Life is not a formula but an improvisation

Life is not a formula but an improvisation

Life is not a formula but an improvisation

The logical end to digitisation is living by formula. Many businesses are already heading in that direction. Artificial Intelligence is exacerbating the trend. Serious thinkers are concerned. Everyone should be concerned.

Most of us will not be concerned – nor will we deal with the problem – unless we think and explore philosophically as well as materially. Purely material purpose leads to robots who, let’s face it, are far more efficient than humans. They do not get ruffled by feelings, affections, worries, sensitivities. Their thinking is not creative. Even if programmed with artificial intelligence to be creative it will be only a form of lineal, logical creativity.

Illogicality and unreason are part of the success of humans. Think of Mozart. This dishevelled, disorganised, ill-behaved, drunken, pathetic example of a person produced some of the finest music ever written. Even his rival, collaborator, enemy, friend Salieri recognised that by comparison with Mozart he, Salieri, was a mediocrity. Just being able to realise that was a feat no robot could accomplish.

Steinbeck put it so clearly in The Grapes of Wrath when he said “The last, clear, definite function of Man, muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need. This is Man.” When we see a sunset as a mathematical formula we are forgetting that. Indeed, when we see any single aspect of life be it money, sex, violence or noise as a sole purpose, even if only temporarily, we lose the balance that makes us unique.

Each new baby has to discover its own purpose in life. Parents and teachers will help but the more they allow the individual to develop his or her own style the greater will be their contribution to the child’s success. Education is not about injecting knowledge and formulae but rather drawing out potential. There is something of da Vinci in your child. Let it play.

One of the nicest presents I ever had was from my first grandson when he was four, thirty years ago. It was a stone from the sea shore. He had inscribed it with a message. I still have it. It had little artistic merit, and no intrinsic value. The writing has worn thin but the message will never fade. It will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was Tim’s improvisation of a piece of art and to me it is as beautiful as the Mona Lisa.

Trying to help people in their old age to maintain interest and stave off dementia I have been experimenting by getting them to read some philosophy every week. Initially, some of them find this difficult. Abstract thinking is never easy and the mantra of retirement is to make less effort – quite wrong in light of what we now know about keeping the grey cells working. Very quickly the majority of my clients enjoy it because it makes them ask about the purpose of their lives so far and of what is left and about their potential as grandparents.

Arts has substantially given way to Science in universities. Science is already giving way to Technology. Desirable as it is to learn all we can about how things work it is equally critical that we revive and sustain the joys of our very sentient capabilities. If we lose those we condemn the species as we know it to extinction.

In the process we will lose love, the most precious of our possessions.