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

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?

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Practising Discernment & Why It Helps

We are navigating a time in human history when we must face issues that we’ve never encountered before. This means that many problems can no longer be solved with old solutions. So it’s not surprising that we frequently don’t know what to do—or how to do it.

That’s when discernment is invaluable. It helps us navigate with confidence in unfamiliar situations and step up to do what must be done, even when it’s hard.

The lost skill of discernment…

Discernment is about thinking for ourselves so we can make the most appropriate choices in any situation. It’s a skill that improves with practice.

The downside is that discernment takes effort on our part. It’s so much easier to default to ready-made solutions, and so our “discernment muscle” has atrophied to the point where I suspect many people don’t know what discernment is.

So what is discernment?

Discernment is the ability to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. Discernment enables us to understand the subtleties of difficult situations and make wise decisions.

Understanding the subtleties requires keen insight, challenging us to go beyond superficial perception. Insight is the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or situation. It implies the discovery of something you didn’t already know.

Discernment facilitates good judgement. Judgement is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. It implies sense tempered and refined by experience, training, maturity, and inner knowing.

When you don’t know what to do…

When you don’t know what to do, don’t take it personally. There is nothing wrong with you. Remember that you’re having to make decisions in unexpected and sometimes unthinkable circumstances. So how could you automatically know the best choice when you don’t have the benefit of previous experience?

In unknown situations, the easiest thing is to default to the opinions of experts. It can be such a relief to adopt a ready-made decision. And in some cases, you might get lucky and it will work for you. 

On the other hand though, ready-made decisions may not work out as you had hoped. That’s because they don’t take you into account as part of the equation.

Work toward a fitting solution…

It’s worth noting that:

  • discernment helps you make appropriate choices. The word “appropriate” sometimes gets misinterpreted as “proper” but the more nuanced and accurate meaning is “suitable or fitting.” It comes from the Latin appropriare, which means to make something fit, to make something one’s own.
  • you are part of the equation. When practising discernment, it is necessary to check possible solutions to see if they align with what you consider important. This involves your body/mind rather than just the brain. It may be a heartfelt sense or a gut feeling but, either way, you will simply know when you’ve arrived at the decision that sits well with you. Some people describe it as a feeling of everything being in alignment.

Why discernment helps…

Discernment moves us from reacting to responding. It occurs in the pause between a happening and your action.

The distinction between reacting and responding is well-described in an article by the folks at The Growth Equation.

When unexpected events occur…most people go down one of two roads. They either respond or react.

Responding, a spin-off from the word responsibility, is considerate and deliberate. Responses tend to go like this: Something happens. You pause. You process. You plan. Then you proceed.

Reacting, on the other hand, literally means to meet one action with another one. It is immediate and rash. Reactions tend to go like this: Something happens. You panic. Then you proceed.

This framework may be helpful…

Something happens.

  1. Take a breath, or otherwise bring yourself back to centre.
  2. Buy yourself some time, e.g. “I’ll get back to you tomorrow on that.”
  3. Practice discernment…
  • Consider options for action, which could include no-action.
  • Explore inwardly, both  your values and your perspective about what is important in the situation.
  • Assess the alignment of options with your wise inner self.
  • Observe the clarity you experience when an option is in alignment with you. It may be a visceral feeling of  ‘That’s it!’  You may feel a lightness rather than heaviness. You may just know, beyond question. You may have a strong sense that How could one do otherwise?” We each have our own signature way of recognizing this clarity. Trust yours.
  • Respond accordingly, with confidence that your decision has been made from the fullness of your being and with due consideration.

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Holding Your Centre & How You Can

Has anyone not felt discombobulated during the past few years?

The energetic effects of chaotic times…

It’s hard to make good decisions in the midst of confusion and disorder. In fact, it can be difficult to make any decisions at all. We lose trust in our ability to respond appropriately. We literally don’t know what to do. And this state of powerlessness propels us into fear.

In a world of disrupted energy, we can easily be pulled off-centre. Then…

  • we feel discombobulated,
  • we can’t think clearly,
  • we don’t know what to do, and
  • we feel powerless and afraid.

And in that state, we revert to our habitual coping mechanisms—pretending it isn’t happening; consoling  ourselves by shopping; distracting ourselves by scrolling through social media and watching endless YouTube videos; or __(insert yours)____________. These ways of coping may make us feel temporarily better but do nothing to improve the situation.

It’s ironic because navigating chaotic times is when we most need to be fully present to think clearly and make good decisions.

What can we do to function better?

From an energy perspective, the trick is to be centred in yourself and hold that presence even when there is chaos around you, whether physical or mental.

The fundamental step is to find practices to re-centre yourself whenever you’ve gone off-kilter. These include…

Here’s an exquisite example of sound healing with crystal bowls. I find it both soothing and uplifting—a perfect antidote to feeling discombobulated.

Listen with headphones if possible.

Internationally renowned, Ashana is credited with  pioneering an entirely new genre of healing music with crystal bowls. She offers concerts, crystalline activation meditations, retreats and workshops, and her music is available on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, youTube. More on her website.

Expanding consciousness…

Another very effective strategy is to work with your consciousness—expanding it to hold the disturbing situation with compassion.

Don’t know how to do that? Intend it and trust it will happen.

Consciousness is the foundation of our being. It is infinite, and we humans are the physical vehicle for a small amount of it to be expressed. Because we are connected to our larger consciousness, we have the ability to expand by accessing ever-more of our consciousness. And over time, we increase our capacity to remain in that state for longer periods of time.

That’s what spiritual growth is.

And that’s why our sincere intention can make it happen.

Humanity is in a growth spurt…

The chaos around us, which is causing our discombobulation, is giving us an opportunity to expand our consciousness—the opportunity to express a more mature level of humanity. That’s what I was alluding to in my previous post when I said…

What if the potential for ChatGPT to run amok prompts us to look deeper within to see what we value and what makes us human?

And what if, instead of worrying that AI is going to take us over, we teach it our values, just as parents do with their developing children?

Fundamental values…

One aspect of consciousness is awareness of our highest aspirations. In his research to discover the human values that we can all agree upon, Mo Gowdat discovered that

  • We all want to be happy.
  • We have the ability to make others happy.
  • We all want to love and be loved.

If we would keep ourselves centred and live by these values, we would be credible role models for our future AI companions as well as our children.

By staying centred and expanding our consciousness, we have a chance of creating the more beautiful world we know is possible.

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Thinking Differently & Why It Matters

Before I start, let me be clear that this post is not about artificial intelligence (AI). It’s about navigating life as AI becomes smarter than us.

The ChatGPT backstory…

Last week I mentioned a recent development that has disrupted our comfortable lives—the release of ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer). To elaborate:

ChatGPT is a large language model designed to produce natural human language. Much like having a conversation with someone, you can talk to ChatGPT, and it will remember things you have said in the past while also being capable of correcting itself when challenged. … ChatGPT was trained using a mix of machine learning and human intervention, using a method called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF). Take note of this last point because it is relevant to the proposal in the video that follows.

After being in the works for several years, ChatGPT was released on the internet by OpenAI in November 2022. Now, the summer of 2023, it’s creating a buzz everywhere.

Initial public concerns were about the ease of fraudulent communications—written, visual, and voice. This could show up in activities such as impersonating others, students submitting essays they didn’t write or even fact-check, and misleading news reports. Granted, these things already happen with our present technology, but the sophistication of AI makes it almost instantaneous, very convincing, readily accessible, and highly pervasive.

These characteristics of AI have raised concerns such as: How will we know what is real any more? What is real anyway? Does it matter? What will happen to jobs? Especially my job?

Then in March 2023, the Future of Life Institute published an open letter calling for “...all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.” According to a CityyNews article, it was signed by “more than 1,000 researchers and technologists, including Elon Musk.

That letter was followed by several highly publicized cautions from early developers such as Prof Yoshua Bengio and Dr. Geoffrey Hinton. These and many other voices of industry insiders have raised the really big questions: Are we past the point of no return? (Yes) How long will it take for AI to be smarter than humans? (5 years, maybe less)

It’s scary…

Whereas the experts are deeply concerned because of what they know from working in the field, the rest of us experience the disempowerment of fear without knowledge. That makes fear doubly scary in any situation.

The logic of fear…

The logic of fear is that a moment in the future is less safe for me than this moment.

Therefore, it’s safer for me to preserve the conditions of this moment, to keep everything the same, to hold the line against change.

The fallacy…

The fallacy of this viewpoint is that it’s not the nature of nature to stay the same. We’ve all heard the truism that nothing is certain but change. So we are wasting a lot of energy when we fear the future and try to keep things the way they are.

A more constructive approach…

Given what experts are saying about the inevitability of AI’s rapid evolution, it’s unrealistic to think we can hold the line at the existing level of artificial intelligence (social media, chatbots as customer service contacts, GPS on our mobile phones, autocorrect on text messages, digital assistants, and e-payments).

Rather than trying to halt it, our energy will be much better spent in thinking about how we can navigate life with AI to achieve the best outcome for us, the planet, and humanity.

Sounds good in theory, but it seems huge beyond anything we can do. How will we ever be able to navigate what’s next?

The value of thinking differently…

When we don’t know what to do, the best thing is to change our perspective, to look at the situation from a different viewpoint. As Einstein famously said, we can’t solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.

Mo Gawdat is approaching the AI situation from a higher consciousness. He’s a former industry insider who is thinking differently about how we can navigate life as AI becomes smarter than us.

It’s a radically different viewpoint, but who’s to say it wouldn’t work? As noted at the beginning of this post, ChatGPT was trained using a mix of machine learning and human intervention, using a method called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF). As explained on the OpenAI website, this is “a method that uses human demonstrations and preference comparisons to guide the model toward desired behavior.” This suggests to me that we can play a constructive role here.

For a description of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a concept in game theory in which everyone has an incentive to defect in their own self-interst and, as a result, everyone is worse off.

To hear Mo Gawdat speak at greater depth about this idea, go to 1:50 of his interview with Tom Bilyeu. For more context, start earier, at 1:18.

Moving forward…

In times when every “next thing” presents another big challenge that seems beyond our control, we will navigate more easily if we consciously avoid a knee-jerk fear reaction and instead put our attention on discovering empowering possibilities for action. 

As Mo Gawdat says, “We might as well…ask them [AI] to do what’s good for us, good for the planet, and good for humanity.” 

From my perspective, our human superpower is that we can choose to think differently—and thus create the more beautiful world we know in our hearts is possible.

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Clinging doesn’t work .

Life on Earth was designed to evolve. That’s why we’re here,,,for the ever-changing opportunities to experience life and grow in our humanness. Yet as we move through daily life, we seem to have forgotten the fundamental principle that makes growth possible.

I think it’s fair to say that most of us, me included, fall into the trap of wanting things to remain the same. That’s not surprising, because no-change feels like security. Life seems easier when we know what to expect and how to navigate it. Continue reading

Who should be in charge?

***  Time for this post?  Reading…a couple minutes.  Viewing…15 minutes. Changing your attitude…no time at all.

I started an exploration of fear of aging with Scilla Elworthy’s perspective. Today’s post is about a common fear that she didn’t mention—losing authority over our lives. It happens. More, and sooner, than it needs to in many cases.

Continue reading

Keep what you love.

***Time for this post?  Reading…8 minutes. Viewing…2 minutes. Sifting and sorting…as much as you want to.

Last week I wrote about knowing when enough is enough. That post was about medical treatments at the end of life. However, the concept of “enough” also applies to our possessions, and that’s what I’m addressing today.

In either case, determining what is enough—and what is excess—challenges us to think about our values, what’s important to us, what we cherish.

What to keep?

Continue reading

Wills…getting down to business

*** Time for this post?  Reading… 7 minutes. Implementing… however long it takes to make the call that gets the ball rolling.

Most of us cringe when we think about making our wills.

Such a pain!  Don’t even want to think about it.  I know that I should…and I will do it… one of these days.

“One of these days” doesn’t come for all of us.

Some die suddenly and the family is left scrambling to find out what is where.

Others find themselves very ill, debilitated, and in the hospital—with family members delicately trying to find out if there is a will without appearing to hope the person will die so they can get their inheritance.

Not a pretty sight, and not what any of us would want if we were thinking rationally.

Interesting thing about death, though…

The topic of dying tends to evoke irrational responses. Here are a few reasons for this. What would you add? Continue reading