Categories
Poetry 'n Prose

Random thoughts in a pandemic

Compassion seems to be in short supply. It’s being zapped from us right under our noses. The problem is it is not just on the personal level, but it is happening on a global level. The ‘Zapping’ is happening through all the main social media channels and their agenda is shaping our children’s behaviour into one ever-growing and expanding compliance programme of alternative values and altered perceptions level too.

Compliance to what? To artificial intelligence. Yes AI, the thing that some scientists insist we are years away from. Some deny it even exits. Doesnt that sound familiar? But I’m afraid the behavioural modifications designed by humans and perfected by AI is right here and now. I believe humanity and AI is touching nose to nose.

We have become masters of our own destruction. We have surrendered our own intelligence for engaging in tools, that serve only to distract us. We surrender our sensibilities as we become hypnotized by Google and its many tools of compliance, that offer maximum convenience and zero privacy. It’s justified to be in our best interest to embrace technology just as long as we consume, consume, consume. Causing more stress on resources on the planet we inhabit.

But we need to examine this closer. Google and AI is not just trying to manage our consuming behaviour. AI has watched and studied us at a cultural and global level. And as does this it controls the narratives that makes us believe we are in control, or out of control depending on which government they approve of. Here we see how this impacts on international events and our responses to them. This type of behavioural control resulted in the phenomena we now call Brexit.

Cambridge Analytica was exposed for the personality profiling it released over Facebook, and the resultant influence over millions of wavering voters is well document. The result effect was the Brexit outcome.  This outcome was chosen for us, the people, not the other way round. This is how the Google mind works. It is how AI works. It is learning human behaviour, mimicking how we think and feel and in doing so befriends us and gains our unwitting trust before it attacks us. Similar to how viruses attacks surrounding cells in the body. 

Before he died Professor Stephen Hawking warned us that AI is a risk to the future of humanity. He expanded his warning, to say that unleashing AI without ethical safeguards would be catastrophic to our species. I often reflect what does that mean? How could we allow anything to endanger our on species. That’s insane. But look around us now, our species has been fine tuning the extinction of our own making. Climate change, poverty, racism, biological and chemical warfare and the permanent threat of nuclear war which still looks ever present.

This is Hawking’s warning, to trust with extreme caution, but we have already possess a built in trust mechanism based on fear of consequences. This the other side of Google, it knows what we fear and why we fear it. Then it reinforces our basic fears by bombarded with narratives, memes and media reports from the frontline of the escalation of everyday violence, and this reinforces us into compliance.

How do we stop this system of reinforcement? Is it possible to stop using AI? I believe it’s too late to do this because it is here, it is already surrounding every thing we do. But is not too late. We have a fast diminishing opportunity to up our game. How do we begin to engage in non-violent, non-dualistic, non-compliance. We have to become de-radicalized to AI and find our way back to humanity. We must embrace compassion.

Compassion is found in the simple things like how the Barista, on a cold morning in Costa, tries to muster up a smile, the first smile, to the first customer who comes through door. I say hello and asked how she is? And meaning it as I watch how her smile becomes natural and relaxed.

Compassion is also found in attempts made to reach out to the hardest to reach people, who are struggling to make sense of it all when nothing appears to be making sense. And we are seeing a massive resurgence in global pain and suffering during the pandemic.

Compassion is never lessened, stunted or injured by guilt or blame. Acting from a place of compassion means we surrender notions of guilt or blame, it just reaches out into the void of human frailty and gets on with the job.

Dedicate to many of my colleagues who have fallen prey to the virus Covid-19. Working on secondment on the ward has opened me up to the frailty of life. Their personal and professional struggle and sacrifice is not forgotten and their dedicated practice holds us together as one in compassion.

Categories
Plays

A New Jerusalem

A New Jerusalem

The Clegg family at the centre of this drama is entirely fictional, but like all families it has its history and habits, its squabbles and secrets. They are in flux, change is upon them and they are struggling to cope, to hold onto their sense of who they are and how to live that out in the context of their very specific time and place.

Who are these characters? We see boys trying to become men, a brother trying to be something he fundamentally doubts and a grandmother trying to carry on being herself. They are all imitating, copying, maintaining and deceiving themselves. And during the course of the drama they also toy with letting go of long held beliefs, values, dreams and secrets.

A New Jerusalem reveal how complicated, messy and treacherous notions of identity are and how we can both be defined by a single category (mother, brother, English), and yet also still understand ourselves to be so much more than that.

A New Jerusalem