Picture Data from Star Trek. The quintessential robot: all reason and logic, no emotion. Not that he’s heartless, but rather, he just doesn’t understand this side of human behaviour, no matter how hard he tries. (Except when it makes for a better plot point otherwise.)
But what are emotions, other than our own preprogramming? Those who are at the mercy of the passions are the ones blindly following their hardwiring. Those who can’t take a step back and look at why they really are doing what they do, those who are wounded by the suggestion that we are organic machines with modules shaped by our biological and sociological histories, are those who end up being the most robotic. Machines running on chemicals masked as “spirituality” and “humanity.” It is at our most irrational that we are most programmed.
Even the cold logic of economists and engineers follows the same route: a search for logical efficiency and consistency, but stuck in the rut of an initial question that is not itself questioned. The precision of gears, working toward an initial impulse to categorize, simplify, and control. The dominance of their evolutionary firmware is less apparent, but ultimately the same.
Being human is neither revelling in feeling for its own sake, nor in mere logical analysis (which is much the same); rather, it consists in the ability to look behind the curtain at who we are and where we come from, to understand, to make decisions based on this; it is to be able to make sense of our own owner’s manuals and fiddle, reprogram, rewire, and, in the end, simply accept what sort of beings we are.
Because we are, after all, organic machines. Our emotional operating systems are part of us, and must be taken as such; just as a computer cannot run without some sort of system to boot it up and manage resources, so too must we rely on our own frameworks, imperfect as they may be.
But we don’t worship Windows because we have to use it. Valorization of the emotions as distinctly “human” or as some royal road into reality is similarly misplaced.