On Heinlein’s Checklist
Robert Heinlein wrote:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Let’s see now:
I have changed diapers, written sonnets, balanced accounts, built walls, taken orders, given orders, cooperated, acted alone, solved equations, analyzed new problems, programmed computers, and cooked tasty meals.
I have tried on occasion to comfort the dying, and to fight; but neither efficiently.
I have never planned an invasion, butchered a hog, conned a ship, designed a building, set a bone, or pitched manure. I have snuck indoors, killed mice, driven an RV, erected tents, reset passwords, and pitched leaf compost, but those don’t count. Nor have I died, gallantly or otherwise; but neither had Heinlein when he wrote this list.
So I stand at 12 to 2 to 7. The 2 and the 7 I mark down to lack of experience, and the (usually fortunate) lack of need to acquire such experience. So by Heinlein’s count, I stand as mostly human already, and trainable to full humanity if absolutely necessary.
A little birdie tells me that most people would do about as well as me. That same birdie tweets that Heinlein, when he wrote this checklist, had already passed 20 of his 21 tests. Therefore I retort to Heinlein:
A human being should be able to define humanity in self-serving terms. Objectivity is for others.