Source of "Failed the test of humanity"?
August 3, 2014 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Based on it being used unclearly elsewhere I ended up googling the phrase "Failed the test of humanity". I found multiple uses of it but no obvious originating source of the phrase. Does any one know where this apparent idiom comes from? Is it associated with a particular religion/culture?

From Google:

-It's also the name of Canadian humanitarian group and bike race
-It's mentioned in passing in a Yoraba story
-It tends to be used when a culture disastrously fails a minority group

So that's my JFGI results. Anybody actually know the origin?
posted by Lentrohamsanin to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The only thing that springs to mind is the kind of SF trope in which there's a being or life-form that emulates humans but which systematically screws up on a particular task, such that asking a particular individual to perform that task would be a dead-give-away whether they're a replicant / android / alien / computer or not. The idea that it might be a distinctly moral (or perhaps emotional) quality that's lacking in non-human imitators is a pretty ubiquitous trope, I guess – people new to Turing Test often expect emotional/ethical interrogatives to be a dead give-away – although I suppose in that respect the 'test of humanity' is not so far removed from the kinds of psychopath/sociopath 'tests' that proliferate in popular culture as well.

Humanity tests in SF: Bladerunnner has the "Voight-Kampff" test (measuring something emotional like an altruism response), and Dune has "Gom Jammar" (a 'test to destruction'), but neither are specifically referred to as 'a test of humanity' in those terms, so far as I know, although it's pretty evident that that's what they are, even if it isn't a phrase that comes out directly in them.
posted by Joeruckus at 12:39 PM on August 3, 2014

I haven't read it but Proteus In The Underworld apparently talks about the "The Humanity Test". I was thinking SF, also, and this is along the lines of Joeruckus' suggestion. Is that what you are thinking of?

There's also a mention of something like it on page 19 of this Kant piece about Kant.

"Whilst this involves recognition of the importance of the reference to necessary ends in Kant’s thought it appears to evacuate any space for taking any ends that are specific to me seriously regardless of their compatibility with a more formal construal of the humanity test. After making this
point Cummiskey moves to the more specific follow-on that rationally chosen ends of others are to be taken as indistinguishable from my own ends."
posted by Beti at 12:42 PM on August 3, 2014

And if you have the wherewithall to slog through that Kant piece and decipher it, you'll have my respect forever. Sorry for the rush job of editing my comment above.
posted by Beti at 12:51 PM on August 3, 2014

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