex cultural heritage and technology that has produced a social sphere that has no precedent. This convergence, instead of simply forming a link between antiquity and now, has redistributed concepts, categories, and objects, as well as behaviours and associated practices, all in a new environment.

Digital humanism is the affirmation that current technology, in its global dimension, is a culture, in that it creates a new context, on a global scale.

It would be reasonable therefore to recast the Humanist Manifesto (III) as a Digital Humanist Manifesto (2021) with the related core tenets:

  1. Science: promulgate knowledge derived by scientific method.
  2. Future: remain open and undaunted by that which is yet to be known.
  3. Ethics: each person has inherent worth and dignity, freedom with responsibility.
  4. Fulfilment: Animate our lives with a sense of purpose finding joy in existence.
  5. Society: We are social by nature finding meaning in relationships and mutual care.
  6. Progress: Technology that benefits society maximizes human happiness.

22 March 2021

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