The hold music abruptly stops and the man who had spent the last 45 minutes zoning in and out of the phone call jumps to attention as the operator speaks, “Thank you for calling Human-co technical support, I apologize for any inconvenience. Can I have your name please?”
“Hello Mike, what seems to be the problem today?”
“It’s my human male. He was operating perfect for the first 10 or so years I owned him but now he’s been acting up on me. I’m sure he is just malfunctioning, but I need some troubleshooting help or maybe it’s just time for a replacement. I’m not sure if the warranty is up or not, I can’t find the paperwork.
“Ok Mike, Thank you so much and we’ll see what we can do for you today. I just need to ask you some simple questions here so we know where to start from. I appreciate your patience ok? Ok. How long have you owned your human male Mike?”
“Uh, fifteen years this August,” Mike says as he realizes he has no idea where that time went.
“Thank you Mike, just stay with me now. I appreciate your patience, ok. Now did you register your human male when you bought him?”
“Thank you Mike, ok. Now it is pretty typical to have some calibration adjustments required at around this age with your particular model. Do the emotional systems appear to change gradually or kind of switch from one state to another?”
“All over the place,” Mike says with a laugh. “He will be happy one second, pissed the next. He never used to be like this. There must be something wrong with his emotion chip or whatever he runs off of.”
“Ok Mike. Thank you so much again for answering these questions. Almost done here ok? Ok. Now did you provide a loving, stable and comfortable environment during the first 5 years of ownership?”
“Well I went through a divorce about a year after I bought him,” he says sheepishly. “And we moved around a lot because I had to get a new job once the plant closed. So it was pretty rough there for a while, but he has been fine for years. I don’t think that has anything to do with his malfunctioning now.”
“Ok Mike. Thank you again for your patience but I’m afraid the warning label is very clear that a comfortable and safe environment is required for optimal performance. Not providing one during this time does actually void the warranty. These human males and females require very specific conditions and routine maintenance. The warranty only covers malfunctions of components and operating systems and does not actually cover normal wear and tear. Did you by chance opt for the additional full coverage warranty when making your purchase Mike?”
Everything in our busy and complex daily lives comes with instructions. Not only does it tell you how to operate it, but it usually has a breakdown of all the parts needed for replacement. The blender you get has a 15 page, multi-language booklet to tell you way more than you ever needed to know about a blender from JC Penny. The toaster and the rice cooker even come with troubleshooting tips in the back. Is it plugged in? Is the lever up or down? Does the red light come on? If all these complex steps elude your massive brain then there is a number to call so someone can hold your hand and walk you through whatever you were trying to do in the first place. Everything you own has a manual. Cars, televisions, computers; even alarm clocks all come with detailed and step by step instructions of what to do and how. Ikea built an empire on do-it-yourself step by step furniture. Even our services (the great American product) come with all the help you would ever need. Is your cable not working? Call Comcast and get someone over to reset your router for you. Is the oil ready to be changed in your SUV? Think nothing more than what is required to pull in, get out and read a newspaper until they ask for money and give you the keys back at the local jiffy lube. Mission accomplished!
What about us? Where are the detailed drawings of our components and systems? We have biology classes but I seem to remember spending more time on the bodies of frogs and worms than humans. The more advanced classes that go into the depth that is really worth anything are optional. If you want access to knowledge of your body systems to the degree that you can actually intelligently do something with it, you have to pay money (a lot of money) for that school while information is readily available to beef us up on all the buttons and functions of a common microwave. What about our emotions and the way those things work? Most psychology classes are electives that can be taken or not, it’s just one of multiple choices between home economics, shop class, or some form of art. All of which are more hands on and pass the time way more quickly for a teenage student than does sitting in a classroom learning about old guys in suits and the ideas they have about behaviors of people they observed in the 1950’s. There is gym class but no real discussion on why exercise is so important, no breakdown on how it all helps in the long run. It’s all just “for your health” and “stretching helps prevent injury” and “stop picking on those nerds.” But in the mind of those invincible young adults bodily health doesn’t have any direct connection. By the time they realize that they really do need to be in shape and healthy to keep that body going, the body they had a one hour lecture on between frog dissections, it is years after the bad habits have set in concrete with their sedentary lifestyle. Good luck swimming upstream of that river.
I start off here describing our pre college schooling and how it relates to this article because that is where we are supposed to learn how to be successful in our world. It’s the required minimum education for every American. College offers more focus on those areas I say we are lacking but you have to want to do it and pay for it so I am just using what minimum education we all get for free as my knowledge base here. And with all that the curriculums cover, it really doesn’t even start to remotely discuss what affects every single thing in our lives for the rest of our lives after high school, us. We are the ones who study for the finals or not. We are the ones who apply for college or just get a job. We are the ones who “hit the ground running” or go from job to job our whole life because “that boss was an asshole just like the last one.” Yet with all those choices in our lap and the consequences of those actions we have to live with, we have no instruction on how to deal with our issues, no direction on what to do personally, no tips for what to try when something isn’t working or even how to recognize when something isn’t working. We have no human instruction manual.
Imagine if we did have a manual. I mean if you think about it we have this mechanical machine of a body, all these complicated systems that are capable of all kinds of amazing things. We can run fast and hit hard, we can jump high and swim and climb. Cars go fast; boats swim (sort of). We can think and imagine, we can mentally work in spatial terms and logically breakdown problems we saw as impossible only moments before. Computers are already more advanced than they ever have been, not as advanced as the processing power we have to do every second yet we know all the ins and outs of those things and don’t give a second thought about ourselves. We know to change the oil regularly or let the car cool down when it’s been ran too hard. We know to swap video cards, hard drives, and run diagnostic programs for poor memory usage when our computer calls for it. We restart it when it glitches. If you think about us in terms of this then you must realize that we need the same maintenance schedule and approach that everything else in our life gets. So what would our manual say?
It would probably start off with a “Congratulations new owner of a deluxe model human body,” or something to make you feel good about your recent purchase. Then it would show diagrams of a body with lines and numbers detailing what all the components are. Toes (quantity: 10), fingers (quantity: 10), hair (see available options for color). Maybe it would discuss some of the systems; nervous system (see wiring & electrical), circulatory system (see fluids), digestive system (see recommended fuel types). Next it would move onto some basic controls; “Walking is completed by taking the left leg and moving it forward 6-12 inches followed by the right leg to a distance of 6-12 inches in front of the left. Repeat (some hip manipulations may be required).” It would tell us how to eat and bathe. It would explain how to change clothes and the recommended amount of sleep. It wouldn’t say what kind of clothes to pick or what your favorite colors are though, I mean your PlayStation doesn’t tell you what games it likes to play does it? It would also have to include chapters on running the emotional controls, which would really just include a list of emotions and common signs of them. “If you see your friend Jimmy with a new toy that all the other kids have and you don’t, this is called ‘jealousy’ (see also: envy).” “When someone cuts you off in traffic and your body tenses while you grit your teeth and you think about lashing out at someone, this is called ‘anger’ (Warning: It is not recommended to follow any initial impulses that follow the activation of the anger circuit).”
The manual would help us label what we feel so it wouldn’t be so difficult in those moments. We would just look in the index for symptoms of what you are thinking; the possible emotions associated and recommended actions to take (or not to take). It would tell us what to eat for better operation and longevity. It would tell us when to do routine maintenance and when to take it in for diagnostics. Our lives would be as easy as it is with everything else that comes with a manual currently. This is where we have to step in though. We have to be aware of why we think the way we do. We have to acknowledge how we honestly handle emotions and be conscious of when they are taking over. We have to label our emotions and have empathy for other people’s emotions so we can overcome them and not run ragged every time that chemical gets released in our brains. More importantly, we have to teach our kids to do this as well. They will learn the ‘A,B,C’s’ in school, and learn how to do algebra, and the importance of teamwork in gym class. They will learn all that stuff eventually but it’s the parents’ job to teach them how to control themselves. If you don’t show them how to act when they are frustrated, they will just act how they feel. If you don’t show them to properly be upset and how to take bad news, they will fall apart at every obstacle. What’s the point of reading at an early age or doing sign language before kindergarten if inside, they are a mess. A ticking emotional time bomb that never really diffuses, but only gets more set in their ways and more self-destructive as time goes on. If there was a manual for humans, it would say “Warning: Extremely sensitive device. Handle with care.”