The Double Void of Artificial Intelligence

My regular readers are likely to be split on me discussing Artificial Intelligence. For some, you are doubtlessly curious or at least hope to see me be entertainlgy sarcastic. For others you’re just tired of hearing about “AI,” a concern I share. Don’t worry, it’s well within my usual discussions of mysticism, psychology, and religion.

As I write this in 2024, many a person is glad to sing the praises of AI. They also want to shoehorn it into every product and technology available. This desire to raise stock prices while creating bad will and endless security problems is painful, but the claims are also grating. It’s obvious to anyone with some understanding that so-called AI is essentially complex probabilistic systems that produce what (on the surface) seems to be “real.” Well, real except for being told to eat poisonous plants or presenting pictures with inordinate numbers of fingers.

Fortunately this age of faux AI also has people asking “what is intelligence?” One of the things that pops up again and again is that “intelligence is a process.” Intelligence is not something we can hold on to or grasp (or put in a box), but is a thing that occurs, it is an action. Intelligence is not something activated and shut down, but an ongoing activity.

If you’ve ever done studies of meditation, religion, and so on, this is going to sound quite familiar. Many a Buddist practitioner knows that moment where you can’t find a solid self, just a whirling thing. Taoist Meditators may speak of the entangled complexities that create the everyday mind, and the hope to see through them to a kind of spontaneous Celestial Mind. Practitioners of energetics experience mind and body as wheels and swirls and flows of energy, without solidity..

In my own meditations and experiments, I’ve experienced moments where I realize there is no me, there are just these processes. Yes the goal of many meditations is to refine oneself or see through illusion or however you want to put it – but you do learn a lot about your mind. If you practiced any form of meditation, I’m sure you’ve had those moments where you’re there but you’re not there because the you there isn’t a solid thing at all.

You’re a constant process. Evaluating. Thinking. Feeling. Modeling. Adjusting. You’re not going to be duplicated by some language toys, though your employer might try so be careful.

Now I’m not saying that “Ancient Wisdom” explains everything or predicts AI. I am saying that thousands of years of meditators, breath practitioners, and people asking “what does this mushroom taste like” will have accumulated a lot of insights in time. When you’re there looking into the self – and intelligence – you’re going to learn things.

And one thing I’d say is screamingly obvious from all these psychonauts is we’re processes so intelligence clearly is. This also is yet another reason to disregard AI as any form of actual intelligence. It’s not a process, just a bunch of triggered code and data using some complex math.

Kindly respect that your fellow humans are processes, void of any solidity whatsoever.


We Invented Our Past Again

In the world of technology 2024, among the bullshit (AI that’s just Clippy Turbo), the scams (pick your food substitute), and the pathological rich (everywhere) something seems familiar. There’s something that feels similar, something that’s not just a rut, but a sameness to all of this new inanity. Consider.

There’s new tech messiahs in town, a handful of men (always men) worshiped as virtual gods who are going to save us. Sure they may no thave invented anything, are building on connections and/or inherited money, have horrible politics, and probably committed sexual assault. Yet people gather around them reverently, singing their praises, vying for attention.

We have our Lord and Saviors – and best of all you can swap one out for another, plus they kind of dress alike,

There’s the promise of change, of revolution. We’ll ascend to space or go to mars. We can acclerate technical development into utopia (especially if you give my company money and venture capital). Just trust us, remove all limit, and we’ll have a future – and show those people who’s in charge.

We have the Apocalypse and the Kingdom of Heaven. Funny how the apocalyptic parts don’t get mentioned as much except for a few tech-types who like to pen vicious screeds grounded in their own paranoia.

There’s even the promise of immortality. This new food substitute will add years onto your life. There’s curious and disturbing talk of blood transfusions. Of course there’s always that promise of uploading your brain to the internet that echoes around the edges of these futuristic grasps for eternity.

For some tech promises we shall be undying in the new utopia.

What has Silicon Valley and it’s attendant technosphere given us? Simple.

It’s given us Christianity2.0.

We’ve got thirst for a messiah, a constant promise of Heaven, and a hope of long life/immortality. Wrap this all up in money and what appear to be widespread daddy issues, and yep, it’s American Christianity re-invented.

I mean we shouldn’t be surprised. Religion has well-worn cultural paths that are easy to follow intentionally or not. The tech world has gotten less and less original anyway, so it doesn’t surprise me to see this weird duplication. Honestly, there may be nothing malicious here, it may be sheer unoriginality.

A lot of are looking for a future of more responsible technology, less grift, less bullshit. Economic downturns and economic bubbles may help, but we need to remember there’s a culture issue here. A change will not just be federated servers or government regulation – it willl be, on some level, spiritual and psychological.

Otherwise we might just re-invent a kind of flaccid, hack Christianity again.


Across Time, Across Identities

Most of us who pursue mystical endeavors read documents that are hundreds or thousands of years old. People pursue writings on meditations and mysticism, looking for strong threads and useful practices. Worshipers of various gods read through translations and historical documents, embracing divinity by trying to understand the past. Human history is the history of the mystical, the spiritual, as that’s part of what we do.

Plus some of us want to make sure we’re not just following something a hack wrote on a page for a quick buck a few decades ago.

As I’ve noted before that in my own Taoist-infused work, I’ve tried to cultivate a mental “ecosystem” of Taoist thought for my practice. I read some of the Tao Te Ching each night and study a hexagram of the I Ching each night. This helps me better understand Taoist practices and have a mindset that is more expansive, having a system of symbols to relate to reality.

However in my practices I also find moments wondering as to the mindset of whatever author of long ago I’m reading. It might be a bit of obscure symbolism, a disturbing bias, or an intimate detail I just don’t get. One moment you’re reading a thousand-year-old document and truly getting the author’s deep point, then you’re wondering what you’re reading.

(And, yes, there’s a specific set of indicdents in my own studies that spawned these speculations).

I think it’s easy for us to forget that those we read and study are people who lived in different times and places. We may relate to them due to shared experience, their exellent writing, and/or a good translator but there will be a gap. At some point, there will be an alienness between us and those of the past we want to learn from.

That’s fine. That’s to be expect.

Remembering these gaps exist helps me get better at learning in my mystical studies. Why is this symbol so important to this one person Where did these strangely-phrased biases come from? What was the political situation at this time? Why did some food get classified this way (a personal one for me, a cooking enthusiast)? This way I can bridge that gap.

In fact, as I noted, my attempts at a “Taoist Mental Ecosystem” are part of that. If I want to understand some of these amazing writings, I have to get into the mindset. Best of all I get to update that mindset for the present, which may mean I can one day help others or write something that helps people appreciate the things I do. Come to think of that, some of that is posts like this.

I also think remembering these gaps helps us appreciate when these gaps are bridged by the effort of authors, translators, and record-keepers. Some works are timeless because someone(s) tried to make a piece of work be accessible to others. Even the smallest spiritual book or meditation guide that has stood the test of time is a monument to the effort that made sure it has.

So let your past authors and translators and so on be a bit alien. It’s OK. They did their part, so let’s do our part to connect to them.