We’re ready to say farewell to February as this month’s blog comes together, and your overpriced Valentine's dinner and flowers are now a distant memory. Love is still in the air and springtime is fast approaching. With it come thoughts of the future and some buzz about new technologies- AI content creation - Chat GPT and others - that could help our productivity at best, or replace many at worst. To explore this further, I shared my title with Jaq n Jill - a new AI tool developed by one of our members - and here’s what it started with as an introduction:
Love: we all want it, and yet, few know what it truly is. Unraveling its secrets has been the heart's quest since the beginning of time. In this article, we explore the ins and outs of this enigmatic force, delving into "Love On: Uncovering True Meaning," "Could This Be Love? Exploring Its Mystery," and "Unlocking The Enigma of Love." Read on to discover the definitive answer to the age-old quandary: what is love?
Wow! - that’s some pretty good writing and grammar, with amazing word selection…which is why no one would believe it was written by me! But, if it’s easy to read, it’s easy to love, right?
But is it really? I think it’s nice, and it is easy to read - but I know it’s written by a machine, and is basically some kind of educated average of billions of lines of text on a topic. But maybe that’s what my writing is too - a kind of educated average of information collected throughout my life. No question it’s a powerful tool, and in my estimation AI in various forms is possibly on par with the origin of the internet in terms of significance to our society - and as many have warned - could even become our undoing, or our overlord! (which I guess is kinda the same, unless it’s a benevolent overlord!)
What’s all this got to do with love, Bear? Well, nothing - and everything, kinda.
The dream that Open AI and other organizations in this space are moving toward is an Artificial General Intelligence - kinda like HAL 9000 from Space Odyssey - ask it any question, and it knows the answer, and can often make it happen. In our connected society, with so much of our livelihoods and infrastructure dependent on the internet - even a non-physical entity of sorts could amass amazing power. If we pair that with robots and drones and whatever else folks might come up with in the meantime - we better make sure it stays benevolent!
I can imagine a scenario where we make what sounds like a prudent inquiry - “HAL, what is the best way to stop global warming?” - and HAL scours the millions of pages of reports and data that we’ve created on topic and says - “It’s human-caused!” - and so the best way to stop global warming is to get rid of the humans! With all that power, it should be easy!
Now, there is a school of thought, somewhat controversial, that in order to feed and clothe and keep warm all the humans that will be on the earth in 50, 100, 250 years, that we’ll need to have higher CO2 levels and warmer temperatures to allow for all the additional plant growth that will be necessary. If you’ve never heard such a thing - it’s because such a thing isn’t very popular. Articles affirming the necessity of increasing our CO2 output don’t get printed, don’t get read, don’t get shared, but…maybe it’s true? HAL won’t know this, because nearly everything he’s read on topic says we need to stop global warming and that it’s human-caused. Thus, AI could become its own kind of high-volume echo-chamber - with incredible power! What could possibly go wrong?
I’ve been reading a book recently by Tim Urban, called “What’s Wrong with Us? - A Self-Help Guide for Societies” - and it speaks to this notion in many respects. In it, Tim describes thought, and human interaction, on two axes - the horizontal axis is topical, and can be graded by agreement and disagreement on any topic. The vertical axis describes the difference between low-rung and high-rung thinking and communication. To climb the rungs, one must add decency and respect;to drop down the ladder, one succumbs to anger, closed-mindedness, and herd mentality. Taken past the individual and into collaborative groups, the lower regions could be characterized as echo chambers, and the higher regions are what Tim calls “Idea Labs”: areas of collaborative high-rung communication - even among those who disagree!
Big interesting stuff, and a long book, but if you want the cliff-notes version, listen to the author talk with Lex Fridman on his podcast about it - here.
What I connect with is the high-rung communication. LoCo Think Tank is basically a collection of Idea Labs - created long before this term was coined. When we made our first list of values, one of them spoke directly to this point - LoCo members “encourage and admonish with loving kindness” - it’s not just about encouragement, sometimes you gotta admonish each other if you’re doing it right - but you can do it with love and kindness! Another favorite tagline of sorts was lifted from a modified Oscar Wilde quote - “it takes a good friend to be a front-stabber!”. Both of these speak to the same point - there is immense value in disagreement - AND - we can be nice about it!
But in our culture, and increasingly so - we are not nice about it. The online environment is especially full of intentionally divisive figures - because they get the clicks. Someone makes a statement against the prevailing narrative - on any topic - and the comments in support or argument roll in. This has become common all the way from an individual level, to the major news networks - which aren’t so major as they once were! Nonetheless, they are influential - especially if they serve as base material for a logically-intelligent but not emotionally-intelligent AI-superpowered echo chamber. It could go wrong in so many ways!
But I’m not here to scare you, I’m just here asking the question - “Is all you need is love?” And we don’t even know what love is yet - oh boy…
When I reflect on the question the AI tool prompted me to consider, “What is love?” I think of definitions I’ve grown up with as a human: God is Love. Love is Eternal. Love is Blind. Love is Selfless. Love is Metaphysical Gravity. I’ve got a thousand more love is quotes for you if you want them, and I’ll add one more:
Love is a Good Stew.
A good stew is made from good ingredients, many of them. In the past two weeks I’ve made a couple of good stews, a gumbo and chicken and wild rice. The gumbo was my first time, and there’s quite an interesting process to build the base - which is called a roux - and which I’ll share here because I love you.
For mine, I started with ¾ cup of bacon fat, and I whisked in 1 cup of flour - in a heavy pan - I used a cast iron dutch oven - over medium-high heat. Cook it and whisk it and cook it and whisk it until it gets very-dark brown and smells like overcooked popcorn - don’t turn your back or it’ll burn! And then, throw your chopped veggies right into the roux and keep stirring and cooking. The liquid released from the veg helps release all the good stuff from the pan, and then once the veggies are cooked a bit you can add liquid and bring it to a boil for a bit, and then simmer and add your previously seared proteins (andouille, chicken, and shrimp for me). All these ingredients stay together for a long time, making the sauce richer and more flavorful along the way.
Love is like that, only the ingredients are the good things in life: Honesty, integrity, kindness, respect, patience, perseverance, innovation, sharing, hope, grace, acceptance… All these positive attributes, mixed together, for a durable season - creates a rich and flavorful society.
So if I were to answer my own question posed in the title of this blog: Yes! all we really need is love. More of us, more often, and in greater and greater measure must bring our own good ingredients to the stew. Then be patient to let them simmer & mingle.
I’ll close with probably the best known-quote on love, one you already know if you’ve been to a wedding from 1 Corinthians 13:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Love is the essential human ingredient that cannot be replaced.