On being human

 2023 | Opinion
Sandra Hilton
Therapist & Coach: London
Fuelled by her passion for exploring what makes us human, business leader turned integrative counsellor Sandra Hilton has lately been contemplating the ups and downs of artificial intelligence.

Ihave been in several conversations about AI and ChatGPT recently.

A therapist friend shared that one of her clients had turned to ChatGPT for help and found it to be compassionate. In supervision we talked about how clients might record their sessions and play them back to ChatGPT so that it might ‘learn’ to provide responses that sound like their own therapist.

I have to say part of me is curious to try this to see what exactly ChatGPT imagines I might say. What will I make of the therapist it portrays? Might I improve my interventions based on these insights? But I digress…

Another friend, when I presented a dilemma, advised me to ask ChatGPT what to do. I felt quite unsettled by this suggestion – delivered in earnest – and began to examine just what it is about this undoubtedly incredible resource that I’m uncomfortable with.

Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman wrote:

A computer may be able to vomit out the facts of my existence but it cannot fathom the subterranean corridors of my aloneness, nor can it hear my silence, nor can it respond to the shadow that passes over my eyes.

This speaks perfectly to a piece of my concern. When we laud the capability of AI and imagine it to have answers to everything, we lose sight of our own human intelligence. We denigrate ourselves when we delegate these questions. We favour the crisp, typed, clear response over our messy wrestle with our hearts and multiple inner voices.

How often have I sat across from a client who yearns for ‘the answer’ or ‘to feel better’ when all I can offer is loving company and witnessing to their suffering? But the company of this body in places where there was no company and no love and no witness, is part of the answer. As my clients learn to become company to themselves in their darkest moments – learn to trust and love themselves, learn to relax in their own bodies – then life once again becomes possible.

Does AI know how to do this? How to sense into the nuance of this being and her experience, and offer a mirroring response that hasn’t been offered before?

In a blog post earlier this year – Protect the Flame: But Where the Danger Is, the Saving Power Also Grows – author and action researcher Dr Otto Scharmer writes:

AI and related language prediction machines like ChatGPT are brilliant at synthesizing (and mirroring back to us) the knowledge that we have accumulated thus far – in other words, the knowledge of the past. But what is it that these machines can’t do? They can’t do radical deep sensing. They can do sensing. But they can’t let go of predictions based on existing patterns in order to let come what wants to emerge from our deepest Source. In other words: They can’t sense from the Source, from the future that wants to emerge. They can’t create from nothing, no thing. That’s the ‘blind spot’ of AI.

AI (at the moment, at least) can only respond based on what has already happened and what already exists. The gift we have as humans is the capacity for deep sensing. We can, if we are open to it, sense into now, and into a future that is yet to happen, and we can feel into what it is that wants to emerge through us; through these human bodies.

How do we do that? Through our deeper embodied intelligence – the wisdom of our bodies, our intuition, our relational connections. We do this by being conscious of what is here, right now, feeling into and responding to that lived experience. We do this by being in communion with the whole.

Going far beyond a computation exercise – which is what AI is infinitely superior at – this process calls upon the feminine energies of empathy, relating, and what Dr Scharmer calls ‘presencing’, which requires us to be open in heart, mind and will.

In western culture, we live in a society that values intellect over intuition. The masculine over the feminine. The Bhagavata, written over 1,000 years ago foresaw the inevitable conclusion of this journey:

This uncontrolled mind is the greatest enemy of the living entity. If one neglects it or gives it a chance, it will grow more and more powerful and will become victorious. Although it is not factual, it is very strong. It covers the constitutional position of the soul.

And in this prescient description, we have Artificial Intelligence – the total disconnection of the intellect from the living body, now presenting an existential, and possibly very real threat to us all.

However, I see and feel the potential for transformational change in the world right now – both the wider world, and my own smaller world of family, friends, clients, colleagues and connections.

What excites me is that the development of AI asks us to reconnect with what it means to be human – what is it that we bring that is uniquely ours? How do we create context to nurture, develop, encourage and value these qualities? For irrespective of AI, this conscious connection with our selves, is much needed to deal with the multiple ecological, political and cultural breakdowns in our world today.

Head focused solutions are clearly not working. We need to engage all of our intelligence – to connect with heart and belly energy to unlock our deeper wisdom and consciousness. If we can do this, I believe we have less to fear from AI.

We can let AI do what it does well – and we can focus our energies on doing what only we can do. And in so doing, the masculine and feminine energies of the world may begin to rebalance.


Instagram @theembodiedsoul