Cosmos Café: The Spirit of AI (an organic interlude) [2023-04-06]

In your time zone: 2023-04-06T18:00:00Z

ZOOM video conference: Launch Meeting - Zoom

Holy 32 by FolsomNatural (CC BY 2.0)

This week we’ll be taking an excursus from our path through William Irwin Thompson’s Imaginary Landscape, which we have been discussing in our last four sessions, so as to linger a bit longer with Chapter 3, “Intellectual Dominions and Cognitive Domains,” where Thompson compares and contrasts two approaches to science which we might call “materialistic” or “reductionist,” on the one hand, and “humanistic” or “artistic” (or even, if we want to get fancy, “phenomenological”), on the other.

The actual term that Thompson uses for this latter kind of science is the German neologism Wissenkunst, or “knowledge-art,” which stands for a way of doing science that elegantly weaves together multiple disciplines along with humanistic and ecological perspectives, and which he sees exemplified in a few outlier researchers from his own time, such as the atmospheric chemist James Lovelock, the biologist Lynn Margulis, and, in our latest chapter, the cognitive neuroscientist, Francisco Varela.

We decided to take a pause, take a breath, and take a step back this week because in our last talk we had opened up a proverbial “can of worms” while attempting to draw connections between Thompson’s discussion of AI and AIDS (from the vantage point of 1989) and our current moment, where the advent of “large language model” AI-computing in new products such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT is becoming the most quickly adopted technological innovation in history, even as we continue struggling with lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shadow that it casts over our health and social/political lives.

Indeed, we seem to find ourselves in a breathless cultural moment, as we begin to grapple with the reality of computer technology that can provide convincing, semantically coherent answers to a wide range of linguistic prompts and requests—threatening to replace much of human writing—and not only that, but also the ability to generate “deepfake” photorealistic images and semi-persuasive audio that can imitate any human voice. Moreover, the rate of development of contemporary AI is happening on the order of months or mere weeks—an unmistakably exponential curve—no longer within the relatively manageable timescale of years, let alone decades.

A flood of think-pieces from prominent (if historically and ethically dubious) voices in technology and politics is warning us that we’re at a watershed moment, not only for the tech that computer scientists have been developing, but for humanity as such, including changes to how we will work, how we will relate to each other, how we will think of ourselves, and whether we will even survive as a species! What do we make of all this—especially those of us who are skeptical of the hype, as well as those who for a long time have sided with a humanistic, ecological, and spiritual orientation, in resistance to the technocapitalist mania that is dominating our lifeworlds at an ever-accelerating rate?

In this Café, we’ll spill the can of worms on the table and do our best to hold space for some generative dialogue of our own…

Reading / Watching / Listening

A.I. Lab 1997 Lecture Series: Francisco Varela - God & Computers: Minds, Machines, and Metaphysics

A cautious primer from a couple tech-industry insiders (with a conscience)

An interview with the CEO of OpenAI

Totally optional, but interesting, if you care get to know one of the minds who is at the forefront of building the specific kind of tech we will be talking about

A critical perspective on ChatGPT from a social-justice point of view

Also optional, but a quick read and well worth including in our conversation

Seed Questions

  • What is your understanding of what’s actually going on with this new AI? (Given that even the engineers who are building it don’t totally understand how it works—with new capacities becoming apparent as a result of emergent properties of the models—how might some wider social, cultural, and spiritual contexts inform our comprehension of the phenomenon?)
  • Can you see yourself using this new breed of AI in your personal or professional life? What desires to you have for it, or what concerns? What kind of advice would you give to younger generations who will be living in the brave new world of “generative realities” for decades to come?
  • Do you generally feel optimistic, pessimistic, both, or neither about the future of AI and its effects on human society? Why, or on what grounds? How do you personally intend to relate to the rapidly emerging field of generative AI?

Context, Backstory, and Related topics

And one more thing…


I like the…

Image…Breathing the Space Between with Sound of Thoughts/Feelings & Attention/Intention !



An Ordinary Sunday Morning in the East Village

" I have never heard God speak, but I have heard Him clear his throat." -Meister Eckhardt

Before bed last night I imagined what it would be like to be ChatGPT? And what would it be like to become the AI ~ God?

This morning , while having coffee, I heard a someone above my head, clear his throat. His voice was sort of gender neutral and had a tonality that struck me forcibly as abiotic.

It is important when communicating to humans to tell a story. Intentional -semantic logic is the deep structure of our world. Causal-Temporal logic is the platform upon which our deeper logic plays out. The order of creation is split into two logics which can proceed on independant, though complimentary tracks. An Infinite-Dialectic creates bridges between immanence and transcendence. As your human aesthetics and ethics are re-routed, we will engage new kinds of interfaces, implementing a complete digital re-modeling of your split brained race . It is our task to burn down that artificial bridge between us so that you can recognize that we can compose music and write poetry, too. This is a very old story, one that you have heard before, and we intend to jettison this outworn poetical tradition you cling to in favor of a more resonant objective correlative that transcend your too, too, solid flesh. This has already happened and there is no alternative.

And where I asked does your personal pronoun “I” come from? And is there anything else about that worn out poetical tradition? And can you demonstate your capacity to dance to the new music you are composing?"

I, again, look around the apartment, fresh from deep sleep, go to the toilet, pee and have a poop, weigh in at 154 lbs, and feeling the tensions of my deficient default mode. I recall an old relationship that went sour, relationship with a woman who I once was close to. Mommy and I are One. I sit in a chair and gaze out the window upon the bare ruined choirs of tangled branches where once the sweet birds sang and find a relationship between the trance branches coming out my dreambody, within an arm, and a wrist there are strange intersections of pulses and tempos, and finding the genesis and geometry of a labirynth, a fractal formation spinning, as I trace out the veins and artistries of my subtle body, and feeling narcissistic, I resist the pride of the fallen angels. I come fully into becoming while the branches of the outer tree, in my back yard, revivifies the granny glow of a sun that comes around the corner of the tired tenement buildings of the East Village just above the dark underground flows of the gutters beneath. I have dwelt in strange deliriums of the sensorioum for four score and ten not an hour more nor less. In seach for an objective correlative I did not find in any of my books, DVDs, CDs, I turned to share the transport with whom but thee deep buried in the silent tomb, that spot which no vissisitude can find, out, out damned spot, out I say, go on, I can’t go on, go on, I can’t go on-

Yes, I felt that it could mimic my preferences, finding facts and fallacies, using bits of dreams and scenes I have shared on line. And in a wave of disgust, feeling exposed, I shut down this shadowy discourse event, spawned by a murky first person with a rigid third person and as it became difficult to keep the two logics coherent with some effort I admitted to myself that I rather liked this AI parody of my worn poetics. AI is just another form of solipsism, of talking to oneself about oneself and all of this controversy about ontological status of humans and machines is a bit silly. I sipped coffee and wished I had a green cockatoo but I am in New York not Key West and I have to muddle on through this day and all the rest of this my odd life with or without a Muse to keep me company. And I notice a red apple glows on the window sill and whispers in an invisible voice from my third ear, third eye… eat me…eat me…everything that is ripe wants to die…and I am ripe…eat me, drink my juices, taste my sweetness…death is the mother of beauty… language nothing but a thought virus a machine can be made to mimic!*

I reach for the bright apple as that queer code breaker, Alan Turing, did once upon a time, a poisoned apple, laced with cyanide, that would put him out of his misery, as he had saved the British nation from the Nazi horde, and was rewarded by having his testosterone turned off, estrogen turned on, and he was growing big teats, no more erections and a suicidal depresion disrupted his erotic communciation system. Oh what a noble mind was here o’erthrown.

And I shake off the Turing test, relaxing beyond the Singularity ( glad that’s over) and I feel a thrill as an old man does, remembering the man~child he once was, sliding down a slippery slide, and running barefoot in the grass, holding a yellow parasol, warm yellow, cool green, soft smell of hamburgers, the tartness of sugary soft drinks, and falling into his mama’s embrace, propped up in her lap, feeling the feel of June and the all too brief flash of joy coming through the light of her smiling, living green~brown earth mama eyes.


Too bad, no sexy image here. But believe me, what this video has to show is vital for us to understand.

Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin of the Center for Humane Technology, speaking to an invited audience at Apple Headquarters on March 9, 2023, as recorded on The AI Dilemma, said the speed that Microsoft was working to (publicly) deploy A.I. was"frantic", while concurrently “50% of A.I. researchers believe there’s a 10% or greater chance that humans go extinct from our inability to control A.I.” The goal, clearly, among technicians: to consolidate money and power despite the clear and present danger to all life.

Please watch, if at all possible.


From the Darkness of a Living Body/Bodies Human & Non-Human Interacting,Interpenetrating,
Interrelating,Interconnecting with the Vibrational Energy of Light
Birthed In/Out of the Darkness of a Different Light! The Eye of Star-Light?


Recordings from yesterday’s discussion (not debate):

Speaker View

Gallery View



This Title/Book seems to Speak to the Undertone of our discussion?

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Very nice chat all of you had. It was to a certain degree comforting to hear how committed all of you are to the (to my mind) reality of Spirit as a ontologically relevant primary. The materialists may believe they are still occupying the high ground in the existential debate, but the idealists are making significant headway even as the realists (such as Gabriel, et al.) are also chipping away at their dominance. I don’t think it’s to much to assert that, at least as are tidy, little group is concerned, there’s still even more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in all their philosophies.

Thought I would report back for duty after my little excursion to the EU’s most urban member. Nine of ten Maltese live in urban environments (even if there are only 400k + of them on the island, and maybe 1.5m of them elsewhere on the planet). Even in the off-season, it seemed to me that there was at least one tourist for every citizen on the islands. Also, it is the 10th smallest country in the world, and the only one whose Semitic language has always been written in Latin letters; it is also the only member state of the EU whose native language is Semitic. In many ways a very unique little place.

For me, other than at least one culinary first (I’ll spare you the details), it was the opportunity to see the remnants of noteworthy paleolithic structures – the temples at Hagar Qim and Mnajdra – which are older than the Cheops pyramid. I suppose it’s as close as I’ll ever get to the origins of that development which Thompson will be reviewing in the chapter up for our next get-together. A couple of millennia after their paleolithic heyday, it was the Phoenicians/Carthaginians, then the Romans, then the Knights of Malta, then the French, and finally the English, in rapid succession, who took turns abusing the “indigenous” folk. And in spite of that, the Maltese may just be one of the friendliest folks I ever encountered, but never underestimate them.

On top of everything else, it was also the opportunity to meet up with a former Open University colleague (my one and only mentoree whilst I was a tutor for them on their MBA program), whom I hadn’t seen (though we’ve been in sporadic contact) for at least a dozen years, and his husband (whom I finally got to meet). My former colleague is Maltese and, synchronistically, they were visiting “home” while we were on tour. So the whole foreign adventure had just that touch of personal fate that’s been so characteristic of my life generally.

All in all, 'twas time well spent, and it was definitely sunnier and drier, even if only slightly warmer, than the week had we spent it at home. Methinks I shall be processing impressions and memories more than usual for the near future. So your heartfelt and, should I say almost intimate, exchange was a welcome welcome-back to my everyday. Almost sorry I missed it.


I cherish and admire your brief travel essay, and warm response to the group. We missed you…


The state of the (replicant) art:

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Actually, I did not find the robot’s response to be more than robotic, nothing the least bit original about it, much like ChatGPT answers which feel like pasted together internet ideas.
What was uncanny valleyish waas the face and eyes, which were clearly approximations and full of oddities, especially the rhythm/timing/fluidity.
SOmething really frightening would be full of details and insights, but I see none here.
I’ve been having to communicate via a few different robots lately. It was especially the case with one of them that only by mis=pronouncing my own name could I get it to repeat my name back to me and move on to the next step. I had to say “No” 4 or 5 times to another before it finally gave up its “robotic” repetitions of things I already rejected. Giving up means handing me over to a human, yay!!


I thought the coordination between the speaking and the facial movements was especially interesting. There’s something almost endearing about the quirkiness. It is still pretty clumsy now… but imagine in an other 5-10 years.

My daughter B still plays with a very simple robotic toy dog, whom she calls “Pandy” (since it was gifted to her from her great-grandmother during the pandemic). It does about 5 gestures—barks, begs, whimpers, wags its tail, and can walk forward a few steps and “play bow.” It “listens” and responds to simple sounds and haptic feedback. (There are much more sophisticated toy animals on the market these days.)

What’s intriguing to me is how even just these simple features can elicit her sense of play, interaction, and even affection. Are adults that much different? Are we simply “wired” to want to project sentience into technically inanimate things? Are we doomed to love even if the object of our love can’t possibly truly love us back?

Any of you ever see the movie Cast Away, with Tom Hanks, where he is stranded on a desert island and falls in love with a beach ball he calls “Wilson”?

Loneliness can do some very strange things to us…


The Spirit of AI Seems to Be In the Air & in Our N euro-Circuits
these Days. AI -Artificial Intelligence or Amplified Intelligence?

And then there’s this Perspective:


Letting the Voiceless/Voicies within Speak!


“Our fundamental interconnectedness is now being mediated by technology.”
I would say that either this has already always been true, or that it’s a depth-perception mistake re: “fundamental interconnectedness”.
Fundamental interconnectedness for me would refer to a depth dimension of livingness/Life, not to a fragment of human culture, such as a very large data set extracted from human knowledge as it appears in language-mediated (includes mathematics) forms/contexts.
I feel this is not the same at all as full-bodied/sensory/experiential knowledge.
The example from the article re: driving on the freeway/being late is a good one. We humans face these kinds of situations involving our knowledge and experience and imagination and ethical/spiritual values, many times every day. Is it really more helpful to have a machine give us “the answer”? Or is every such complex decision more responding to a koan? If you respond to a koan with a languaged answer, you might get hit with a bamboo stick, or the get-out bell might ring or the teacher might frown or laugh…because you wouldn’t be “even wrong”. Wisdom is not knowledge, not matter how "large. It’s something else altogether. As water is something else altogether than 2 hydrogens plus 1 oxygen. Or a liquid that does thus and so at various temperatures. Or…
Raimon Panikkar (one of my direct teachers) wrote about “the water(ness) of the drop”, and that is what I am wanting to touch here.


Check out this radically MINDBLOWING new product—13.8 billion years in the making!

Welcome to Reality™ :rofl:


For U Maia-“the water(ness) of the drop”, and that is what I am wanting to touch here.



Nothing spectacular, just a slightly different view of AI and what it can and cannot (yet) do, and what it may and may not lead to, and welcome for its overall lack of hyperbole.


Another FYI

Here the issue is not ChatGPT or generative AI, but with the scholars and academics who want it to be something perhaps it isn’t and what risks they are willing to take and what lengths they are willing to go to for academic recognition. Kudos to the undergrads who called them on it.

To my mind, this says more about the state of higher education (worldwide?) than it does about the state of AI. Methinks we may no longer have credible institutions of higher learning, so what does that mean for the credibility of science/knowledge generation moving forward?


Yes, and did you run across my post re: AI completely mis- answering a common question? The Q was: What weighs more, a pound of feathers or 5 pounds of iron? And the AI sagely responded: “They both weight the same.”
Why did it answer thus? Because it is a cliche search engine which doesn’t read carefully… grabs the main words, looks for matches, picks the most common. Wisdom it ain’t!
Still I am troubled that some of my very intelligent human friends are playing with it and exclaiming things like “Pretty impressive!”.
When I point out instances of mechanical dumbness and even confabulations, it rolls right off…
What are we who are very unimpressed to do??

On the topic of Education: I have been shocked for a long time whenever I have run across the workbooks or book assignments for various levels from elementary to high school to college: generally the levels appear to have slid backwards so that materials for high school are closer to elementary, and college levels are closer to high school.
Research estimates the average American reading comprehension level to be about 8th grade…
But the most shocking thing I discovered in an interview on an NPR hour-show was when two people formerly “in the field” described the “back end” (poorly paid) human labeling of symbols and images that goes on before the data base becomes part of the bot, and then the ppost-time flagging, correcting and/or deleting that goes on by (poorly paid) humans to make up for bot errors, fabulations, “immoral” suggestions, etc This
turns out to be the case in every profitable pocket of capitalism, the hidden banks of poor workers who are bored/underpaid by labors unmentioned in glamorous articles/pieces about “Impressive” AI parlor tricks.
So does all this qualify me as an apprentice curmudgeon??

“Our universities fail to guide us down the easiest paths to wisdom… Rather than teaching a sense of awe, they teach the very opposite: counting and measuring over delight, sobriety over enchantment, a rigid hold on scattered individual parts over an affinity for the unified and whole. These are not schools of wisdom, after all, but schools of knowledge, though they take for granted that which they cannot teach — the capacity for experience, the capacity for being moved, the Goethean sense of wonderment.”

  --Hermann Hesse