Something is very wrong with the English language. People have started asking me if I have the “bandwidth” to work on new projects. What am I, a modem?
This is part of a broader trend of viewing human beings as machines. When we need a break, we go offline. When we achieve something new, we level up. In a corporate context, you may even hear people talking about interfacing with each other. And tech CEOs are writing user guides to themselves.
In the early days of computing, it was the humans who called the shots, arrogantly imposing our own terminology on the machines we created. We gave them desktops like those in our offices, and we conceptualised their information in terms of files and documents neatly contained within folders. Sometimes we even put those folders into filing cabinets. We created archives and trash cans and recycling bins.
Now, the process is taking place in reverse. The language of computing is flowing back into human life. Maybe it’s a step towards the computerisation of humanity, something that Elon Musk thinks is a good idea.
It’s not just about annoying jargon either—it’s about how we conceptualise ourselves. I hear people using computing metaphors to talk about themselves and their bodies—the “brain as hard drive” metaphor seems particularly popular, even though most psychologists emphatically reject it.
Language is important, and we have a choice in shaping how it evolves. We can’t control the words that other people use, but we can control the words we use ourselves, and in doing so, we shape how we think of ourselves.
So if you’re excited by the idea of human beings “optimising” themselves and becoming more like machines, then by all means use computing metaphors for your own life.
But I have no interest in levelling up and upgrading myself to become more like a machine. Just trying to be a good human is enough for me. So it’s probably best not to ask me if I have the bandwidth to interface with you. If you do, you might just find I’m offline.