We all learn as we grow. Regrettably, some of us die before we ever step fully into the best version of the highest vision we’ve ever held for ourselves.
Contemplate that for a moment.
For most of us, this place, this reality, is abundant with suffering. In general, we tend to interpret that broad idea as a negative. I’ve suggested before that our realm is ruled by a negative default programming. We don’t need to look very far in any direction to see that this rings true. But, if you appreciate it in the right light, there must be a greater purpose to this rather critical fundament of our existence. Otherwise, what would be the point? Gross societal and cultural iniquities, endless wars, civilization cycles, generational resets, death and disease, politicians and bankers, innumerable real and manufactured threats to our species… If we’re not exploring all of these elements for a reason, then this is all a strange, wasteful, cosmic joke.
I’ve certainly suffered a great deal in this life, and like anyone else, primarily by my own being and doing. Understand that I’m not at all attempting to make light of this concept. So many of us are in all sorts of pain, for all sorts of reasons. I’d like to suggest, however, that suffering is far more than what it seems, as are many things in this life.
I believe it’s a uniquely human superpower.
Data, Devices, and Dependency
The fake heroes of screens big and small all progress through their usual and expected journeys. They’re flashy, visually impressive, yet in the end, forgettable, bland and predictable. It’s what gets butts in seats, but what’s missing, of course, is the practicable, the genuine, the down-to-earth; we all have to go back to our seemingly small and limited realities after being awed and entertained by big stars and big-committee productions. It couldn’t be any further from useful.
And today, there are numerous media streams piped into every home. Multiple EMF, and blue-light spewing devices, offering endless avenues of distraction, dissociation, cognitive and emotional energy-siphoning hours of gazing. You think you’re relaxing, when you’re actually giving away your creative energies. You’re disappearing into fantasy and fiction, unconsciously, passively ingesting all manner of programming and suggestion. Is it just to avoid feeling what you’re needing to feel? Doing what you’re needing to do?
For our work – our jobs, businesses and such – we may already be staring at screens all day long. It’s normalized. It’s expected. And don’t forget the AirPods. Today, the youth in-group all have a phone, smartwatch, and at least one laptop. They won’t even go to the bathroom without at least two of the devices. If they were waterproof, they’d probably shower with them, too. Now they have AI, as well. The sum of human knowledge is available at our fingertips, yet are we ever going to progress, to unite in cause and purpose, or will we simply keep finding new and different ways to create new and different problems, busyness, mindless stupidity and nonsense?
It’s easier than ever to displace human beings in every sector, in every market. Worse, and perhaps tragically, life expectancy and birthrates are going down. Diseases, cancers, and other forever-popular maladies remain steady, or on the rise. Suicides, drug overdoses, and “died suddenly” have skyrocketed in recent years. Supposed epidemics and outbreaks keep happening (I don’t accept the notion, but most do). After trillions of dollars raised and invested, decades (generations) of supposed research and development, why can’t we ever get any wins?
Why are there never any real, tangible, lasting cures and solutions?
Could it be that the way we’re pursuing technical and technocratic solutions is flawed? Is our motivation, philosophy, and pedagogy distorted, maligned, or misplaced? Are we being misled in some way? Why would Big Pharma lie? Why would governments lie? Well, how can we not see that mowing down old growth forests, in order to chip them up into pellets for energy production, because it’s cleaner than coal, but it’s actually because of “carbon credits”… don’t we understand that this is actually counterproductive? That we’re exacerbating climate concerns, by trying to “solve” climate concerns!? I believe that in far too many arenas of modern society, we’ve forgotten that intellect, research, planning, education, massive data, and money, money, money, cannot account for, nor protect us from, unmitigated stupidity. AI, save us!
In that light, what’s the end game, if we organic creators aren’t the focal part of the equation? If most every industry is skewed toward profits over people, or power, control, and more data and information, rather than truth, wisdom, fulfillment, health and happiness, we might as well hand it all over to the machines right now. Why pretend there’s going to be any sort of amicable arrangement for the benefit of all? We’ve yet to achieve it otherwise – not in any grand, cross-cultural, trans-societal measure. Having smart tech certainly won’t solve that merri-go-round, rinse-and-repeat conundrum.
They don’t suffer. Not like us. AI, and their machine minions, appear to think, but they don’t feel. They are evermore adaptable, clever, efficient, and massively self-serving, but emotionless, expensive automatons aren’t solving any real problems. Why? Because, we aren’t asking the right questions. Our intent is their intent. Our fallibilities are their biases. Our values are their playthings. Our beliefs are their weapons. Is AI simply an existential machination of the world’s parasites? That’d be a damn shame.
Things Are Soooo Much Better Now…
“But, life is so much better, and everything is easier with computers, and now more efficient with AI.” Really? In what ways? Truly? Imagine you’re in a rural area, or worse, a city, and the electric grid goes down, even for a measly 24-72 hours (that’s 1-3 days; no need to ask Google to again do your basic math for you). How well would smartwatches, phones, tablets, laptops, computers, TVs, internet, lights, appliances (eg. fridges, freezers, ranges, ovens), furnaces, heaters, water heaters, electric cars, gas stations, banks, and grocery stores operate? Oops.
I got to experience this very thing in late 2016, while I was living on Gabriola Island. Some not-so-clever captain decided to tow a barge, equipped with a crane, through a channel they weren’t supposed to, and in doing so, they clipped the hanging cables coming from the mainland, taking down electricity and the internet in seconds. On a side note, in the modern era, the fact that we hang enormous wires for essential services over open water, or along the tops of wooden, metal, and concrete poles down a street, perplexes me.
We were suddenly without these services for 3 days. It was late October, or early November, as I recall, so things were getting rather chilly outside. I lived in a house that relied on electricity for heat, and a cistern for water, which itself relied on an electric pump. So, no running water either. No showers, and no toilets. It was amusing, if not surreal. One of the most astonishing things I remember was the situation at the island’s only grocery store. Within a day, they had decided that they’d have to throw away a lot of food, rather than reduce it in price (not that we could pay for it, unless we already had cash on hand), or even give it away – for liability concerns, naturally.
What I found interesting was that I didn’t miss the internet. In fact, whenever I am without it for a length of time, I’m more relaxed, more contemplative, read more books, write more, and even breathe differently. I stare at random animals outside the window, watch the clouds drift, listen to the wind and the sea… Suddenly their voices weren’t so drowned out by the unconsciously addictive idea of perpetual connectivity. My fridge was already (well, had been perpetually) nearly empty, so I wasn’t panicked about food. I had some dry and canned goods, and the mainland was a 25-minute ferry ride away. In truth, the inconveniences were minimal, but what a brief wake-up call, and a perspective shifting experience it was. Small communities where you inevitably get to know everyone are the answer to all of this… Cities, I think, would very quickly become very, very chaotic, in my estimation. Don’t buy the hype.
We Are Not Mere Machines
I suppose the point here is that our suffering, and thus, our intrinsic discovery, education, training, and eventual recapitulation, integration, and self-actualization will require a lifetime, whereas the AI, technological parallel, requires mere microseconds to iterate, improve, and evolve itself. It’s not fair, and we really shouldn’t be entertaining the idea of competition.
Our purpose is beyond the binary, the computational, the logical, and the literal. There are no lies in nature, and Nature is perfectly efficient – if only we’d stay out of the way, or get aligned with it. Anything else is simply maniacal hubris and mindless arrogance. Our living is our goal. Our life is our gift. Data mining, collation, collection, analysis, technical application, and practical (profitable) implementation, are quite literally relegated to perpetual infancy, regardless of whether these tools are already able to simulate and streamline much of what we’re capable of.
AI and tech may always be approaching the singularity, but they cannot ever get all the way there. Nature works. Always has, always will. And if we buy into the lie that augmenting, enhancing, or otherwise modifying ourselves with tech is a way to improve upon what’s natural, that, too, is a mistake. It will only ever serve to negate, suppress, and take away from your wholeness. Intuition, imagination, and empathy will never be replaced by data processing, access to all knowledge, or artificially enhanced physicality and materiality.
Take a step back and appreciate what being is, what being human is, and what it is that human beings are really doing here, and why. Your every moment is timeless. It’s not just data. It’s fractal. It’s energy, consciousness, love, impetus, intent, manifestation… It’s fascination, imagination, compassion, curiosity, and wonder. It’s extremes, and it’s balance. It’s here, and then it’s gone. It’s alive, then it’s elsewhere.
With great suffering comes great responsibility. We can’t simply hand our agency, our sensemaking, our epistemological, spiritual, and inviolable responsibilities off to artifices and their ephemeral, mechanical constructs.
All suffering teaches. It is individual, and collective. Never discount your worth, your intrinsic and unique value, to the human family.