The Problem with Humans

Vocabulary | Humour | English in Use


Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.


These English Activities are built around English jokes. The jokes may be old or new; they may be very funny or just amusing. The language of the joke is explored, and you will begin to understand a very important aspect of the English language - humour. Many students of English, be they students of English as a second language or of English as a foreign language, find it very difficult to "get" English jokes. British humour has a strong satirical element aimed at showing the absurdity of everyday life. A lot of English humour depends on cultural knowledge and the themes commonly include the British class system, wit, innuendo, to boost subjects and puns, self-deprecation, sarcasm, and insults. As well as this, English humour is often delivered in a deadpan way or is considered by many to be insensitive. A particular aspect of British English humour is the humour of the macabre, were topics that are usually treated seriously are treated in a very humorous or satirical way.

English in Use

The Activities categorised as English in Use look at the way we use English in everyday life. The Activities cover the actual use of English and examine grammar, punctuation, and functionality of the language. For any student studying English as a second language or English as a foreign language, English in Use Activities are particularly useful for improving speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills. These Activities will help you to develop your confidence in using different types of text such as fiction, newspapers and magazines, as well as learning to speak and write about things such as the weather and travel, as well as preparing you for typical situations such as ordering in a restaurant or buying a train ticket.

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This lesson looks at why individually humans are stupid, ignorant, and pathetic, but collectively, as a species, we are capable of incredible achievements. How long would you survive if the fabric of our society dissolved away and we were left to fend for ourselves? What do you think will come after humans have outlived their usefulness? Do this lesson to find out some of my thoughts on this matter.

Why are human beings so stupid, ignorant, and pathetic? I’m not talking about humanity, but about individual human beings like you and me. Individually, we really are a pathetic species, aren’t we? I mean, how many of us could survive for any length of time if all the paraphernalia of our modern society were stripped away? How many people could grow, or hunt and gather their own food? Away from your tap or the supermarket, would you know where to find safe, potable water? We depend, as individuals, on hundreds of thousands of strangers for our very existence. Take this army of strangers away and we’d be doomed. Yet, collectively, the human species is capable of the most incredible achievements. We can send robots to other planets. We can decode the programme that makes us what we are; our DNA. We can fight pathogens which, in the not too distant past, sent the majority of our forebears to an early grave. After a million years of using simple stone tools, which hardly changed over that period, humanity went from smelting the first iron to creating supercomputers in a little over three thousand years. What we could achieve over the next three thousand years defies imagination; were we to survive that long. I believe it’s inevitable that our race to develop artificial intelligence will give rise to an intelligence that will consider our own puny intellects to be as significant as those of ants seem to us. This artificial super intelligence will be our unnatural inheritor of the solar system, our galaxy, and thence the universe. As our offspring reaches out to far distant galaxies, it will encounter and merge with other artificial intelligences until the entire universe becomes one hyper-intelligence able to answer the question of life, the universe, and everything. I wonder if, as Douglas Adams predicted, the answer will indeed turn out to be 42? 

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