I woke up this morning with an idea. Where did that idea come from?
It came from my brain, the organ whose function is thinking. The brain grabbed the idea and made it into thoughts so I could consciously think about it. I was mulling it over. Words were articulating this idea in my mind, silently.
And yet where did the idea actually come from? Was it produced in my brain, or somewhere else in my body? Was it received as if the brain is a radio, alert to incoming waves of ideas traveling through the noosphere ready to be caught?
As I contemplate this idea I can see that it came from many sources. It’s connected but not directly sourced from many books, articles and videos that I have been engaging with recently. And my engagement with that information comes from references in other sources, including the people I interact with both in-person and on social media. In short there is a web of information around me that I have been dipping into constantly motivated by my curiosity.
And in addition to information sources, this idea is also drawn from my recent experiences. I can sense its relevance to all kinds worries, plans and short conversations that have entertained my mind. The things I have been noticing as I move through my daily life add credence, support and critical analysis to this idea. And as I reflect on it, more examples and connections come into my consciousness from my recent history as well as far into my past.
The idea’s potential also comes from my habits, patterns, practices and training. It could not have arisen if I had not been using my body, mind and senses in the particular way that I did.
This idea did not come from any single source. It is, to my knowledge, a new combination. And yet, I’m sure other humans could also have this idea, although perhaps not articulated in exactly these words.
How did it arrive?
The freshest ideas arrive when I am relaxed and also moving. A mindful walk in nature is the surest method I use to generate new ideas when I need them. Free-form dancing also works predictably well, and it is joyful too. The mind wanders freely experiencing the sensations of the moving body plus all the senses. Ideas arrive with a burst of surprise! New connections are being made between an infinity of informational bits cultivated in the body, mind and emotions of this unique person in this community and this environment.
This particular idea arrived first thing in the morning. It seemed that my mind, while sleeping and dreaming, was playing with all kinds of ideas while ‘I’ was not aware. This one connection surfaced into my consciousness and caught my attention. ‘Yes!’ I thought to myself. ‘That!’ And now I am in the process of explaining what ‘that’ is. I am about half way done documenting that split-second insight.
The second part of the insight is the realization that Artificial Intelligence, AI, cannot do what my mind-body just did while I was sleeping.
I have been puzzling over the arrival of technology like ChatGPT wondering what impact it will have on the world. It’s clear (and I have tried it) that ChatGPT can make writing faster. It can very quickly put together effective sentences and paragraphs to express ideas based on a human being’s question or input. it is also a very cool toy/tool for making images on demand. There’s no doubt that these powerful tools will have many impacts on our society, but that is a separate story.
I asked the AI ‘how does a human being generate ideas?’ and it gave me a very clear and comprehensive answer. Its answer was boring; it felt dead and disembodied. AI does not actually ‘know’ how humans do this, but you and I do. The bot may be correct, but it is not true.
AI is here to teach us our real value. The meaning and purpose of life does not come from what we own, what we do, or even what we create.
What then is the value of a human being? When I slow down, listen, feel and see without thinking, I start to get a sense of that preciousness.