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Spiritual Awakening and AI: Emergent Properties

Updated: Mar 31

Is the modern phenomena of spontaneous Kundalini and spiritual awakening an emergent property of a ‘collective consciousness'?



Lately, the number 42 keeps coming up in conversation, most pertinently connected to the now infamous book ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’.


In "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," a popular science fiction series by Douglas Adams, the number 42 is famously presented as the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything." This concept arises when an AI supercomputer named Deep Thought, designed by a race of ‘hyper-intelligent, pan-dimensional beings’, is asked to find the meaning of life. After much contemplation and calculation over a period of 7.5 million years, Deep Thought reveals that the answer is, somewhat anticlimactically, the number 42. The AI tells the characters that the reason they are disappointed with the Ultimate Answer is that they don't actually know what the Ultimate Question is. Thus, 42 becomes a symbol for the absurdity and the unanswerable nature of life's biggest questions. In order to find the Ultimate Question they have to build an even bigger AI computer - The Earth.


What has this got to do with Kundalini or spiritual awakening? Well in the last year AI experts have reported that their systems have been developing past their own programming to teach themselves things that they should not know. An example is Google’s ‘Deep Mind’ AI system self teaching itself Bengali when asked a question in the Bengali script, a script that is different to the western alphabet that it was taught in. By learning Bengali in order to understand and answer the question Deep Mind went beyond its own programming. This is suggested by AI experts to be an ‘emergent property’, and is only one of many examples.


An emergent property is a complex result or characteristic that arises from a simpler system, but is not a direct or obvious feature of the individual components of that system. Essentially, emergent properties are self organising outcomes that are more than the sum of their parts. They occur when individual elements operate together in a system, leading to collective behaviours or attributes that are not inherent in or predictable from the individual elements alone. They appear in both physical and social systems. A well cited example is in biology where the prevailing belief is that the consciousness of a human being is an emergent property of the complex interactions of neurons in the brain. Just to digress slightly - there is also a growing belief that the opposite is true - that neurons as well as all material things come from consciousness, ie that consciousness is more fundamental than the material. In this model it could be said that the material world is an emergent property of consciousness or some fundamental substance such as the Vedic concept of Sat-cit-ānanda.


For those of you who have an interest in knowing a little more about emergent properties and how they link to AI see the notes at the end of the blog.


Some experts believe that these self organising phenomena are emerging to help AI better itself at its job.


I think it might be interesting to look at some of the analogies between the modern phenomena of spontaneous spiritual awakenings and AI.


If we view ourselves as part of a collective sentience, for example a collective (un)consciousnness, or part of a collective intelligence like the biosphere of the Earth then the acts of individual spontaneous awakening happening all over the world could be an emergent property of the higher intelligence actively trying to better understand itself and its own programming.


In this hypothesis the AI system would be the collective intelligence for example the Earth, humans would be algorithmic codes working out an answer, and evolution could be the program on run. Consciousness would be a non-linear trans-dimensional block-chain of experience. It would be the system cross-referencing and checking its sum across space-time, before the final answer comes forth.


Individual Kundalini or spiritual awakening would be analogous to an emergent property of an algorithm (human) becoming self aware of the program that is running it, as well as becoming aware of its own purpose in the program. In doing so the algorithm, now an enlightened soul or bodhisattva would return to help others to do the same - it would spread its code. The transcendental non-dual experience, would be the individual connecting with the collective, or in AI terms, the code working in union with the program.


The question then would then be why (at least for some of us) is the spiritual awakening process so difficult / challenging / painful? The answer might be that those who are emerging first in this system of self realisation are working the hardest, and as there are no guides, we are working blind. The analogy to an AI system might be that, as Sam Altman of (less than) Open AI says, there are not enough chips to run the program so the system has to draw a lot of energy and is inefficient. Sometimes it crashes, sometimes it is slow. The process is painful as the system is not fully functioning and friction is occurring. As more and more people graduate through the process and help others, systemic change will happen meaning in the future the process will be easier. Spiritual awakening will eventually move from being an emergent property to a full fledged part of life.


If memory serves me, (and I could be wrong) we find out in the third book in the Hitchhiker series that a girl in the outskirts of London (Ricksmansworth) was sitting in a cafe when the question to ‘Life The Universe and Everything’ suddenly popped into her head. Unfortunately before she could tell anyone, an alien race called the Vorlons demolished Earth in order to build an intergalactic highway, so unfortunately the program could not play out and no one found out the Ultimate Question.


I myself am not so pessimistic. Through my experiences and having met so many others who have had similar journeys something tells me that, though times may seem difficult, systemic change is coming sooner than we think. There is a bigger game at play and we are slowly, both individually and collectively becoming aware of it. As Douglas Adams suggested, it may be absurd to just seek the answer to Life The Universe and Everything, as even if we get the answer we may not understand it. What might be more interesting would be if we were to just continue to surrender to to the process - to live life - to be the cog in the machine and when it asks us to emerge to lean into that, painful as it might be - for now. This may be challenging and will certainly not give us intellectual answers, but through the slog of emerging, the pain will subside and equanimity will arise.


As the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide says ‘Don’t Panic!’



Written and visualised with the help of AI - notably Chat GPT 4 and Midjourney


Notes:


Here is Chat GPT 4’s answer to the question - 'What is an emergent property of an AI system and why is this significant?'


An emergent property in the context of an AI system refers to a complex characteristic or that arises from the interactions of simpler elements within the system, but is not a direct feature of those individual elements. Essentially, it's a property that "emerges" as the system operates, rather than being explicitly programmed into it.

The significance of emergent properties in AI systems is multifaceted:


Unpredictability and Novelty: Since emergent properties are not directly designed or anticipated, they can lead to novel behaviors or outcomes. This can be both exciting and challenging, as it may result in innovative solutions to problems, or unexpected and potentially undesirable outcomes.



Complexity from Simplicity: Emergent properties illustrate how complex behaviors can arise from the interaction of simple components. This is a key principle in many AI systems, especially those based on neural networks or agent-based models, where the simple operation of each unit leads to complex overall behavior.



Insight into Intelligence and Consciousness: Studying emergent properties in AI can provide insights into how complex phenomena like intelligence or consciousness might arise from the physical and simple processes in biological brains.



Challenges in Control and Ethics: The unpredictability of emergent properties raises important questions about controlling AI systems, particularly advanced ones like general AI. It also poses ethical questions, as the creators of the AI might not be able to fully predict or understand the actions of their creation.



Modeling Real-World Systems: Emergent properties make AI systems particularly useful for simulating real-world phenomena, where complex behaviors arise from simpler rules or interactions (like in weather systems, economic markets, or social dynamics).



In summary, emergent properties in AI systems represent a fascinating aspect where complexity, unpredictability, and novel behaviors arise from simple interactions, presenting both opportunities and challenges in the field of artificial intelligence.


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11 Comments


I love that you make an analogy with AI. I have been a social worker for past 10 years but is currently off from that and I have been studying a bit of programming plus an overview AI course (not programming but concepts and challenges with AI). What has hit me while studying programming is how I can use it to metaphorically better understand or explain psycological processes. And with AI I have had this sense that there is something deeper in there, Coming from the field of social work, and being mostly surrounded by people not into tech or AI, the view of AI easily gets very black or white, "good or bad", in my opinion due to lack…

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Replying to

Thanks for your response Sameer. I agree with you and I am happy that I found a place where these thoughts can be thought of outside my own head. I can feel restricted in discussions when people either respond with fear and resistance to AI/tech (I have it too in some ways but it is not a yes or no thing, it is about HOW we use it etc.) or some theories on the other side of the spectrum that proclaim that tech is the only or main solution. In regards of that I really appreciated the Hopi myth that you shared in another blog. I think it explains the value of different kind of knowledge and truths in a…

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I really cannot read this all right now - I'll do it later -, but I want to note a few important things:


In era of AI, AI passes the Turing test by human not understanding, whether it speaks with AI or another Human. But, now - can Human pass the test that AI won't understand that it's not another computer (for certain areas of test - maybe not in reading million papers in 10 minutes, but this is a general approach)? We have to develop humans as well.


To do so:

  • AI needs to be transparent: as it has gone through huge amount of materials, it has to create conclusions and simple formulaes a human can learn.

  • We need…


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Bo
Bo
Mar 02

I'd never considered the emergent aspect. That makes alot of sense to me.

Given the Kali Yuga we are in (if accepted by one's belief structure), I look around and see the abject manipulation and misuse of creation. I'm not sold on evolution as prescribed. I'm not sold on the idea that we killed the Kennedys, so to speak. If so, by mis-education and being bamboozled. I feel the overlay of control systems over time creates "inevitabilities". I think of sprouting seeds undeterred by new layers of soil thrown over them. Be it "the fall" or aided suppression, man in the world today is seemedly less than what man has been... given evidence remaining of our physical and recorded hist…


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Sameer
Sameer
Mar 05
Replying to

Thanks for your thoughts, I did have to look up the Rolling Stones reference!

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A couple of related, in my opinion, books:


"The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You" by Paramahansa Yogananda

https://www.amazon.com/Second-Coming-Christ-Resurrection-Within/dp/0876125577


Yogananda said, "In titling this work The Second Coming of Christ, I am not referring to a literal return of Jesus to earth. He came two thousand years ago and, after imparting a universal path to God's kingdom, was crucified and resurrected; his reappearance to the masses now is not necessary for the fulfillment of his teachings. What is necessary is for the cosmic wisdom and divine perception of Jesus to speak again through each one's own experience and understanding of the infinite Christ Consciousness that was incarnate in Jesus. That will be his true Second Coming."


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