Why AI is Stuck in the Past and Humans are the Future

woman sitting while showing heart sign hands

Another Facebook post comes by with someone’s latest remarkable experiment using ChatGPT or art-generating AI software. My wife ponders what future there is for humanity after talking to a colleague who’s deep in the latest AI tech. It’s all the rage. I’m impressed at one level at what I see but somewhere also strangely unmoved. I ponder that for a moment and the reason crystallises in my awareness.

What these Artificial Intelligence systems are amazingly good at is processing pre-existing information very fast, identifying patterns in that information and presenting us with that information in relationship to the information contained in a question or request we share with them.  The form the information is presented in depends on what we request, e.g. text, image, video, music.

The exciting thing about this for me is that it speeds up a process of research that might otherwise have taken us a long time, but which we could actually do ourselves if we spent the time. That’s great. However, it is fundamentally just a (albeit significant) acceleration of something that is already there and not a radically new paradigm. It does have big implications for work and employment, education and many other domains, but that is only because they are so stuck in antiquated industrial paradigms.

The main reason that I believe firstly that AI is not the solution to our current planetary challenges and secondly that humans have no reason to be worried about being made redundant by it, is that AI is fundamentally rooted in the past. What I mean by that is that all the information that it draws on is pre-existing information that has already manifested in the past. AI’s very existence is fed by words, images, music from the past. Everything it presents to us is a summary and patterning of already existing material. This makes it a treasure-trove of knowledge but a vacuum when it comes to wisdom, intuition and insight.

The nature of everything we “know” is that it is based on our past experience. Our cognitive rational minds, like AI, are great at processing that information from the past, analysing it and drawing conclusions from it. It is what the core of the Global North’s civilisation is based on. It is in this domain that AI will always outperform the individual human. However, that is only one part of our reality. Our greatest “knowers”, our scientists, admit that they can only explain 4% of reality using this cognitive understanding – the rest is categorised as dark matter and dark energy waiting for an explanation.

Solutions that come from our rational mind come by definition from a perspective of separation, as that is the very nature of the rational mind. To distinguish and define parts from our past experience and then look at connections between then. The starting point is distinction and definition. It is interesting that “dis-tinction” is the negation (“dis-“) of the original latin verb “tingo” (where “-tinction” comes from). “Tingo” means to “impregnate” or “immerse”. “Tingi sole” means “to bathe in the sun” (where incidentally the word “tan” comes from). It is about being fully immersed or bathed in something. The negation of that in “dis-tinction” is therefore about lifting oneself out of that immersion, seeing it from outside as a separate object, and giving it its unique identity.

That in itself is not a bad thing. The ability to distinguish things from each other and celebrate the diversity of all the unique expressions of life is very definitely a good thing. However, when that happens out of context of the immersion, or the deep interconnectedness between all organisms, then it becomes a cold disassociated fragmentation. We start to treat things as if they were separate entities, ignorant of the consequences on other parts of the web of life that they are embedded in. And when a whole civilisation bases itself on this assumption, educating its population in this way, developing its industry in this way, treating its people and other living beings as if this were the only truth – then we get the kind of civilisation we now see around us in the Global North, with the massive ecological and social challenges we are facing. Artificial Intelligence is an extreme expression of that perspective.

But I thought you said humans were the future…? Ah yes. I guess what I really mean is that humans have the potential to be the future in a way that AI doesn’t. What we really need right now are solutions that emerge from a place of wholeness, from the natural intelligence that permeates all life. The problem for us “developed” people is that the ability to be able to access that natural intelligence or wisdom is something that we have not been taught at school or in our mainstream culture. To access knowing from a place of wholeness we have to be able to go inside, to shut off the distractions from the world around us, to find a place of stillness away from the chatter of the rational mind so we can allow the intuitive intelligence to come through to us.

The information field that this knowing comes from is a place where all information is interconnected. It can in-form us in ways that looking at rational knowledge from the past cannot. The reason for this is that the starting point is a place of wholeness from which one can witness the parts, whereas the rational mind, and Artificial Intelligence, start from all the parts of the past and try to get to a whole from the parts. The problem with the latter approach is that the whole has emergent properties that cannot be detected from just connecting up the parts. Starting with the parts also means starting with the past. Whereas when we connect to the information field through our inner sensing, we are able to pick up the emerging patterns of the future, the in-formation that is literally coming into-formation.

The rational mind lives in the illusion that it can know everything and through that knowing work out what to do next, then predict and control its way through life. However, as anyone who is honest with themselves can tell you, it doesn’t work that way. There is simply too much complexity, changing too fast, to be able to know it all, make plans and execute them effectively in a linear way based on our predictions (that are founded anyway on partial information from the past). When we come to that realisation, we know we have to look for another kind of knowing, that feels more like simplicity the other side of the complexity.

Given that we cannot know everything, we cannot plan effectively and given that everything is changing so fast, we cannot proceed in a linear fashion towards a goal. So how are we meant to operate effectively then in this kind of a hyper-complex world? It’s actually very simple – but not always easy. We have to surrender to the natural intelligence. We have to humbly accept that we cannot work it out ourselves. In that moment, as we sink into ourselves, we will not only find great relief and relaxation, but we will find that we can feel what the next step is. We may not understand why we have to take that step, but if we trust that feeling and move along one step at a time, we will probably understand why later. This is what can guide us through the complexity of our times. This is what can help us access solutions that will come from wholeness and be the best fit for life as a whole. This is what can enable us to co-create the future as a partner with the rest of life on this planet. And this is something that Artificial Intelligence cannot do.

AI-driven tools, and our rational mind, can be of great help in implementing the solutions that emerge. However, they must not be in the lead. It is the natural intelligence, the wisdom of the field, that we access through the heart, not the mind, that must lead. That will ensure solutions grounded in wholeness and the emerging future. As we pull those through and manifest them in the relative world, AI can be a great help. It must however remain the servant. It is the human heart that must lead.