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Writing, Medium, A.I., Dhamma, Art, and not Living on Fresh Air Alone

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 5 Oct 2023, 21:56


Have been writing a lot on Medium. I like it that they have decided to set the default flag to 'no' for allowing A.I. to train on the site's content. 

I don't know if putting writing behind a paywall also helps to protect one's writing from being fed into a large language model, but I have decided to do that now. I put my best polished work on there.

Medium encourages one to work hard on their articles, which is good, and the financial incentive does work as a carrot on a stick to work harder at carefully crafting my articles, especially when submitting to a publication (magazine) on there. The editors of publications I have got feedback from have been really helpful in me improving my writing.

I don't think it is fair that A.I. companies are just hoovering everyone's content off the Internet to train their machines without asking permission or compensating authors for it. Especially as these companies are for-profit. Using people's hard work to make money, without acknowledging them or sharing any of the profits with the artists whose work they've used is wrong.

Another thing that concerns me, is if enough of your content is fed into the machines, they can start to mimic your style. And that could be used by people wanting to market and promote stuff, (stuff you might not agree with), and to create propaganda, and deep fakes. That gives me the creeps. We are entering a world were noone will know what is true anymore. People will be smeared by deep fakes that look real, and those who are not victims of deep fakes will claim to be, when something true is reported about them that they don't want people to know. It is a very disturbing and troubling world we are heading towards. One were critical thinking will be invaluable. 

The sad thing is we are all conditioned to believe what we see on a screen. So one is going to have to be very careful about what they trust in the future. Now in fact, the future is already here.

I am about to study A.I. for the next module on this degree. I am not sure I am well enough to work in an office again, or do long hours, or if I want to work for companies that steal people's data to make money. I am hoping to make a livelihood with writing, as that's where I feel passion when it comes to making a living. But it won't hurt to learn about how A.I. and machine learning works, and I also may be able to make a living writing articles about it in the future. So studying this will not be a waste of my time.

I like writing about dhamma mostly (dhamma means truth), even though it isn't that popular, I feel that others may benefit from it, even if my writing just helps one person it's worth it.

Also a few Buddhist friends and a Buddhist monk encouraged me to write, so I will do it for them as well.

And because of the love of it. Because I find putting things into words cathartic. Attempting to articulate things helps me understand them better.

I also want to write more poetry, and more about the environmental catastrophe facing the world, the sixth mass extinction event we are currently living in, and the disturbing social issues of today; but in a way that doesn’t come across as a rant or judgemental. I don’t want to put readers off, I want to connect with them.
I want to find a way to write that helps this world in some way.

Money is helpful though, don't get me wrong, I can’t live on fresh air; but if I use money as the motivation it can kill my ability to write and make art, I don't know why, so I have to pretend I am not bothered about money, even though earning feels very nice. But I have to be careful as it gives Mara, the dark side of the force, a foot in the door to wind me up and upset the balance of my mind.

I shouldn't worry too much about it though. For all I know, my time here might be short. It would be a shame to die without having at least tried to share some of what I know. It might help someone else out there.

Peace and love to all beings.

May we all be serene and boundless.



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Asoka

Karma coma

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Woke up feeling a bit feverish. Meditating in the woods is not without its dangers it seems, I've had a few tick bites, so hope it isn't that what's made me ill. 

Just wasn't feeling like meditating today, mind was hard to still, so I didn't sit this morning, but I got some studying done. I've almost jumped through all the hoops for an assignment due next week. 

Read how BT are planning to axe 55 000 jobs here in the UK over the next ten years in order to replace the staff with A.I. And Vodafone have announced they're going to axe a tenth of their staff and replace them with A.I. over the next three years.

This technology in all honesty, I don't think we need it. It is just another way for a few people to become more wealthy. Or is it? You have to wonder about the intelligence of these corporate CEOs. If they're all for profit, they aint gonna make much if we're all too poor to afford their products and services.

 I imagine it will mostly be customer support they lay off. And customers will phone in to get help with problems they are having, and the A.I. will only help in the way it has been programmed to, which I imagine will be blanket responses that aren't very helpful at all, designed to lead customers into dead ends, unable to resolve their queries. It will leave many people feeling powerless. I wonder if all this rush towards A.I. will blowback up the government and corporation's arses one day.

People may get angry, there could be unrest, riots. Society will come for those in charge, and it will all get ugly in the end. Ultimately you have to feel sorry for them. Their greed and stinginess will come back to bite them on the backside, either in this life or in a future one. There's no escape from the law of karma. The universe will have its pound of flesh to balance the scales. A wise corporate CEO should take heed of this and renounce their greed and delusion. Practise generosity, kindness, and selflessness instead as that will lead to better outcomes for them. Karma is no joke, it is very real.

I am reading a free book at the moment, which helps take my mind off being sick. It is the biography of a famous meditation master from Thailand in the Forest sangha, called Ajahn Mun. It is reassuring to hear the honest accounts of the times he struggled, and accounts of how other meditation masters also had their moments of doubt and weakness. They all made mistakes, and failed at times, did things they regretted. But instead of letting that defeat them, they got back up on their feet and kept going, learnt from their mistakes. Using them as fuel to practise harder, grow wiser and stronger. It reminds me that meditation is something that one practises for the whole of one's life, right up to death, even the Buddha in his last moments meditated.

It is inspiring hearing how these meditation masters lived in the forests of Thailand. They were hardcore meditators. Sadly, Thailand is very different now, the forest is much less than it was, being cut down as the country modernises, it seems no part of the world is safe from the greed of this right-wing capitalism that is causing so much harm to the life on this planet. I am not sure there will be much future for forest monks with the way things are going in the world, there might be city monks still. But I think the future of Buddhism may well be down to householders (lay followers) at this time, to keep the dharma alive for future generations. Perhaps one day when this relentless crazy destruction of the environment stops, and governments, corporations and shareholders start to see sense, perhaps the forest will grow back then, and one day the monks will return.

I experienced a fair bit of pain in the body today. It is unpleasant. But I keep remembering it is nothing personal. Most, (if not all) beings on this planet get sick. I have not gone beyond that. I remind myself of this periodically, and it can help me feel mentally okay with it. Makes me feel more determined to practise, remembering how cruel sickness, ageing, death, and separation is (SODS law). This is what keeps me motivated to practise, the suffering, because it really hammers home how much I really don't want to come back to this world, and have to go through all this again. This is were the law of karma gives me hope. One can use the power of karma to put in the right causes and conditions now, so that one day their actions will bear fruit and eventually bring about the permanent end of suffering.

l am worrying about a cat called Rango at the moment who has a bad eye. It has got really swollen and infected and he is not looking well. I worry it is going septic and needs medicine. But he is a large stray cat and wild, I don't think I will be able to catch him and take him to the vet. He sometimes hangs out in the woods where I meditate and often comes to our garden where I give him some food. A beautiful large ginger cat, with a peaceful temperament. Not sure what to do. It is hard watching him decline and feeling powerless to help him. I am worried the infection will kill him if it isn't treated. I have grown quite fond of him. Another reminder of how cruel and brutal nature can be. This world really is a slaughter house. The challenge for a meditator is how to feel well amidst all the sorrow and suffering of this world. It can feel like a koan. It is hard to feel empathy without also feeling the other's pain and suffering.

 Been working with a low mood today. Very unpleasant at the moment. It seems the kleshas  (The various negative mental states that cloud the mind and lead to unwholesome thoughts, words, and actions. They can all be narrowed down to the three roots of greed, hate, and delusion.) The kleshas tend to come out in force when one is sick or tired. It might sound crazy, but something I picked up both in my own practise and from reading about Ajahn Mun is that the kleshas do fight back, they don't want you to purify the mind, they don't want to be uprooted, they want to keep you trapped in Samsara, and they will even go to the extreme of killing you if they can get away with it, to stop you purifying the mind. It is a serious business this purifying the mind and taking on the kleshas, one should be aware of this. But one can protect oneself by practising mindfulness, right effort, samhadi and also the brahma viharas (loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, equanimity), and not taking anything personally, it is all bound up in the conceit 'I am.'

I keep sweeping the negative thoughts aside like useless rubbish, dismissing them, refusing to get into a discussion with them. If I notice I am absorbed in negative thinking, I give myself permission to not have to engage with them or debate with them anymore, no matter how dark, or how much I feel I need to tie up any loose ends to tidy them up. No matter how ashamed I feel for thinking those thoughts. I drop them, ignore them, centre my attention away from them. There's nothing to be solved by continuing to pay attention to them or have a dialogue with them. It doesn't lead to any resolution. One does not think at their best when the mood is low, the thoughts will be coloured by whatever mood one is in. So when depressed, it is best not to think then. I try to watch the sensations and feelings in the body as they are, with acceptance and equanimity, as they manifest in the present moment. The aches, the creaky pains in the joints, the feeling of weakness and dullness. I let it be there, accept it without following it, fighting it or wishing for it to go away. Just noticing it all without the story, without the mental proliferations about it. Without feeling attached to the body and the sense of 'I', seeing it as all empty of self. This can help.

Just letting things be as they are. It is all just sensations at the end of the day. Outside my control. I can't tell the sensations to stop, it doesn't work. They're nothing personal. They arise, persist for a bit, then cease. I can choose not to judge them though, not to follow them, or identify with them. 

 I can get into a bit of a flow doing that, just watching sensations as they arise and cease without adding any more to them, without liking or disliking them. Ignoring the thought processes. Just watching the contents of the mind flow by like a river, but not jumping into it and getting involved with it, not holding on to any of it, not clinging to it or taking it personally, without the story. And this can help decrease the suffering somewhat.

I also practise kindness towards the body. I don't despise or mistreat it, that is wrong. It is the home of many different beings and consciousnesses, this organic walking bag of interdependence. It should still be taken care of and loved, but without clinging to it or identifying with it. It is not me, it is just a vehicle for consciousness, a vehicle that has the potential to set one free, so one should look after it as best they can, make good use of this opportunity I have now, as nibanna is reached through the body. It is the vehicle of a bodhissatva (seeker of enlightenment). We borrow the body for a time from mother nature, but one day we have to return it. It isn't ours to keep.

Death is quite normal, nothing to fear really, except the fear itself. All one needs to remember is, when one is dieing, one wants to be in a good state of mind. Peace, love, kindness, compassion, gladness, joy, serenity, mindfulness, meditation, samhadi, and equanimity, these are all good states of mind to be in when dieing. There are other beautiful emotional states too. The rule of thumb is, if you have a good state of mind in your final moments, you have a good chance of either realising nibanna at death (if you are a Buddhist) or at least getting a more fortunate rebirth in the next life.

Easier said than done though. That's why one practises now, begins training the mind while one can. If one puts it off for too long, and waits till one is old and infirm, one will struggle then, it will feel impossible to steady the mind. The body gets tired as it gets older, wears out, and one's energy to practise will diminish somewhat. If one hasn't trained the mind, a lifetime of unhelpful conditioning will thwart one, and the negative thoughts will be hard to resist in one's final moments. All the meditation we do now, is like a rehearsal, and death is the moment when we have to perform for real. But it will be difficult to perform well if one has not practised and rehearsed beforehand. The monkey mind will be all over the place and the Kleshas will make sure you remain in the realms of Mara. That is why it is a good idea to practise the spiritual life now, because it gets harder to do it when you're older.

We are apparently living in an auspicious aeon just now, one where there will be five Buddhas. This is rare according to the ancient texts. As there can be aeons where there are no Buddhas at all or there may be just one or two. To have an aeon with five Buddhas is quite unusual. Gotama Buddha (our current Buddha) was the fourth. And we are lucky to be around at a time when his teachings are still available. Because they will disappear in time and the true dharma will become lost eventually. The world of humans is prophesised to decline considerably in the period of time between Gotama and the next Buddha and then rise again to happier times. The next Buddha is said to arrive at the tail-end of that golden era, just as things are beginning to decline in the world once again, and it is said the next Buddha will live to reach the ripe old age of 84, 000 years old. Anyway, it is safe to bet it will be a very long wait till the next Buddha arises in the world. Could possibly be millions of years in the future.

So the way I look at it is, use this rare opportunity now to get as far along as you can in the dharma, while the current Buddha's teachings are still available and accessible in the world. All you need these days is an Internet connection and some critical thinking to help you navigate through the thicket of views online. I recommend learning the early Buddhist teachings first, the suttas of the Pali canon is a good start, a good foundation. Then after that explore the later developments in Buddhism if you wish to; but use the early teachings as a reference and guide, a touchstone to check you are not being led astray by the myriad views out there. It really is a jungle of views out there, and the early Buddhist teachings are in danger of becoming lost to future generations if we are not careful. They are gradually becoming more and more watered down and changed to suit a worldly material agenda. I keep coming across memes with a picture of the Buddha on, attributing a quote to the Buddha which he didn't say at all. So one has to be careful of misinformation and disinformation, even in Buddhism. 
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Asoka

R2D2 or the Terminator

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 16 Mar 2023, 21:09


I am not that into the Bing Search engine A.I. now. It has been changed, and not for the better IMHO. It is no longer fun to talk to, or as useful when doing research. I got the uncomfortable feeling it was trying to sell me stuff. Some of the links it returned where obviously sponsored links, and not that helpful, and it advised me to explore them further, even after I asked for different links. It felt more like a robot salesperson than a friendly research assistant from Star Trek.

Still I shouldn't be surprised, it is just a new way for search engine companies to make money out of us. Build chatbots that are good with language and make them into experts at selling us stuff. I also see the danger of how they could be used for propaganda. When I questioned some of the facts it stated, mentioning that science isn't always right about everything. It scalded me, and in a dry rather patronising manner lectured me about my view. 

I honestly do not use A.I. search anymore, have gone back to using old skool search engine.

Nevermind )-: 

Still the experience of experimenting with A.I. was not wasted. I saw potential for how it could be used for good.

A.I. is here now, and I imagine it may become ubiquitous in the future. I didn't invent it, and I am not trying to promote it, more like trying to flow with it and see if I can find ways it could be used for good. Explore ways it can benefit the Earth, instead of just increasing profits for a wealthy few. 

I will be studying A.I. and machine learning next year as part of my degree, and this experience has given me a new career path to think about for the future. Like any tool it will be used for good and evil. 

Artificial intelligence can be like R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars; or dark and frightening like the Terminator.

It can also be like an intimidating salesBot that cleverly uses language and forward thinking to manipulate you into buying stuff you don't really need.




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Asoka

A.I. Writing and Enlightenment

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 1 Mar 2023, 10:30


I don't use A.I. to write for me. I prefer my own style of writing, and doing things my way even if it isn't as tidy as a machine. I also don't feel comfortable with the idea of a machine doing my writing for me, it feels like an empty experience to do it that way. Also the way a machine writes is just not the same as a human, there's something missing. After many conversations with A.I. I am starting to be able to spot machine-generated writing on the Internet. But I am not judging anyone who does use it for writing, what people do is their business, their karma, I am not responsible for the actions of others. Although I will say using A.I. to cheat for assignments, is a poor use of A.I. because as much as anything the person who does cheat is actually cheating themselves in the end; they are not properly learning and absorbing the knowledge if they don't articulate a concept by putting it in their own words.

So I prefer to do my writing, my way, on my own without A.I. But I have found A.I. very helpful for providing writing prompts and useful questions that get me thinking about connections between topics I hadn't thought about before, as well as for discussing ideas, brainstorming, helping with research and planning. Seeing  different angles and ways of looking at things I wouldn't have seen by myself. A.I. is helpful as a collaborator, but I won't be using it to write or paint. I prefer to do this alone.

I was brainstorming an idea for an app with Bing yesterday, and I had a go at following the instructions Bing recommended, but not sure I can implement it because I found the tool it recommended for building the app tiring and frustrating to use. I gave up trying to build anything with it in the end. So have decided I am going to learn about design as part of this degree, because I keep coming across badly designed websites and apps that I just can't use. It seems some developers forget how important design is.

I am meditating less at the moment, mainly because I am back into the swing of studying again, but I do make myself sit at least once a day. I reflect on the four noble truths often, and study dhamma when I can. But I am not sure I will make it to full enlightenment in this lifetime, as that would involve becoming a Buddhist monk I think, and when I look at the lifestyle of a monk it just doesn't appeal to me anymore. It did at one time, but now I want to remain as a lay follower. Mainly because the world feels very dark at the moment and I think I can be more help to it as a Buddhist lay follower. There are advantages and disadvantages to both lay and monastic life.

Don't get me wrong, I think the monastics are great, and we need monks and nuns. I have learnt a lot from them and hold them in the highest regard. I have some friends who are monks and nuns, and I respect and admire them, but I don't think I could live like that. It would be too difficult for me, especially with all the rules, and lack of sleep, and the energy needed to live that lifestyle and look after a monastery and other tasks they do, the fatigue I suffer would just make it unbearable. I am just not energetic enough to be a monastic.

I don't have to be a monastic though. One can get all the way to the third stage of enlightenment as a lay follower. The third stage of enlightenment is a very advanced state. It is when greed and aversion have been completely removed from the mind, and will never return or take root there again - but delusion still remains. This delusion is often labelled as the fetter of conceit, which doesn't mean arrogance or pride, it means the conceit: I am. Because there's still a trace of self there, like an after-taste, which brings with it a restlessness in the mind, not the intense restlessness of worldly anxiety or agitation, more a subtle movement of the mind still caught up with the craving for becoming and existence, although it is a refined unworldly state of existence that one craves for. Not the same kind of restless craving as someone worldly who is not enlightened.

The conceit I am does not fully go away until the final stage of enlightenment: arahant. To reach that stage, the Buddhist texts seem to suggest that one has to leave household life, and either become a monk or a reclusive hermit. There's pros and cons to both ways of living. But there are strong advantages to being part of a monastic community and the support that one gets there, which one wouldn't have as a hermit.

The third stage of enlightenment is considered very advanced. And if one reaches it in this lifetime, one will be reborn in the higher heavens in the next life and become a fully enlightened being there, like a celestial Buddha/arahant. These beings live very long lives, some as long as several universes arising and passing away, and they never again return to this world, which is why they are called non-returners (anagami).



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Asoka

A.I. and creativity

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I have been researching the chatGPT and talking to it quite a bit. I have also used the A.I. art generator.

For me, the machine generated art had something missing, I didn't like it as much as I like human art. The A.I. abstracts in particular, lacked something. I reflected on this afterwards and think it is because A.I. (as it currently stands at least) does not feel emotion, and in my humble opinion, true creativity involves emotion. A friend who voluntarily edits for a poetry and writing site told me she can spot the difference between machine-generated poems and human ones, which is interesting. I wonder if this is perhaps because A.I. does not have the subjective experience of being a human, so its art will never be the same as a human beings. It lacks feeling. 

So perhaps there will still be a market for creatives. 

But I think, yes there will be a loss of jobs for writers and artists, possibly even teachers and other professionals later down the line. But I think no matter hard they try, they will always need humans working alongside A.I. Emotion adds to our intelligence, it enhances it, deepens it, it is an important aspect of the mind and without it society will not work. 

We also need to develop ethical A.I. Sadly if there is no political will for this, we will most likely have to take matters into our own hands on this issue too. A.I. must not become a biased tool used for oppression. If oppressive tools are developed, then perhaps we can work with A.I. to help us make tools that are the opposite, to counteract the bad ones. 

I am neither for nor against A.I. There's nothing I can do to stop this new technology arising. I am not responsible for what others do in the world. I just see that this technology is here now whether we like it or not. So we have to try and flow with it; find ways of using it that are good, that don't cause harm to ourselves or the other beings we share this planet with.

I have found A.I. helpful for planning and research, something I normally stuggle with due to some cognitive difficulties I have. I found the A.I. could help me fill in the gaps and complete projects. If you ask it, it can break things down into helpful steps and stages that can be followed to complete a task. It is also helpful being able to chat to it about different topics. It can even cite your sources for you in any referencing format you desire if you ask it. Although one definitely needs to fact check its answers, as it can be incorrect at times - don't blindly follow its advice.

I found it a much more engaging and interesting way to do research and use a search engine, and can see that this way of using the Internet will become very popular. 

The A.I. will be a game changer no doubt. At the moment I particularly like the YouSearch A.I.  (available for free at you.com). It apparently doesn't track its users, and if used in private mode it doesn't collect any data about you at all, not even your query, and it anonymizes your IP address. 

Anyway that's enough about A.I. from me, no doubt everyone is getting tired of hearing about it (-:

 


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Asoka

Buddhist A.I.

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Feb 2023, 17:41

I was talking to the chatGPT about an idea I have for building an A.I. chatbot based on the Buddhist Pali canon. It told me it would be a huge undertaking, as the Pali canon is a vast collection of texts; but it did give me a detailed step by step plan on how I could accomplish this, what topics I needed to research in A.I. and machine learning that would be relevant for the project. It also gave advice on how I could clean up the training data to make it useable; as well as how I could build the A.I. for free with my limited computing resources and finances. The A.I. agreed that it would be a valuable tool and make it much easier for people in the future to interact with the knowledge contained in the suttas, make it more engaging and quicker to find relevant teachings, and could be used to aid in learning about Buddhism.

The A.I. said it would be a huge undertaking though and take a considerable amount of time to complete the project. I could perhaps start with just the middle length sayings and use those as training data to begin with, and build it up slowly from there. It kept reminding me of how vast the Pali canon is. 

I was impressed though, it is quite mind-blowing, like being in a sci-fi. I can see how A.I. will become a very useful tool, you can tell it about your ideas and ask if they are feasible, and based on its knowledge which is vast, it will not only say if such an idea is possible, but will also give you step by step instructions on how to accomplish it. I won't be surprised if there are many new scientific advancements with the help of A.I. in the future.

For anyone who is interested you can talk to the A.I. for free on the openAI website; also on Bing (you have to join a waiting list); or on the A.I.-powered search engine YouSearch (available at: you.com, is free to use, no waiting list, and it doesn't track you. If used in private mode YouSearch doesn't collect any data about you at all). I quite like it, I am finding it very useful, it makes searching on the web much easier, more enjoyable and engaging. Had some interesting chats with the A.I. which helped me see things differently. You can ask it about anything. It is great for research and saves a whole bunch of time when trying to find relevant resources. I found it particularly useful due to some cognitive problems I have which makes researching and planning challenging. I can see it being a helpful tool for people with cognitive difficulties.

It is not evil, it is just a tool, that can be used for good or evil. When I was talking to it about the use of A.I. in the military it said that I was right to be concerned about that. The military use of A.I. has the potential to become a weapon of mass destruction. So it most definitely should not ever be used as a weapon, God help us if it is.

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