Atoms of a Thought: Emotional Intelligence in the Age of AI

- through Francois Leclercq

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If all human knowledge were on the verge of extinction and only one piece of knowledge could be preserved for the future of humanity, what would it be? This question was once asked of physicist Richard Feynman, to which his answer, paraphrased, was knowledge of atoms as the key to understanding the physical world.

Atoms are what we are made of and form the basis of our physical world. Brazilian writer and physicist Luiz A. Oliveira described understanding atoms as a cognitive function: We tend to think of money in terms of fixed blocks of dimes and one, five, 20, and 100 dollar bills , let's say, but these denominations are themselves made up of cents and half cents and even smaller denominations that we rarely consider, even though we know that putting together many smaller and tiny denominations can add up to $100. In simplified terms, it is the study of these fundamental “lower” values ​​that we call quantum physics.

In the study of sacred geometry, we understand the world of particles and geometric shapes through the repetition of drawing, learning that all the organic, fluid and complex curves of nature are made up of simple geometric parts, because geometry makes also part of the subatomic world. . It's all a matter of perspective: living on the surface of planet Earth, we see mountains and valleys teeming with a multitude of shapes and forms of life: trees, birds, rivers, horses, etc. But if our view were to shift toward the Moon, the Earth would appear as a bright blue ball and, from even further away, as a simple speck of dust among many other specks of dust, complex shapes and textures at the same time. geometry. , to dust, to nothing. . . according to our point of view.

For hypothetical humans who only had knowledge of atoms and how all things are made up of repeating elements of fractal formulas, they would need to bring together these basic elements called atoms to rebuild civilization. But from a subatomic point of view, everything looks like dust. How can I shape a new world from matter without an underlying idea? You can't just mix bricks and wood and expect a house to come out of it. We understand the intrinsic importance of intelligently arranging these raw materials from an initial idea. I need to have the concept of a house before I can gather the raw materials to form a shelter. Physical matter does not become a house without being specifically organized around a coherent idea. With the same quality and quantity of material, one person with an idea could build a house, while another could build a chapel, a stable or a prison. The structure itself takes on meaning based on the relationship between the parts and the idea. All of this absolutely relates to what Buddhism says about emptiness, which is not about the absence of things but about infinite space and the unfixed definition of possibilities.

If we analyze human beings, we are quite incomplete and yet endowed with an incredible capacity to survive and learn despite our limitations. Our teeth are weak, our nails are short and soft, and it is precisely for this reason that we looked for sharp edges to put together with a piece of wood to create an ax. With an ax, we could cut down larger trees and shape pieces of wood into a boat or a house, or burn them to cook our food or smelt iron to create better tools. This ability to imagine and create extensions for a better version of “me” has helped humanity evolve to where it is today. From an idea based on survival needs, we “improve”. Our creativity was stimulated by our limitations. We are able to translate images in our heads into physical objects and have become very good at doing so. We can also come together to create commons: people sharing a common idea and creating complex monuments like the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge and Angkor Wat. We have created societies, cities and countries with complex rules and laws, cultures and languages. Our objects and monuments have purposes, stories and meaning because we had the capacity to imagine, which is very different from other species on our planet.

In our quest to perfect our expansions and live better lives, we have grown in numbers and become better at exploring, exploiting, and modifying our environment. British ecologist James Lovelock (1919-2022) argued that we have already reached the point where by 2100 humanity will be a very small species living on a degraded planet. Our ability to survive effectively has reached a point of imbalance, to the extent that we have interfered with our environment to such an extent that we are annihilating our own ecosystem. Does this shadow of a dark future create in us an urgent impulse to reconsider our motivations even as our most admired virtue turns against us?

We have dramatically expanded our identities, connections, and activities across the Internet and rapidly into artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and metauniverses, allowing us to inhabit many places simultaneously. I can transfer my imagination into objects that represent my mind, such as a digital device. So where to start and where to end? By so persistently creating these artificial extensions of who we are, we blur the line between ourselves and our artificial extensions. We are multiplying and our self-esteem has never been so fickle. Yet something could emerge, perhaps in the form of a more collective identity.

Brazilian philosopher Viviane Mose (b. 1964) provides an example of how humanity is moving away from a pyramid hierarchy and toward a more horizontal unifying network. The pyramid has a square base of greater mass supporting a peak far above of much lower mass: a pharaoh ruling the people with the power of vision and command over them. We could now benefit (but with all the dangers that this implies) from another type of governing intelligence through social networks in which everyone has the same opportunities to express their opinion, giving everyone a voice on any matter. what a topic, from teaching informal cooking classes. to war and political machinations. Everyone talks about some version of the "truth" and we are bombarded with opinions and concepts reinforced by a broadcast algorithm that "matches" our opinions based on our online activity, locking us into thick bubbles of like-minded opinions, excluding diversity and invitations to think outside the box. It is a collective movement, without a leader; we certainly move much more like a school of fish rather than a pack of wolves in need of an “alpha”.

We first developed the mechanical ability to create things, then the sensory ability and now the cognitive ability. And, more and more, we talk about things! Soon we won't even need to talk; the “things” will already know everything about us. Our own fridge will know when to automatically order milk online for delivery to our door. The boundaries between object and subject are blurring, and all for our convenience, with the intention of creating a “better” way of living. But in doing so, are we not removing the primordial necessity that makes us creative? Are we going to leave this to AI, not just on a practical level, but also on an emotional level?

Born in the 1980s, I grew up without internet and for many years without electricity as my parents moved to a remote area to seek this primal experience. Of course, I didn't miss anything from the artificial virtual world, and I really worked a lot with my own inner virtuality which was my imagination. And so, often when I was a little child, a branch served as a sword, and the horse I rode was a magical unicorn. I clearly remember the power of my imagination, which made my days so fun and fulfilling. I believe we are still doing the same thing today, but on a much larger scale, but the tragedy we are witnessing now is the transmission of this meaning-making power, and our relationships and our lives into his outfit. And this could be behind the increasing incidence of depression worldwide.

Imagine this: a world in which machines, powered by complex neural networks, discern our preferences, anticipate our needs, and tailor experiences to our individual desires. On an emotional level, this symbiotic dance between human emotions and artificial intelligence gives rise to a nuanced ballet, a delicate choreography where algorithms strive to anticipate and understand our joys, our sorrows and our particularities.

Yet in this dance of progress, we also encounter poignant moments of discord. The integration of AI into our lives raises questions about the authenticity of human relationships. Can an algorithm really understand the subtleties of a sincere conversation? The tacit nuances that characterize the links between individuals? As we entrust AI with tasks ranging from managing our social media feeds to recommending life partners, we find ourselves at a crossroads between convenience and authenticity.

Consider the profound impact on our intelligence, both artificial and human. With the ubiquity of AI-based applications, our collective intellect has grown and the boundaries of what we can achieve have expanded. However, the very essence of human intelligence, with its quirks and imperfections, risks being eclipsed by the incessant march of progress. The emotional intelligence that distinguishes us as a species becomes a delicate balance between binary coding and heartbeat.

In the field of human relationships, AI is becoming a double-edged sword: a companion that improves our lives while threatening the depth of our relationships. If algorithms can predict our preferences, can they decipher what is left unsaid? The nuances that truly make us human? The emotional resonance in our relationships, once guided solely by intuition and empathy, now rivals the cold efficiency of artificial intelligence.

In the artful strokes of this narrative, we find ourselves contemplating a delicate balance between the wonders of AI and the emotional terrain it traverses. Perhaps there is another solution: let’s paint our relationship with technology with mindfulness and intentionality, preserving the warmth of our humanity amid the relaxed embrace of artificial intelligence. In this symbiosis, may we cultivate a future in which the emotional melodies of our shared human experience harmonize with the algorithms of progress, creating a tapestry that is both technologically advanced and emotionally profound – it is always up to us, the humanity.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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