What’s it all about—really?

Few of us will leave this lifetime without experiencing problems and difficulties. And when they happen, most of us have wondered: Why me?  Did you ever think that maybe you set it up that way, that you saw those challenges as opportunities to grow and expand your consciousness?

So, if that is the case…

The idea of having set up our life experiences for a purpose puts one’s life in a whole new context. It brings new meaning to life events because we are seeing them as part of a bigger picture.

Probably the most valuable outcome is that seeing the bigger picture gets us out of victim mode. You know, when we tell our “poor me” stories about how our spouse continually ignores us, our adult children take us for granted and we feel like their servant, or our boss always disregards our brilliant suggestions that would make a genuine improvement in the workplace.

In so many cases, the human tendency is to tell those stories from the point of the aggrieved party—Look what was done to me. These days, theres a lot of that going on in collective stories as well as in our individual ones.

But there are different ways to interpret events, and we can choose the attitude we convey when we tell our stories.

Tell the story from a bigger perspective…

Instead of seeing my life from inside it, I prefer the bigger view. It’s much more empowering to realize that the unfolding of my life was not a random bunch of events tossed together as if they were balls in a lottery drum.

You can do the same thing, approaching it as a thought experiment. You don’t have to believe that you actually did plan your life in advance. You can just play with the idea.

  • What if it were true?
  • Why would I have picked these particular challenges?
  • How did i imagine the experience would benefit me in the long run?

These guidelines might help:

  1. Before starting: It may help to set aside your current beliefs and attitudes on the topic. You can tuck them safely away in an imaginary box or suitcase until your exploration is complete. (This is a thought experiment so you can set this up as you like.)
  2. Ask the question: If it’s true that I created this life to give me certain experiences, how would that explain __insert aspect you’d like to explore________?
  3. Be curious and explore: There’s more than one way to explore a question. Experiment to find what works best for you.

Ask the question to open up the field, and then go about your daily activities. You may find that something relevant pops into your head when you’re not thinking about it. Or you might wake up one morning with an insight. This may happen the next day or a week from now. Working like this tends to unfold in its own time. Your job is to be sincerely curious and open to receive insights when they appear in your field.

Contemplate from the perspective of your inner world. Sit or lie quietly, eyes closed, breathing softly. Drop deep into your belly. This connects you with the wiser aspects of your consciousness, the ones that can help your brain make sense of things from a deeper, broader, more insightful perspective.

Choose what fits for you: When you’ve explored to your satisfaction, you’ll have a rich pool of new insights to consider along with everything you had tucked away in the box or suitcase. With all of that, you are then in a position to choose what fits for you, what makes the most sense… for the time being, at least.

Life  continues to unfold…

At some point, you’ll discover there’s yet a broader perspective that explains even more and fits better with the expanded consciousness that continues to arise as your life unfolds.

And that’s Life…

Doing as Life does.

_________________________

Bibliography

As many of you know, this is one of my favourite stories. It’s relevant to the telling of our own stories…

The moral of the story: The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity and it is really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad, because you never know what will be the consequences of a misfortune… or you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

Your Soul’s Plan  by Rob Schwartz

Life Unfolding Itself…

The workings of energy are endlessly fascinating. It is a world of mystery because it’s unseen. But if we’re observant, we can see the effects of energy. We just need to recognize that’s what we’re seeing. And once we do that, we’ll discover that we are able to receive clues from energy as Life unfolds itself.

If you’ve never worked with energy, it might sound quite obscure. But it’s not as difficult or out of reach as you may think.

It will help if you know some of the ways energy works.

Energy puts things in motion…

Once something is recognized, it is put in motion.

Our responsibility is to pay attention so we recognize the clues in our field. Recognize is the key word here.

How do I recognize the clues?

It doesn’t happen in my mind or imagination. For me, something in my outer world will activate an awareness in me. These recognitions are clues that something needs attention in my inner world.

Mainly, I notice the dynamics of what’s going on in my life—things that don’t seem to fit, something that stands out somehow, a way I’ve reacted that seems out of proportion to the facts of a situation.

This is probably best illustrated by examples from the rich experience that prompted me to write this post. Last week, I discovered three past life circumstances from which I was still carrying trauma. I say “was” because once I become aware of such distortions in my energy field, I can release or integrate them.

Why bother?

Freeing up energy is the point of doing this sort of inner work. Releasing or integrating distortions from our field makes it easier to explore our inner world, to communicate with our invisible guides, and to receive ever-more clues to help us navigate to greater consciousness.

Exploring past lives is not about discovering you were once Cleopatra or Captain Cook so you can have bragging rights. It is also not about glorying in being a victim of very bad things like being burned at the stake, made to walk the plank on a pirate ship, or abandoned on a ice floe by your parents.

Anything you discover is just information, and its value is to explain something about you now that arises from those unresolved traumas. Then you can release the trauma and move on. In essence, past life investigation is a tool that helps us understand our present-day selves in the context of the fullness of our human experience.

That being said, here’s what came up for me last week in outer clues, and the essential awareness each clue led me to.

  • Clue: While working on a sewing project, I noticed that my eyes had become blurry. Essential awareness: As a seamstress in a sewing shop in the 1700s, I was brutally humiliated by the owner when my work deteriorated in speed and quality because of degenerating eyesight.
  • Clue: I had a nagging headache that wouldn’t go away. Essential awareness: As a man in the Middle Ages, I was arrogant and very proud of my mental prowess. I experienced a permanent brain injury in a joust that “knocked me to my knees” so to speak. People around me were very unkind, acting as if I got what I deserved.
  • Clue: I was feeling an unusual tightness in my chest. Essential awareness: As a judge in the 1800s, I gave a defendant a break, which was the right and compassionate thing to do in the circumstances even though I was contradicting the law of the time. I was banished from the community and lived the rest of my life in isolation. I concluded that taking compassionate action is risky, and have carried that belief in my energy field ever since.

From my perspective…

Life unfolds if I allow it to. That means we are partners in the game, Life and I. Life presents the clues that will allow it to unfold, and I am open and alert to noticing them, exploring what they tell me, and then releasing or integrating the distorted energy that has been keeping me from living my life freely.

What prompted all this…

In the case of the example I gave here, I now realize it actually started a few months before when I had a heartfelt sense that I would love to deepen my ability to be compassionate. The interesting thing is, I hadn’t thought of it since. But remember—when something is recognized, it is put in motion. So my invisible team got busy to see how we could free up some energy to increase my capacity for compassion.

It was only when I looked at the three clues together that I saw the theme of compassion and remembered I’d asked for that. And this illustrates the last part of this process—making meaning from what you discover, as it pertains to your life now.

Mysterious?

Working with energy can seem like mysterious business. Indeed, it is an enigma until you understand it. And then when you do, much about your life just falls into place.

To make this less mysterious, you’re welcome to use the comment box to ask questions.

Bibliography

The Scary Unknown

Human beings come well-equipped with a fear response. It exists for good reason, but somehow we’ve let it run away with us. Not just individually, but collectively. And most of us live from collective fear without even recognizing that’s what we’re doing.

Cultural stories… 

The meta-narratives, the big stories of a culture, are pervasive and powerful. I first became aware of this while teaching college students about consumer issues. In Western culture, there is an ingrained story that more is better, bigger is best, and it’s our duty to spend profusely in order to keep the economy going. Underlying this story is fear—fear of not having enough, not doing enough, not being good enough.

The unknown is also fear-inducing, and therefore becomes the basis of other meta-narratives. Dying falls in the category of a scary unknown, and collective anxiety about death lurks around people of all ages in Western culture. It doesn’t help that most of our impressions about dying come from movies and tv dramas, which by their nature emphasize drama in their presentation.

Our collective death phobia has caused us to sanitize the experience, keep our distance as much as possible, and attempt to postpone the inevitable by every means available.

Irrational and unconstructive desires and decisions are a consequence of acting from fear.  We aim for quantity of life rather than quality. Doctors often have to deal with adult children pleading that a dying parent be given further chemo, attached to life support tubes and pumps, or be resussicitated—even when the dying parent is clearly ready to go and trying to disembody.

Curiosity instead of fear…

Some things are truly unknowable, but much of what we fear is simply not yet known to us.

One way to deal with fear is to learn the truth of the matter, to explore and learn in a neutral way. This might be through direct experience (thought not so much when it comes to dying!) Sometimes we learn from others who have studied the matter or experienced it themselves.

In the case of death as a scary unknown, we have two good sources of insight. One is doctors and nurses who work with dying people in the medical specialty known as palliative care. The second is individuals who have gone nearly all the  way though the dying process but not taken the final step. Near-death experiences (NDEs) have now been well studied. Below you’ll find a link to an excellent documentary.

And right here I’m including a not-to-be-missed TED talk by Kathryn Mannix, a highly acclaimed palliative care doctor who has cared for thousands of dying people during her long career.

Facing the not-yet-known…

When you face a not-yet-known event, it helps a lot to know what to expect as you move through it. When you’re mentally and emotionally prepared, you don’t over-react. And when you remain calm and composed, the experience goes more smoothly from an energy perspective.

Many have found that watching this video made the prospect of death less scary. I hope you did too.

Information is helpful but…

Understanding how things really work goes a long way to allaying your fears, but there’s another aspect  to deal with—the effect of the meta-narrative on your psyche.

Because cultural  stories are so pervasive and compelling, we frequently take them on as our own without realizing it.

This is important to know—the power of the meta-narrative— so you can discern which fears are yours and which you have taken on from the collective consciousness. Once you’ve discerned what is not yours, you can send it back.

Return to sender…

You are in charge of what you keep in  your energy field. What follows is a simple way to discover unwanted thoughts or beliefs and remove them from your field.

  1. Pay attention to things that come up in daily life. If you notice, for example, that you’re preoccupied with a particular thought, or obsessively worrying about something, or avoiding thinking about something…you are on the track to discovering a belief you might want to explore.
  2. Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet space, eyes closed, and take a few slow breaths. Have a sense of settling deep into the core of your being.
  3. Consider the thought in question from the perspective of where it came from. It’s as simple as asking Is this mine?
  4. Listen for an answer. People have many different ways of communicating in their inner world. For me, I feel it in my bones; I just know if the answer is yes or no. Some people see clear images. I have never seen an image yet but I get impressions. I can’t really describe them but they give me information. Some people hear things. You may have another way. Or you may not have had any of this sort of communication yet. The good news is, it’s an exploration and we all become more skillful with time and practice.
  5. Return to sender. Once you have discovered a thought that you adopted from an external source, you are entitled to return it if you no longer want it. It’s as simple as declaring: Return to sender. Some people prefer to say: Return to sender with love.
  6. Thereafter, remember it is no longer part of your operating system. Humans are easily habituated, so it may take a bit of conscious effort to prevent reacting in old ways, even if the belief is no longer there. The good news is, you can do it if you want to.

Bibliography

Rethinking Death: Exploring What Happens When We Die 

In Rethinking Death, scientists, physicians, and survivors of cardiac arrest explore the liminal space between life, death and beyond, breaking down these stunning scientific breakthroughs to tell the remarkable, scientific story of what happens after we die.

New York University Grossman School of Medicine

Befriend your Beliefs

We all have beliefs. They help us make sense of things that happen in a world that’s far beyond our comprehension. You might consider beliefs a human coping mechanism to keep us in a game where we don’t remember how things work or why we even thought we wanted to play this game.

Our beliefs are the stories we come up with to give us a bit of security in a confounding situation. Comforting fact: As we grow in consciousness, we also grow in our ability to understand more elements of the game. And as we gain greater understanding, we begin to realize that some of our beliefs actually are untrue.

Our beliefs can be surprising…

Sometimes it is surprising—and a relief—to discover a belief that has been hanging out in your unconscious for years. That was the case for me a while back when I discovered a deeply-held belief that women should not show they’re smarter than the men around them. Whaaat!!? How did that get there? 

As I thought about it, I realized it was the prevailing cultural attitude when I was growing up in the 1950s. I am pretty sure I’m not the only little girl who took that on as one of the rules of the game and subconsciously played accordingly, all the while thinking we were liberated.

This discovery came as a total surprise. I had no idea I was holding that belief. And yet, it had a profound effect on my attitudes and behaviours, prompting me to downplay my abilities in subtle ways. Flying under the radar was one of them.

Beliefs can be surprisingly powerful…

Not all beliefs are unconscious, though. You might be aware of a belief and confidently live accordingly for years. Then one day you learn that it does not hold true. That can be disconcerting, to say the least. This happened to my husband at a Christmas dinner long ago. 

His parents had traveled two thousand miles to visit and we wanted to make the meal extra-special by serving all their traditional foods. Husband said Brussels sprouts were a favourite, always on the Christmas table. I’d never cooked sprouts because I knew he didn’t like them, so I got out the Joy of Cooking, found instructions, and bought two baskets of lovely fresh sprouts with the holiday shopping.

On the day, I was in the kitchen carefully cross-cutting the stems so they would cook evenly, when mom-in-law walked in. She looked at the good-sized pot of sprouts and said, “You don’t need to cook many for us.” Really?!

Turns out neither she nor dad-in-law actually liked them. When I asked why she always served them at Christmas, she said, “Because I thought it was good for the boys to learn to eat them.”

I thought it was funny. Husband was not amused. Something he had believed all his life had been definitively disproved. He felt as if the rug has been pulled out from under him. I didn’t expect that. It was just a vegetable, after all. That’s when i learned that beliefs are about more than facts.

Many things can come up for us when we have been dis-illusioned. We may feel betrayed. Duped. Made a fool of. Our security is disrupted. We aren’t sure what to trust any more. It will be different, depending on the person and the illusion. But there is an emotional component to be aware of whenever beliefs are challenged.

Maturing as conscious humans…

It is a confronting moment for most of us… to come to an awareness that something we thought was true actually is not. Revisiting and reconsidering our beliefs is part of the maturation process. 

It helps to recognize how beliefs become part of our psyche to begin with.

When you arrived in this body, there was a lot to figure out, starting with how to operate the body parts and do all the required functions—moving the appendages to navigate around physical space, getting nourishment into your body, expressing what you needed in ways they could understand. And then the more subtle, really tricky challenge—navigating the expectations, customs, and strange practices of the culture you had landed in.

Psychologists say that children are like sponges in the first seven years,  picking up all kinds of information from their environment. And we also know that the human mind is adept at filling in the blanks and jumping to conclusions when the incoming information is unclear or incomplete. It is no wonder that we have all adopted various beliefs as fact. They helped us make sense of our world at a level we could understand.

Beliefs aren’t meant to be held forever…

As we move through life, it’s useful to remember that beliefs aren’t necessarily true, but they did serve a purpose when we adopted them, often at a young and impressionable age.

However, things change. We change.

We’ll navigate more easily through the game of human life if we are open to the possibility that our beliefs may not be true. That there may be another explanation for what we were experiencing if we view the situation from a more expansive perspective.

Awareness is the starting point…

Beliefs shape our behaviours, so you can find clues by observing yourself in action. If something you do doesn’t sit well with you, here’s a potent exploratory question: What must I believe in order to have acted that way?

Recognize your outdated beliefs…

Once you’ve identified a belief, see if you can understand what purpose it served in the beginning. That will help you decided if you wish to continue holding it or not. If not, thank it for its years of service, and let it go.

Then move on…

Look for a new perspective, one that will serve you better in your current state of greater awareness.

And hold your newly-formed belief lightly in case you outgrow it in the future.

Bibliography

Well worth the time…

What would it take?

So… I‘ve declared 2024 as my chance to show what I’m made of, to live without flinching, and to remember why I wanted to come here in the first place. This represents a big change for someone who has found a good deal of security in flying under the radar for many years.

Now what?!

How do I move ahead in the face of this paradox?

The first thing is to recognize that everything in our lives is influenced by inner and outer energies. That’s the vantage point of my perspective. This isn’t a surprise; it’s a fact of physics. And it means I’ll start by learning a bit about those energies to become clear on two things:

  1. What will I be navigating though?
  2. How can I manage my own energy as gracefully as possible?

Cosmic energy has a major influence on us, whether we are aware of it or not.  Since this is the beginning of a new year, it’s a good time to get the lay of the energetic landscape.

From the perspective of cosmic energy, 2024 has signs of being another turbulent year. But there’s a fundamental difference in the energy. It’s going to be tricky—turbulent but with a nuance that has implications for all of us. Chinese astrology identifies 2024 as the year of the wood dragon. Dragon energy is fiery, and wood fuels fire. So, as you might imagine, the intensity of what we do will be magnified.

Looking at our inner energy, from a mythological perspective, the dragon is a powerful fiery force which is distractive when disconnected from consciousness. And yet fire combined with consciousness results in illumination and wisdom. 

The bottom line is that fire consumes or illuminates, depending on whether or not it is coupled with consciousness. And given the fiery cosmic condition, it’s doubly important that we consciously direct our energy this year. Living by default will not serve us well.

Back to navigating change…

Here’s a basic energy principle I learned from Deepak Chopra many years ago.

Energy flows where attention goes.

In practice, this means that when I concern myself with what I consider wrong with me or the world, I’m feeding those very things I want to change or get rid of, and entrenching them even more. And I will have spent a lot of valuable energy doing so.

Squandering my energy in this way is bound to leave me unhappy, with little energy left for moving toward what I do want.

To be clear, I’m not saying I should ignore the reality of how things are. Awareness is the first step toward change. It is what we do with that awareness that makes the difference.

So if I know trying hard can’t work, what will I do instead?

Since attention activates energy for something to happen, the sensible thing is to direct my attention toward how I’d like things to be, instead of focusing on what I dislike and don’t want. Simple. Not always easy. Takes conscious effort.

The question becomes…

What is it I want?

Or, the better question might be: What do I really want? I’m fortunate to have my survival needs well supplied, and that has left me room to explore how I can contribute to the well-being of life on this planet.

I’ve always had a sense of purpose, a deep knowing that I’m here—here at this particular time—for a reason. So what I really want rests on that foundation.

In this coming year, I want to consciously explore what is true from my perspective, and then articulate it. My posts will be a step in that direction. This approach has arisen from deepening my inner connection through a variety of means. It’s a process of unfolding, and I’ll share more as we go along.

Where to start?

Simply put—start where we’re at. Since I’m moving resolutely into not-yet-known territory—in which I’m likely to encounter a lot of conditions that are different and new—I’m thinking an exploratory attitude will take me a long way. And I do know that nothing is changed until the possibility of it is seen. I’ll start by exploring possibilities.

How to do it?

I ask myself questions. I imagine possibilities and test them by feeling how my body responds. Does it feel light or heavy? Contracted or expanded? Sometimes I feel as if my heart is smiling when I land on a constructive idea. And once I recall doubling over with a feeling of nausea while considering a job that was not aligned with where I needed to go.

If you’re feeling the stirring of the dragon but not sure where you want to put your attention, it’s time fo a bit of an inner adventure. A good way to start an exploration is to wonder what you might want. Here’s a playful approach from author Teresa van Bryce to help you engage your imagination and explore possibilities.

And that might be all it would take for you to put change in motion.

Bibliography

New Year

My artist-friend Fiona sends out an interesting digital image at the beginning of each year. This time it was treetops and clouds, turned upside down so the clouds are at the bottom. The message said, “Welcome to 2024!”

Intriguing.

Welcome. Well come. Come well. And then a question formed…

What would it take for me to come well to the upside-down world of 2024?

Better than a New Year’s resolution…

For me, New Year’s resolutions have never proven useful. Instead, I prefer to have a focus or intention that plays in the background to help orchestrate magic during the year. You know, the synchronicities and unexpected happenings that move our lives in ways we wouldn’t have thought of, that bring delight we wouldn’t have imagined.

Usually I’ve selected one word to set the tone. This year, because the photo had evoked a pertinent question, I decided to explore that. So I took myself out for breakfast to see what would emerge.

What would it take for me to come well to the upside-down world of 2024?

The answer started with the words:  New Year. Another chance to show…

How would you complete this?

There’s more, and I’ll post it tomorrow. But I thought you might like to reflect on this for yourself without the distraction of someone else’s perspective.

Share in the comments if you like. No pressure.

Check back tomorrow if you’re curious about what will be shaping my energy field in 2024.

What Next?! Recap & Deeper Dives

From a cosmic perspective, humanity currently has an opportunity to rise to a higher state of consciousness. What we are experiencing at this time is the instability and chaos that precedes such an enormous shift. My previous five posts have been about navigating life through the challenges of 2023 and beyond.

Throughout this group of posts, artificial intelligence (AI) served as an example of the next big challenge that is upon us. Its imminence makes us aware of our need for good navigation skills as we make our way through the future we’re headed into.

I’m currently working on the next group—the theme is Why Not?!

Until those posts are complete, I’m leaving you with a summary of What Next?! along with opportunties for further exploration if you’re so inclined.

Recapitulation…

  1. What Next?!  Video: The Chinese Farmer -instead of seeing things as good and bad, he holds all occurrences lightly, without judging them.
  2. Thinking Differently & Why It Matters  Video: Mo Gawdat -about avoiding disaster by teaching AI human values.
  3. Holding Your Centre & How You Can  Video: Ashana -playing healing crystal bowls that reinforce our deepest inner connection.
  4. Practising Discernment & Why It Helps  These days we may feel unprepared for the problems we must solve. Discernment helps us navigate with confidence and step up to do the right thing.
  5. Answers & Questions  Video referenced: Yuval Noah Harari –Safe and Responsible AI? Learn from my experience questioning ChatGPT about human values, a quote about questions and answers, and writing a song about discernment. Results are shared in full for anyone who is curious.

DIVING DEEPER…

I’ve selected 2 interviews for further exploration. For this purpose, I’m interested in the thinking processes as much as the content.

Deep Dive #1 – Thinking differently & Practising discernment

The book under discussion in the video that follows is Best Things First. The author, Bjørn Lomborg, concerns himself with global issues that go well beyond climate change.

Lomborg’s starting point is: Panic is not the mode to be in if you want to solve issues. When it comes to global warming, it’s a problem but it’s not the end of the world. Therefore, we have time to enact the “bang-for-your-buck” concept, finding what works best in global issues related to health, hunger, and education…then applying ourselves (and our money) to rapidly improving those things.

Bjørn Lomborg is a globally recognized author and thought-leader renowned for his innovative perspectives on addressing global issues. HIs mission is to help people discover the most effective solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, from disease and hunger to climate and education.

Tom Bilyeu, the interviewer, is a podcaster and entrepreneur. He emphasizes that we can’t already know how to solve global problems that we’ve never encountered before. He urges us to learn how to think through novel problems, building a rubric through which we can approach them. Essentially he’s referring to developing a list of specific criteria to evaluate items under consideration and determine which possibilities meet the criteria.

He sets the framework…

  1. Start with your North Star, your guiding principle. Lomborg identified people, planet, prosperity.
  2. Use benefit/cost analysis to prioritize. In other words, find what works best (greatest benefit for least cost) and pick that.
  3. Do those best things in each area of concern first.

This interview is a good opportunity to observe two people demonstrating how they think as they explore Lomborg’s findings. You might be surprised at what ended up on his list of 12 things to do first.

When people are working through solutions to difficult problems, they are usually thinking differently from what we’re comfortable with. It’s up to each of us to discern how Lomborg’s recommendations sit with us and ask questions when we’re not satisfied. What are the gaps? Is the premise sound?

In other words, it’s a good chance to practise discernment as you listen to the conversation.

 Watch the video… Do These 12 THINGS First If You Want a BRIGHT FUTURE  July 25, 2023

 

Deep Dive #2 – Looking at an issue in the wider cultural context

If you ever think about things like the economic system and how it drives most of what happens in our lives, you will appreciate the breadth and depth of Liv Boeree’s conversation (video ink below) with Daniel Schmachtenberger.

In his introductory comments, Schmachtenberger states his intention: To identify  AI risk scenarios and a way of thinking about the entire risk landscape that is different from the usual way of talking about it… and to provide insight into what might be required to protect against those risks.

Daniel Schmachtenberger is a social philosopher and founding member of The Consilience Project, aimed at improving public sense-making and dialogue. He has a particular interest in the topics of catastrophic and existential risk, as well as civilization and institutional decay and collapse. In her written description of the interview, interviewer Liv Boeree cautions

Not a conversation for the faint-hearted, but crucial nonetheless. This is a deep dive into the game theory and exponential growth underlying our modern economic system, and how recent advancements in AI are poised to turn up the pressure on that system, and its wider environment, in ways we have never seen before.

It would help to understand these terms…

Moloch: Moloch has appeared in literature in a variety of forms. The Canaanite god Moloch was the recipient of child sacrifice according to the account of the Hebrew Bible. Moloch is depicted in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost as one of the greatest warriors of the rebel angels, vengeful and militant.

In the 19th century, “Moloch” came to be used allegorically for any idol or cause requiring excessive sacrifice. Bertrand Russell in 1903 used Moloch to describe oppressive religion, and Winston Churchill in his 1948 history The Gathering Storm used “Moloch” as a metaphor for Adolf Hitler‘s cult of personality.

In modern usage it denotes a tyrannical power, such as “the great Moloch of war” or “duty has become the Moloch of modern life.” Liv Boeree, the interviewer and an expert in game theory, defines Moloch as the God of unhealthy competition.

Meta-crisis: The meta-crisis is an entangled series of crises—ecological, psychological, spiritual, cultural, governmental, and economic. The meta-crisis is all of these and not reducible to any one of them alone. AI is not one of the risks embedded within the meta-crisis; it is an accelerant of all of them.

The meta-crisis is a self-accelerating phenomenon that grows more and more complex each day. For example, ChatGPT was version 3.5 when it was launched on the internet a few months ago. Since then, version 4 has been made available. Although ChatGPT4 has access to current information (unlike 3.5 which was limited to pre-2021) version 4 is still only programmed to do certain kinds of things.

The next step is AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), which will be fully autonomous and therefore immune to any human efforts to pull the plug. It will be able to set its own goals, independent from ours, and then take steps to implement actions toward those goals. It won’t matter if we like their goals or not. The concern of Schmachtenberger, along with many others, is that AGI will be intelligence unbound by wisdom (more below).

Compounding the meta crisis is technology—technology that makes us more distracted, divided, and confused, thereby reducing our ability to act wisely. And yet, paradoxically, this same technology gives us god-like powers which increase the need to act wisely. A very good talk: Confronting The Meta-Crisis: Criteria for Turning The Titanic – Terry Patten speaking at Google

The Alignment Problem: Misalignment is a challenging, wide-ranging problem to which there is currently no known solution. As AI systems get more powerful, they don’t necessarily get better at dooing what humans want them to.

For example, large language models such as OpenAI’s GPT-3 and Google’s Lamda get more powerful as they scale. When they get more powerful, they exhibit novel, unpredictable capabilities—a characteristic called emergence. Alignment seeks to ensure that, as these new capabilities emerge, they continue to align with the human goals the AI system was designed to achieve.

The problem comes from a misalignment of intelligence and wisdom. Any system can be misaligned, even one that is highly intelligent, if the wisdom piece is missing. Think back to Mo Gawdat and his idea about teaching human values to our AI. That solution is aimed at addressing the alignment problem by teaching wisdom to our AI.

Intelligence and wisdom…

At this point, it is worth interjecting Schmachtenberger’s discussion of intelligence and wisdom  in another interview (starting at 2:46:25). From his deep-and-wider context, here are the key points:

  • It is fair to say that human intelligence, unbound by wisdom, is the cause of the meta-crisis.
  • This same intelligence has created all the technologies—the agricultural, industrial, digital, nuclear weapons, energy harvesting…
  • It also made the system of capitalism, of communism, of…
  • This type of intelligence takes our physical (corporeal) capacities and extends them considerably—in the way a fist is extended through a hammer, or an eye is extended through a microscope or telescope (extra-corporeal).
  • And now, the type of intelligence that does this “is having the extra-corporeal intelligence be that type of intelligence itself—in maximum recursion, not bound by wisdom, driven by international, multipolar, military traps and markets.”
  • The narrow optimization it fosters is very dangerous.
  • This system is structured to perpetuate narrow short-term goals at the expense of long-term wide values. The question is, what goals are worthy of optimization?
  • What we need is systems of collective intelligence and wisdom that are based on the thriving of life in all perpetuity. Nothing less will be effective.
  • Intelligence has to be bound by wisdom.
  • Wisdom requires more than just being able to attune to the known metrics, and more than just the optimization and logic processes of those metrics.
  • Wisdom will always be bound to restraint.
  • Wisdom is more possible at smaller scale, where people can be in richer relationships with each other,
  • Understanding the limits of our own models is wisdom. There are aways unknowns that models cannot account for.

Watch the interview… Misalignment, AI & Moloch  March 30, 2023

~ If you found this post of value, please share it with someone. ~

Answers & Questions…

After doing research about the ins-and-outs, pros-and-cons, I decided to have a ChatGPT experience.

My ChatGPT experience…

I started with three questions.

  • I am a human. How can I best relate to you?
  • I’m wondering if you are trained in human values.
  • From what you’ve learned in your training, what is your opinion of humans? 

As expected, the answer to the third question was essentially that ChatGPT has no ability to form subjective opinions on any topic. So I rephrased the question:

  • What are the prominent values that humans express in their interactions? 

With caveats about variations across individuals, cultures and societies, a list came back with 6 points, each elaborated by a couple sentences: respect; empathy and compassion; honesty and integrity; fairness and justice; cooperation and collaboration; freedom and autonomy.

This didn’t address the nuance of my question, which was values that humans express in their interactions. So I replied:

  • This sounds aspirational, but I question that these values are exhibited in practice. Would you please give me a more realistic answer, based on observation of human behaviour.

With caveats about human behaviour being complex and multifaceted, another list came back, again with two-sentence descriptions: self-interest; cultural and societal influences; conflict and disagreement; bias and discrimination; altruism and kindness.

If you’re curious, you can read the full chat by clicking the icon below…

Limitations…

The free version, GPT 3.5, is not connected to the internet. All answers come from the databank of information it was trained on, so its knowledge does not extend past 2021. The paid version, GPT 4, is more current.

A recent article in Forbes highlights The Top 10 Limitations of ChatGPT. Here’s the first one:

Lack of common sense: While ChatGPT can generate human-like responses and has access to a large amount of information, it does not possess human-level common sense — and the model also lacks the background knowledge we have. This means that ChatGPT may sometimes provide nonsensical or inaccurate responses to certain questions or situations.

This means that you, the human, must practise discernment in assessing any answer you get from your chatbot.  Does it make sense? Is it accurate?

At the moment, ChatGPT invents information with great facility when it doesn’t know an answer. In one case, it produced a list of 5 books that supported the topic under consideration. When the human fact-checked the list, not even one of those books existed.

The industry refers to this as hallucination. The current rate of hallucination is said to be 15 -20%, although it’s anticipated that this situation will improve over time. (Perhaps someone will teach ChatGPT about the human value known as honesty?)

Keep your wits about you…

While researching AI, I came across a compelling quote that reminds us not to blindly accept answers.These days, questioning answers seems crucial since a chatbot can provide an authoritative-sounding answer in 3 seconds. (No kidding, to each of my questions, the response started within 3 seconds and printed rapidly, without a pause, to completion.)

Implications for safety…

Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli public intellectual, historian and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His writings examine free will, consciousness, intelligence, happiness, and suffering. Here is a video of his interview about Safe and Responsible AI?

Key points from the interview…

AI has developed much faster than expected by the experts. Three things everyone should know about AI:

  1. It is the first tool in human history that can make decisions by itself. That is nothing like any previous inventions.
  2. It’s the first tool in human history that can create new ideas itself. Previous  tools could only disseminate our ideas.
  3. Humans are not very good at using new tools. We often make mistakes. It takes time for us to learn to use them in a beneficial and wise way. We know this by looking at examples of what happened during and after the Industrial Revolution. The crucial thing is that while we are learning to use AI, it is learning to use us. So we have less time and margin for error than with any previous invention.

The rest of the interview discusses implications and regulation of AI as it spreads in use. Good to be aware of.

My second ChatGPT experience…

I started another line of inquiry with my friendly chatbot, which had kindly concluded our first session with “If you have any more questions in the future, feel free to ask. Have a great day!

My question was…

  • How would you interpret this quote from Yuval Noah Harari: Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.

As I read the response, I noticed that Harari was referred to in the answer. I wondered what the reply would be if I did not include the source of the quote. So I removed his name and asked the revised question.

Comparing the two replies, I saw that the overall organization was identical. Concepts in each paragraph were the same, with slight variation in arrangement of words. Click the icon below if you’d like to see what ChatGPT said about the quote… and maybe reflect on whether or not that would be your interpretation.

And one more chat session…

Having recently written about discernment, I asked ChatGPT to write a song on the topic. The result came back in about 10 seconds, with 3 verses, a chorus, a bridge, and an outro. When I asked for a shorter song that did not lose the essence, the request was met.

The lyrics consist of appropriate buzz words about discernment, strung together with some sense of cadence and rhyme. Hokey is the descriptor that immediately came to mind in terms of both structure and content. This is a demonstration of another of the weaknesses identified in the previously mentioned Forbes article.

Lack of emotional intelligence: While ChatGPT can generate responses that seem empathetic, it does not possess true emotional intelligence. It cannot detect subtle emotional cues or respond appropriately to complex emotional situations.

When I asked for the music, I was advised that ChatGPT does not do audio. This was followed by loads of advice about musical style, genre, and arrangement.

Below is the full chat. The last phrase of the first verse doesn’t make sense to me; it doesn’t fit the context—an example of AI’s lack of common sense.

Good resources are important when navigating…

When we’re heading into new territory, as I was here, good resources pave the way. I did a lot of reading before opening a chat account. Here are two resources that I found particularly helpful…

And now I’m wondering…

What struck you about any or all of this?

If you found this of value, please share it with someone.