How AI Could Set Us Free

By Deepak Chopra™ MD

Various scientific fields over the course of history have hoped to master Nature for the benefit of humankind. At the top of the heap right now is artificial intelligence (AI), which has allied itself with the technology of robotics. Between them, AI and robotics are having a sizable impact on the workforce as more and more jobs get automated. Advocates of AI are both supremely optimistic and nervous. Both relate to the possibility of a super-intelligent machine that would far surpass human intelligence.

If you are an optimist, this so-called Singularity, as the hypothetical machine is called, would become self-improving. Its software would become free of human constraints, and in a “runaway reaction,” it would keep improving its knowledge and the technology that knowledge creates. The result would be a revolution in human civilization—or its demise. The worriers are nervous that the Singularity could initiate global war on its own, or perhaps turn on us as its inferior and deal us some other kind of fatal blow, for the good of life on Earth.

But these scenarios depend upon an unanswered question: are machines intelligent to begin with? Computers are essentially logic machines that process digital information. But in a recent paper entitled “The Emperor of Strong AI Has No Clothes,” physicist Robert K. Logan in Toronto and Adriana Braga in Rio de Janeiro argue that the dream of a superintelligence has limits that its adherents choose to ignore. (“Strong” AI foresees a machine that is at least as smart and capable as the human mind.) the point that Logan and Braga make is fundamental: human intelligence is far from machine-like, and in addition, our illogical minds are our strength, not a weakness.

The things the Singularity will never get right amount to a long list, to quote the two researchers: “… curiosity, imagination, intuition, emotions, passion, desires, pleasure, aesthetics, joy, purpose, objectives, goals, telos, values, morality, experience, wisdom, judgment, and even humor.” A clever programmer can figure out how to get a computer to answer human questions like “How is your mother feeling?”, “What does chocolate taste like?”, and “Don’t you just love fresh snow?” But having no actual mind, much less a human mind, the machine will be faking it to come up with answers.

It is crucial to realize that the brain isn’t the same as the mind. This runs counter to AI theorists but also neuroscientists, whose entire field is based on the simple equation Brain = Mind. It’s actually quite strange to believe that everything on the Logan-Braga list could be performed by a machine, including the brain, which neuroscience views as essentially a supercomputer made of cells. The confusion over this point is baffling. If you ask a third-grader “What do you want for Christmas?” he would never answer “I haven’t made up my brain yet.” If one middle schooler falls in love with classical music while another falls in love with soccer, it’s clear that their brains didn’t make those choices.

Computers don’t fall in love with anything, because a programmed machine has no attention in the human sense of “paying attention.” Computers are either switched on or off, while we humans occupy a spectrum of attention from total denial to daydreaming, being distracted, focusing in like a laser beam, and growing bored. Personal experience lies behind our likes and dislikes. If you ask a computer, “Do you like tennis?” its answer would be bogus, even if in a split second it could run through the history of tennis, its rules, the psychological benefits of sports, and on and on. The computer has never had the experience of playing tennis; indeed, it has had no experiences at all.

If AI persists in the false assumption that machines can be intelligent the way humans are intelligent, something counter-intuitive might result. Let’s flash forward to the day when robots have taken over every job that a machine could perform and super-computers handle information far beyond the capacity of the human mind. The big question, it seems to me, is what people would decide to do once their minds are freed up. Hordes of humanity, starting in the developed countries, would face a kind of perpetual mental vacation. This could lead to a lotus-eater’s life of dullness, perpetual distraction, and pointless pleasure-seeking.

But there’s another path. To the Logan-Braga list of what distinguishes human intelligence, I’d add “transcendence.” This is actually our unique gift. Given any situation, we are not bound by circumstances imposed on us but can look with fresh eyes, the eyes of self-awareness. To be self-aware is to transcend physical boundaries, including those imposed by a conditioned brain. It’s sadly true that many people live like biological robots, following the conditioning, or mental software, that turn them into non-thinkers. To be ruled by your mental software cuts off the mind’s potential to wake up, to be renewed, to see the world through fresh eyes, and to discover your true self.

The human potential movement has been active for several decades, and yet progress has been blocked for countless people by the simple practicalities of going to work, earning a living, and carrying out every day’s mundane duties and demands. If AI takes over those things, the obstacles to human potential would be radically lessened. This could amount to a leap in the evolution of consciousness. Such a leap is non-technological, or to put it another way, our future evolution depends on developing a technology of consciousness.

The riddle that has remained unsolved for centuries, “What is the mind?”, might become fascinating and compelling to people in their everyday lives. After all, it’s a question no less intriguing than “What is God?” Humanity has spent millennia pondering that question, and at the same time a much smaller band of sages, saints, artists, and savants has been confronting the intimate issues of the world “in here.” It would be ironic if the flaw in strong AI made us more human rather than less. Yet that could very well turn out to be what happens.

 


DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Total Meditation (Harmony Books, September 22, 2020) will help to achieve new dimensions of stress-free living and joyful living. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com

Spirituality Means More Than Ever Now

By Deepak Chopra™ MD

It’s natural in troubled times for people to reflect on God and religion as a source of solace and hop, which matters more in a crisis. But with church services being so limited, not to mention the decline in organized religion that has continued for fifty years, God isn’t the pillar of faith that past generations relied on.

I don’t find myself thinking about spirituality in those terms, however. Like a winter coat that’s put away in spring, for many people religion gets put away once the crisis has passed. Crises by their nature go up and down, but the deeper need for spirituality remains. This need is rooted deeper than solace and hope. It’s the need for wisdom. Wisdom is a word that’s open to skepticism and dismissal. Even people who think of themselves as spiritual are likely to think much more about issues like self-esteem and love.

Wisdom is much less personal but of crucial importance. It gives answers to why we exist and what our purpose is. Wisdom offers a vision of consciousness itself, bridging all ages and circumstances. It gets at the heart of reality. Ultimately the search for reality is what binds people who want to reach beyond organized religion and its perceived drawbacks.

Right now the search for wisdom is more important, I think, than the search for God. Ever since Aldous Huxley coined the phrase “the perennial philosophy,” seekers in the West have come to realize that sectarianism is too narrow and religions too orthodox to contain the great body of wisdom that has accumulated over time. The spiritual scene unfolding around us is today’s Americanized version of the perennial philosophy. In all times and places, the perennial philosophy is about transcendence. It’s the evidence based on direct experience that higher consciousness is real.

For many spiritual people there’s little doubt that organized religion, by turning to fundamentalism, is serving reactionary social forces and a dogmatic version of God. Yet it is far more deplorable to ignore the spiritual yearning that exists in us. The current spiritual scene may not fill the vacuum perfectly, but it has many virtues, which I consider real wisdom because it is dynamic and alive.

  • People feel free to express themselves outside the doctrines of organized faiths.
  • They feel open to experiences that earlier generations denied or condemned, and that arch materialists totally deny.
  • They are aware that spirituality is a broad river running back many centuries.
  • They feel included in a magnificent human quest.
  • They believe that evolution of consciousness is real and worth pursuing.
  • They believe they can find a noble vision and begin to live up to it.

These values represent wisdom as personal experience rather than words in a book, however sacred the text. The current spirituality embraces a huge number of people who have tasted transcendence through meditation and various peak experience, those moments when the veil of the personal self drops away and reality is seen without interference by the ego, memory, and old conditioning.

The seekers that one meets vary enormously: students and practitioners of yoga, meditators of every stripe, Jungians brought up in the Fifties, freethinkers and flower children from the Sixties, and even Theosophists, followers of teachers like J. Krishnamurti and gurus like Paramahansa Yogananda, not to mention readers of Huxley, Gerald Heard, and other expatriates who brought Vedanta to Southern California in the era before World War II. It’s a big tent and hardly a new one.

The net result of this diverse movement is hard to calculate. Certainly, there don’t seem to be many inroads into orthodox political or academic thought, but as a grassroots movement personal spirituality is powerful; it stands for the unquenchable idealism of millions of people who either flirt with the perennial philosophy or dive into it more deeply.

The path of wisdom, being timeless, is always open. I don’t see an alternative, frankly, to our spiritual yearnings unless organized religion finds a new flowering, which seems highly unlikely. So whatever the spiritual scene morphs into thirty years from now, at this moment personal seeking and the inward path are the most viable movement we have, and it deserves to be considered on its own terms, without labels but with a love for wisdom and the untapped resource of human possibilities.

 


DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Total Meditation (Harmony Books, September 22, 2020) will help to achieve new dimensions of stress-free living and joyful living. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com

Why We Need the Divine Feminine

By Deepak Chopra™ MD

With the decline of organized religion and a decades-old drop in church attendance, people have largely made their spiritual life into something private and personal. The rise of meditation and yoga attests to this. But it is hard to fix your sight on a spiritual goal if you don’t believe in heaven from the Western perspective or enlightenment from the Eastern.

Looking around at the tone of modern life, I think an important goal is worth seizing on: the divine feminine. Being scientific, rational, and technical, secular society seems to have less time for values that Carl Jung would have included in the feminine archetype, that religions cast as goddesses or a motherly figure like the Virgin Mary, and which most of us identify with our mothers growing up.
But at a deeper level, the divine feminine represents certain values that human beings have long cherished. Half of human nature is represented by the feminine in both sexes, as reflected in the qualities of the ancient Greek and Roman goddesses.

  • Ceres – procreation, abundance
  • Aphrodite – sensuality, love, beauty
  • Athena – wisdom, culture, art, science
  • Artemis – Nature, connection with animals and plants
  • Persephone – alchemy, magic, transformation, healing, unconscious mind
  • Hestia – homemaker

Even though these are innate qualities in the psyche, there are times when feminine values decline, and then the resulting imbalance brings problems. Global warming is the imbalance that resulted from too much devotion to science, technology, and progress and too little devotion to nurturing the environment. The extinction of species comes about when the human drive to treat Nature exactly as we want obscures the larger picture, which is that we belong in the total scheme of nature, or Mother Nature as tradition called it.

The age of world wars is past us for the moment, but the same thirst for power and authority drives nations, and war is visited on the innocent no matter how many widows and grieving mothers appear on the news. The dreadful Syrian devastation is the rank product of masculine tolerance for utter violent annihilation without check. It would be heartbreaking to continue such a list—simply the fact that the world has lived under nuclear threat for seventy years is evidence enough that life has gone seriously out of balance.

It is up to us individually to look inside and see where we can allow feminine qualities to correct a personal imbalance. The adjectives that apply to the personal feminine are love, affection, forgiveness, compassion, allowing, nurturing, and creative. They need to be present in everyone’s life, whether you are a man or woman, and every child needs to be exposed to them.

As things stand, children hardly have a choice to find the right balance of masculine and feminine in themselves. The two halves are not rivals; One doesn’t succeed by overwhelming the other. Yet this seems to be the ethos children absorb when they look around a see a world that exults in forceful power, domination, flagrant abuse of minority rights, corporate greed without regard for human consequences, violent videos games, and online pornography.

Morality cannot be legislated, and if you tell people they are supporting the wrong values, the most likely result is that they will entrench themselves in those values even more stubbornly. The shift has to begin inside with a sense that something is missing, and that this something is connected to the feminine energy that has been allowed to dwindle almost to the vanishing point.

One now commonly hears the opinion that the world would be better off if women were heads of state instead of men. It’s hard to disagree, but at the very least this country needs more than Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris as admired role models. We also need a shift in attitude, as evidenced by the cruelty, unfairness, anti-feminine prejudice, and spite directed at Hilary Clinton in the 2016 election. It would be bad enough if she became a sacrificial lamb in the eyes of history, the victim who showed people how much they needed to wake up and reflect on their appetite for injustice and inequality.

It would be even worse if the 2016 fiasco became the model for treating women candidates in the future. The prevailing notion is that this is a man’s world, and if a woman wants to succeed in it, she deserves all the knocks that would be given to a man. Only a society blind to the value of the divine feminine thinks that way. Everyone should do everything in good conscience to overturn such an ugly, harsh, unforgiving attitude.

 


DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Total Meditation (Harmony Books, September 22, 2020) will help to achieve new dimensions of stress-free living and joyful living. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com

How to Get the Other Side to Yes

By Deepak Chopra™ MD

Watching mainstream coverage of the Biden inauguration, you couldn’t miss the much-repeated call for uniting a divided nation. Commentary was quite approving; no one seemed to disagree with the theme or the need. But if you turned to right-wing media, the notion of uniting the country was derided as a ploy and scorned as bad faith. This indicates that gulf that lies between vision and outcome.

It is much better to have a vision than not, because a vision makes your intentions clear and keeps the goal in sight. A vision that is destined to fail, however, has no real use. Bringing the country together isn’t different from bringing a wounded relationship together. The needed skills are psychological. The right wing has taken advantage of this fact for decades, as many commentators have noted, by tapping into grievances. But stoking people’s complaints, grudges, fears, and fantasies of revenge is a negative vision. As recent events have shown, the people you manipulate this way eventually leads to bad faith and eruptions of a violent, chaotic kind.

So how do you get someone to yes when that person is dead set against you? The necessary tactics depend on understanding two things: 1. The basic principles of negotiation and 2. Putting yourself in the other side’s shoes. Both are always workable, no matter whether we are talking about a broken relationship or a broken political culture.

Principles of negotiation

  • Give up fantasies of controlling, demanding, or persuading the other side.
  • Sit down in a state of rational calmness.
  • Show respect for the other side’s position.
  • Do more listening than talking.
  • Be prepared for compromise.
  • Drop us-versus-them thinking.
  • Look for win/win options.
  • Don’t display anger and impatience.
  • Find a place of nonjudgment inside yourself.
  • Don’t quit until both sides are satisfied.

These principles are well known in diplomatic circles but they are flouted in everyday life all the time. The main reason is that people don’t try to learn how successful negotiating works. Instead, they fall back on tactics that hardly ever work, or when they seem to, leave residues of resentment from the other side. The tactics that don’t work are easily recognized in our current state of deep division.

How to stay at no

  • Keep up the rhetoric of blame and complaint.
  • Make the other side your enemy.
  • Talk about differences rather than points of agreement.
  • Try to win while making sure the other side loses.
  • Make a list of demands and don’t back down from them.
  • Enter the fray when you are angry and upset.
  • Attack the other side.
  • Walk away angry, with nothing settled.
  • Ignore the other side’s viewpoint.

It is worth the time to sit down and reflect on both lists. Getting what you want is a natural impulse, but using the wrong means leads to frustration and futility.

The second thing needed in order to change no to yes is to put yourself in the other side’s shoes. One might call this the path of empathy. Nobody really disagrees with the Golden Rule in their heart of hearts, but treating others the way you want to be treated remains hypothetical without an understanding of psychological wants and needs. The most basic wants and needs are common to everyone.

  • The need to feel safe and secure.
  • Wanting achievement and success.
  • Feeling that you are heard and understood.
  • Wanting to bond in like-minded groups.
  • Needing to have a purpose in life.
  • Wanting everyday existence to be meaningful.
  • Needing to feel good about yourself.
  • A basic feeling of contentment and fulfillment.

You can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes by pretending that you agree with their beliefs, prejudices, and social conditioning when those things are foreign to you. Much less does it work to adopt false empathy with positions you abhor. Divisions don’t go away as a condition for getting to yes. Instead, they stop being obstacles.

You put yourself in someone else’s shoes by shifting to the needs and wants listed above. They constitute the unspoken agenda in everyone’s life. Once you see that you and the other side share the same needs and wants, you can start to talk about them. Speak about the unspoken, and you will get much further than keeping silent.

I’ve devoted a small space to issues that fill many books, but I think it is necessary to understand that there is a way to clear up the fog of war. War isn’t always conducted with armed weapons. Armed words do the job quite well. If there is to be an end to deep divisiveness, one side must be the first to step up and use the tactics that actually work. The situation can’t be made any simpler than this.

 


DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Total Meditation (Harmony Books, September 22, 2020) will help to achieve new dimensions of stress-free living and joyful living. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com

Coming to Peace with the World Is Coming to Peace with Yourself

By Deepak Chopra, ™ MD

No one fails to react when public violence is flagrantly incited, which happened at the Capitol this week. As a political philosophy, or a way of life, disorder doesn’t work. Violence might not be inevitable, but chaos is.

But in the face of chaos, some facts remain constant and stable:

  • Peace is a state of awareness.
  • To advance the cause of peace, you must be at peace.
  • External conflict reflects the inner conflicts of human nature.
  • No dispute is ever settled unless both sides achieve a level of mutual satisfaction.

When politics comes down to rigidly opposing views, all of these facts are being ignored. Nothing gets resolved so that all sides achieve mutual satisfaction, and therefore grudges simmer, awaiting sudden eruptions and the pot boils over.

But the fact that is critical is the first one. You can’t help the cause of peace unless you are peaceful in yourself. This means several things on the personal level:

  • You sympathize with all suffering, no matter which side you take in a conflict.
  • You don’t see violence as the solution.
  • You can detach yourself from judgment and blame.
  • You don’t give in to us-versus-them thinking.

If you can achieve these things, you will stop being inflamed by constant streams of bad news that never gets resolved. You will be detached from partisanship, and you won’t buy into demagoguery. People who aren’t at peace are sucked in by the fascination and anguish of catastrophic events.

It’s sometimes hard to accept that being at peace is actually a form of “active detachment.” It’s active in that you want to help the situation. It’s detached in that you keep your head about you and see that the world doesn’t change from crisis to crisis–it changes when people’s awareness changes. To an outsider, religious disputes seem pointless and totally unnecessary. But if your worldview tells you that God is testing your faith every moment, detachment isn’t possible.

To be at peace doesn’t detach you from the values you want to uphold, but it guards you against the constricted awareness that fuels conflict. I think that Pope Francis understands active detachment. He stands above the fray to minister to humanity, but at the same time, unlike many of his predecessors, Francis doesn’t stand idly by. He offers practical proposals, deals justly with wrongdoing, and favors needed reforms. It’s totally worthwhile, and a moral obligation, to aid the programs that might heal divisions and ultimately the planet. But a viable action plan must come from peace or else it has no chance of succeeding.

 


DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Total Meditation (Harmony Books, September 22, 2020) will help to achieve new dimensions of stress-free living and joyful living. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com