Human Attributes Arise from Human Capabilities

Image by Ann Racuya-Robbins Copyright 2012
Social Cooperation and Privacy


“Hi Ann – could you please help me understand better by giving a few specific examples of human capabilities, and the human attributes that arise from those capabilities? The description you’ve provided is a bit too abstract for me to get my head around it.”

Thank you for your question Andrew.

Human capabilities are sometimes described as functions. More generally human capabilities refers to things a person can do, how a person can act.

For example, speaking (speech) is a human capability. When, by what means, how long, the pitch of the person’s voice, how loud a person speaks, where a person spoke from, whether a person used sign language… are human attributes that arise from the human capability to speak. Because human capabilities are dynamic and expanding so too human attributes are dynamic and expanding. In cyberspace and online environments human capabilities and the human attributes they create is a dynamic and expanding kind of information.
To protect this human capability, for example, American democracy created a right to free speech (with some provisos) which covers more or less all the human attributes that arise from speaking. For this reason we don’t have a right to speak limited to a device. So for example we don’t have a human right to speak limited to speaking on a telephone. This would limit and discourage the dynamic and expanding human function of speech. If a third party takes the human attributes created by a human capability and uses it to make money we would consider that an appropriation and a violation of copyright.

In cyberspace, online environments and information systems we draw on privacy provisions to protect the human capability and human attributes of speech.

In America there is general agreement (consensus if you will) that limiting the right to speak or appropriating speech erodes social cooperation in a society.


Ann Racuya-Robbins