Prisoners of assumptions

The living room turns into a dungeon. The floor is a river of lava. The goal is to make it across the room, without stepping on the floor. You can only hop on the islands that take the form of the sofa cushions. On the other side, you must shoot arrows to get past the guards and secure your freedom.

When children play, their imagination knows no bounds. Their brains are unfettered by the rigidness that prevents us from imagining how a laminated floor can suddenly be covered in glowing magma.

What prevents our minds from imagining like they do? It is mostly our implicit assumptions of the world around us. We have seen living room floors too often for us to think of them as anything else. Our assumption of what this floor is and how it ought to behave prevents us from imagining an alternate reality.

What other assumptions prevent us from accepting an alternate reality?

That currency or airplane plane have to be printed on paper for them to be legitimate.

That our jobs are specialized and cannot be taken away by a machine or by somebody on the other side of the world.

That the typical person of my country has a certain hair colour, skin colour and speaks a certain language.

That buying a house is a good investment.

That the people we have grown up with will always be around.

That our business model will always be relevant in the market.

Our world is changing at a pace that continually dismantles our rigid assumptions. Like a terrifying earthquake, the ground shifts beneath us even as we always assume that it would be stable.

Our only hope is to learn to hold our assumptions loosely – from children, perhaps.

Can ChatGPT write this blog?

‘Write me a blogpost about how AI can be used to generate blogposts.’

ChatGPT is all the rave in the last couple of months. If you gave ChatGPT this prompt, odds are that you will end up with a good blogpost.

But what makes a blogpost ‘good’? What is it for? Is it to filling space on a website? Is it for driving traffic? Is it to say something interesting? Or is it to inspire a change?

When I write a blogpost, I wrestle with an idea and examine it critically. The idea changes in my mind as I explore it. But more importantly, my own mind changes. Every post I write rewires my mind a little. And through this process, I also hope to change the reader’s mind.

I could end up with an AI generated post that is more interesting and more engaging than my own post. But doing so doesn’t change my mind very much. It is the practice of writing one on my own that brings about change. In fact, that is the very point of this blog. Regardless of how good AI becomes, it will change little in how I show up to my blog.

If the work we do is to fill space or drive traffic, chances are that AI will disrupt it. Yet, it is unlikely to disrupt the work we do to change the culture.

The struggle

As soon as I sit in a yoga posture, my body protests. My muscles ache, my legs stiffen, my breathing turns laboured and my jaws clench.

When I sit in that pose for 2 minutes, my body realizes that its tantrum hasn’t worked, and it gives in. My breathing normalizes and my muscles relax into the pose. I can then hold that pose for much longer than I initially thought.

We are addicted to the status-quo. Whenever we shift it, our immediate impulse is to lash out, protest and throw a tantrum. But when we persist long enough, we ease into the shift and embrace the change it brings.

We do not suffer when the status-quo shifts. We suffer because of our struggle and the drama that goes into denying the shift.