Hope, Love, And Loss — Musings In The Age Of Complexity

The brain is a complex piece of machinery. So complex, some fear that upon decoding the brain’s complexity—we rob ourselves of our individuality. In early 2020, approximately fifty percent of the US labor force still had reservations of AI replacing human laborers. However, most AI experts cite the anxieties towards AI as misplaced. Artificial Intelligence will eventually  take the place of non-creative labor. 

At the bare bones of understanding, AI are human written algorithms that can input  data and analyze peta-flops of data and output the analysis with minimal intervention. 

There is one aspect of human intelligence that may never be replaced— true creativity. It is the type of prowess that seems nearly spiritual in some of us.

Let me explain—

When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in Rome so many centuries ago, his work was regarded as a pinnacle of creation. It is regarded as an achievement that will never be re-created. However, if we utilize today’s technologies of large data input and output, his work could be duplicated down to last brush-stroke. AI is now capable of deciphering patterns and reproducing them with ease. Reproducing the Sistine Chapel’s beauty maybe easier than it seems. You and I might think of it as a grand, paint-by-numbers chore for a 3-D printer that reproduces its pre-written program. Take a photograph, analyze each color by its emission wavelength, store it in memory by it physical location on your memory chip, and then reproduce it. 

So, it is easily stated, re-inventing the wheel is not a creative pursuit. Thus, often duplicated but never re-created becomes an axiom.

Inventing the wheel’s replacement is an act of creative genius. 

Intelligence makes us unique — and sets us apart from most of the world. 

If we believe the brain as the seat of human intelligence—knowing how to use it as human’s normally do so —is irreplaceable. We have as yet to make another human that can completely replace itself without another human. 

While it sounds like a bad joke, we are pinnacles in the creative landscape of earth. If we look at the brain size and complexity, whales and certain species of dolphin do rival us and far exceed us. So you might ask, why aren’t they at the pinnacle of creation on the earth? One answer—it takes a great amount of brain power for whales to communicate with each other through the ocean. Whales are known to communicate amongst themselves under water over vast distances. Humanity, while possessing the means of communication, cannot hear another human under water—? Humans need complex devices to communicate under water. Well, so what? 

While the same may be said for humans lack of communication over long distances on land, we have invented many ways of communication. 

The size of a brain is not the only arbiter of inventiveness—the immediate environment of animal while utilizing its brain, is one final arbiter. While whales will die when plucked out of the water for an extended period of time—humans cannot survive under water without breathing apparatuses. 

Human arms and legs give us a superior edge to the animal kingdoms of earth. And evolution is in constant progression, all life on earth changes almost imperceptibly at times. The new, Covid-19 virus is an outstanding example of change on the earth. How it mutated from being a purely animal virus to infecting humans may not be readily understood for several years. Eventually, humanity will gain the upper hand. 

(Aside: While I hope we do gain the upper hand without further loss of life sooner  than later, the present pandemic has become politicized — inducing death in its wake.)

Understanding the human brain is a paramount goal for neuroscientists, the complete replacement of humanity with Artificial Intelligence is unlikely. It is our ability to organize into communities that makes us unique. It is problematic for a group of AI automatons to organize into a hierarchical structure—like a functioning society. AI needs ‘Free Will’ to replace humanity. 

Because we can organize—we defend our communities, giving each member a sense of individual safety. That sense of individuality does not exist in AI —it needs a programmer. 

One goal occupying practitioners of AI, teaching AI to self-replicate. It stands to reason that when AI creates another AI— some may label it as sentient. That is far from the truth. What it does indicate is humanity’s propensity to create. It is a gift —it allowed us to leave the cradle of life and populate the earth. 

The question will arise, will AI ever possess a conscience? We can program it to recognize right from wrong. What stands to be seen: can AI willfully destroy, create, or love. 

That cradle of humanity distinguishes us from all else —we can choose to love, willfully.  

Photo by TravelingTart on Pexels.com

Further Along A Road Less Traveled

The Loneliness by Not Following the Crowd? – A Partial Soapbox Return

When it comes down to it, happiness comes from keeping oneself contented and away from the maddening crowd. When we follow and emulate every trend, we satisfy no one in our immediate circle of concern– but we satisfy those within our circle of vanity. Do you know whom consists in a circle of vanity? – those who won’t affirm the best in us but do affirm themselves in our own reflection. Thus, in this present day of social media phoniness and shallow attitudes – many of us need to retreat inwards. Oftentimes, the allure of social media has carried us away from what we can affect immediately.

One may believe they have found the Holy Grail of Happiness in one instant but is misled by the shallow din and desire to find happiness from the outside. Contrary to popular opinions, happiness and growth start within one’s core and love in happiness are not filled up from the outside. Happiness begins by recognizing who you are and to be true to yourself.

Being true to oneself allows one to be good to heir needs first and the needs others follow. To possess the makings of good self-esteem inside their core, one needs to be flexible with one’s self, and love all life (their life and others). From that juncture, happiness comes naturally and is not from the boisterous din of the crowd. One’s personal spring of happiness can be used as source of renewal when one is crushed by life’s adversities.

Once the core is overdrawn from too much adversity, one needs to follow a road to self-renewal and self-preservation.

Oftentimes, one may believe they have found themselves, but their presence at the gates of truth is illusory.

This path of truth, renewal, and spiritual revival is much like that of a spiritual staircase (if you will)–one may find oneself repeating paths from their past. It is not an illusion or a lie– no one is ever completed. Their path to spiritual happiness is a work in progress.

And, yes it is a Road Less Traveled-

imagesgrail

Some Sources Not Cited –

Arthurian Legend –

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Arthurian-legend

Book by Janice Bennett on the whereabouts of the Holy Grail-

https://books.google.com/books?id=ezsIjNeCkksC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1&output=embed” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Google Books Link

 

Walking-Smile Meditation: A Mindful February

Much of Buddhist mindfulness tradition is used in certain parts of psychotherapy these days. It can and does work–whether there is a placebo effect or not, it is difficult to fully state (especially when you are practicing it yourself. So, I will examine that aspect at the end of the month).

Have you ever noticed that when you start to smile a little– your half smile breaks eventually into a large full smile. There is also a Buddhist practice of a half-smile. Physiologically, it is based on the fact that smiling can boost natural endorphin levels.

The Buddhist tradition also says walking–or mindfully walking can be a good way to center oneself. When combining mindful walking and half-smiling the effects upon most people is irreversible: an up-tick feel-good endorphins. It is also used to center oneself —or grounding oneself in the present moment.

So, lets try to break down the  components

  • Walking Meditation

The technique of walking meditation that I tend to employ in my own life is based on that of the “peace walk” described by Thich Nhat Hanh.

From the website:

( https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-meditate-thich-nhat-hanh-on-walking-meditation/ )

Walking meditation is first and foremost a practice to bring body and mind together peacefully.

Thich Nhat Hanh explores the process:

Walking meditation unites our body and our mind. We combine our breathing with our steps. When we breathe in, we may take two or three steps. When we breathe out, we may take three, four, or five steps. We pay attention to what is comfortable for our body.

While learning to walk mindfully may seem un-natural — one may argue, it can bring a sense of peace and well-being if practiced regularly. Try it…

 

  • The Half-Smile

While smiling, itself, is not necessarily apart of Buddhist tradition, you may notice that pictures and statues depict Buddha with a “half-smile.” Generally speaking, Buddhist tradition preaches serenity–thus the half-smile.

Quite a few psychological studies have shown the positive effects of “half-smiling” — I will cite one:

In the journal, Psychological Science, we can read—- Grin and Bear It
The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response
Tara L. Kraft, Sarah D. Pressman

Grin and bear it

While it is just one study, try it some time– when in a stressful situation, try half-smiling and it may reduce your blood pressure….

 

Mindful February-From Buddhism to Mental Health to Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

The concept of mindfulness is a fuzzy one. In 21st century parlance, it has evolved to be any of a number of things– it is used in prayer by Buddhists, as a tool used in psychotherapy, a management paradigm-tool, and finally– a manner to centering  one’s soul

Perhaps, the most accurate way to look for a definition is to look at the source of its the practice. According to the website:

www.dhamma.org/en/vipassana 

The practice of vipassana, is to see the world as it truly is. The origins come from ancient Buddhism.

Borrowing more words from another internet site:

www.vipassanadhura.com

The practice of insight, on the other hand, cultivates wisdom. The student develops systematic mindfulness in order to see the real characteristics of existence: unsatisfactoriness, impermanence, and impersonality. All the activities of daily life can be objects of mindfulness: bodily actions, feelings, thoughts and emotions— even painful ones. Nothing is suppressed.

Where does that leave us?

All too often, we find ourselves in the midst of pain–and when we identify where the pain comes from, it can give us insight. It can gives the means to rid ourselves of the pain, or to learn to accept it.

While this sounds like a lot of whooey to those of who have scientific backgrounds, the technique actually does work if you find yourself in a state dismay and stress. It is successfully used to treat people in prison, people in facing depression, and quite a few maladies.

In psychotherapy, the techniques fall under the practice of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy– a technique pioneered by Marsha Sinetar:

http://www.marshasinetar.com/

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is an elderly Buddhist priest who is was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in the 1960s by Martin Luther King Jr. Thich Nhat Hanh was one of the voices calling for peace amidst the war of Vietnam. Although he has not been awarded the Nobel (not yet, at least), he has brought the practice of mindfulness to western culture. Let me borrow a word from his website:

https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/

 

The energies of mindfulness, concentration and insight can liberate us from our anxiety and worries. We let go of the past and the future, and come in touch with the wonders of the present.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

February is dedicated to Thich Nhat Hanh

I  will be concentrating on this Zen master to help explain how he and his paradigms of mindful peace can change one’s world and our world! He has a lot things to say about how to live peacefully with one’s self. Even in today’s world– we can find a bit of peace and love without the din of greed and war….

1000px-Dharmachakra,_withprint_(en).svg

Mindfulness is just one practice of the eight paths –when taken in perspective with Buddhism.

Source of artwork:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmachakra#/media/File:Dharmachakra,_withprint_(en).svg

Peace,

John