‘The time is short, the hour is late and good forces are willing.’
When someone who finds leverage for big change in the world comes to visit, it is so very worthwhile to hear their offering. In their presence we catch a piece of them and something new is born in us that may germinate and flower in its unique way.
Nicanor Perlas, our 2019 conference key note speaker from the Philippines, was inspiring at a practical level as well as theoretical, as he wanted to do just that: to get us moving and not simply leave us with warm inspiring ideas or important thoughts. He presented a three stage approach to comprehending the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI), explaining why he moved his focus from his life-long work in Biodynamic farming and environmental activism to fully concentrate on the Artificial Intelligence industry. He in fact sees the coming generations of AI as the single greatest current threat to our humanity. He also gave us a taste of what scientists strive for when they come up with new theories.
To recapitulate for both attendees and those of you who missed the feast, Nicanor gave us his equation (Einstein would be impressed) RI=f(I.C.I) or
the Result of an Intervention depends on the Interior Condition of the Individual
So to say that our own inner condition will determine the results of our endeavours. Yes – we can do something, and we must if Nicanor’s message is to be heeded. His first lecture was a background on the difficulties presented by the growing and rapidly developing AI industry, from people monitoring and human mind hijacking to AI finding its own independent intelligence, with the potential for willful acts that could compromise human life. Through thought bytes of ‘what is it to be human?’ and ‘how do we maintain this?’ the threats to our freedom and democracy were laid in front of us. Movement is fast along a continuum from basic AI to Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI), which is where the grave concern lies. AI is a growingly independent system that lacks human morals and commonsense.
There is concurrently a positive force of AI, to AWAKEN our humanity within and collectively and encourage our separation from, and a healthy suspicion of the super-fix-everything trap that AI brings.
Moving on from the great distraction of materialism, which has reigned for some time (the 1st scientific revolution), Nicanor distinguished the 2nd and 3rd scientific revolutions of Post Materialism (2SR) and Spiritual Science (3SR). Each new revolution encircles the previous in the ‘journey through materialism’ and can be seen as a positive progressive development. Whilst the first two are limited, they provide a platform and a bridge to spiritual science, akin to a stage for the 3SR to dance on. In lecture two, Nicanor encourages our flexibility to work and connect in each SR, rather than to alienate ourselves on high moral ground and differences.
Nicanor implored that we must not run away, that our conscious attention is paramount and we must address the de-humanising elements of AI. He vocalised that that ‘the time for silent quiet study groups alone is over’ and we must develop our capacity to rise to the real level of counteracting AI.
I especially enjoyed deepening in the conversation cafés supporting the key note lectures, held in groups of around 12 people. Germinating (or exploding) thoughts and impulses transcending human physical boundary were shared and chewed over to bring a level of clarity and inspiration. From the chilling reality of lecture one to a sense of progress and possibility presented in lecture two, we then stepped into exciting new frontiers of Nicanor’s research in the final lecture.
By placing the human being in the centre of the elements of our societal situation and allowing a breathing of two-way communication between these elements (Society, AI and Worldview) each also connected to the central Human Being, balance can be restored.
Action arises from our inner impulses but is often hampered by our pain and fear. We are bound to repeat the pain of the past if we don’t embrace the trials of our development. At these critical points we can find answers and empower ourselves, and this is where our Interior Condition is significant. We must have a question, as there is no journey without a quest.
In his supporting presentation Herbert Wolpert returned us to inner reflection as he presented on Otto Sharma’s U Theory and Spiral dynamics. Both models encourage observation of our fear points or limitations and inspire us to move past these. They call upon our higher I Am to be more and more present in life.
When we take action together we make new karma with each other. Reading books such as ‘The age of Surveillance Capitalism’ by Zuboff, Rupert Sheldrake’s work on morphogenetic fields and Nicanor’s publication ‘Humanity’s Last Stand: the Challenge of Artificial Intelligence, A Spiritual Scientific Response’ may inspire us. Nicanor’s plea to us in his Science of Activism for Effective Action was overwhelmingly that time is short, the hour is late and good forces are willing, and for us to:
- Seek Archangel Michael’s support and then take a step.
- Work together and seek help from the spiritual world (Christ, the Divine, the Logos).
- Use collective prayer and active positive imaginations of the end goal and feel into this together.
- Be diligent with our own Inner work, to prepare our Interior Condition for the challenging moments.
- Avoid silos and remember we have more commonalities than differences.
- Listen and be present with others in preference to sharing our own ideas.
- Have gratitude for the force that moves us.
- Ritualise these actions in our lives.
The panel discussion brought to light so many questions raised by the conference topic and there was not time to cover these. But a panel is not the only place for such answers to be found and questions will and should continue to arise for all of us, in many regards in life, in fact the essence of progress is in forming questions, bringing these to focus and then seeking.
Warmed and deeply enriched from my experience in Christchurch at last year’s conference, I returned without question for 2019. It was so different and so important. Focus had changed to match the critical and urgent messages of our key presentations, the lectures and the eurythmy. Bringing a sense of ‘now is the time for my action’ to those present.
The annual anthroposophical conference demands a huge effort in preparation, often by a few enthusiasts who produce a seamless and extraordinary menu of offering. More swing in to action during the event to add their contribution, such as other key speakers and performers, conversation cafe facilitators and those holding the workshops and closing elements. We are lucky to have such a rich and deep annual event to keep us aligned and refreshed in our convictions. We come together across multiple disciplines and interests as seasoned or new anthroposophists, just once a year to indulge in our common specialty together.
Conference 2019 brought together significant presentations in addition to our main speakers. The most exquisite performance program was presented by Swiss Light Eurythmy group. Weaving us, human beings, in to the earth in Saturday night’s expression “The Song of the Earth, I Matter to Matter”. Much more than simply ‘I can heal or harm this earth’, but that I am important to this earth. With lightning fast strokes of arms and featherlight feet, the impulse was presented to us in a colour and movement delight. Forming of ourselves into the world, through accompanying speech was part of the eurythmy performances. Then a series of humous and poignant pieces ensued, though the messages remained reverent.
The sense diverse and immersive nature of Anthroposophical Society Conferences challenges and uplifts you, sometimes outside of comfort or skill zone. This was definitely the case for me with the morning song, where my brain and musical short term memory were indeed fully challenged. But I tried hard and it felt good!
The break out workshops on a tapestry of topics gave us a chance to enjoy professional and other special interests, sometimes in a richer sensory regard. Open space was fun. It is initiated and formed out of freedom. Impulses arising in one person will often be shared by others and this space allows for the creation and birth of new initiatives, or development of current important impulses. I feel we will learn to grab this opportunity as a community and make it more fruitful as we gain more experience with the process.
A Closing thought for consideration. Last year there comments in the closing ceremony around our age-old cry about dwindling and aging patronage within anthroposophy. It is helpful to bear in mind that people like me, have recently raised young children, been active in our local schools and have now become teenager taxi-mum whilst navigating the sometimes overwhelming challenges that teenagers (or their peer community) bring to us. We may have attended anthroposophical reading group for parents during this time, not to mention the school carnivals, fairs, open days, fundraisers and crafting that parents will do. Now, at 50 I’m freer and interested to engage with the Society. Each stage of life provides an opportunity to learn and grow. Something very precious to consider is the dedication, vitality and wisdom of members in the later phases of life. You are inspiring in leadership, engaging in meaningful activities and maintain good mental faculty. What a true inspiration and gift.
My gratitude to the organisers, contributors and the Society for the 2019 conference.
Sarah Oliver, Hamilton