Intelligence in the age of Consciousness

Yfke Laanstra

When we talk about intelligence levels within leadership and organizational development, we are all familiar with the abbreviations and meanings of IQ (cognitive), EQ (emotional), SQ (spiritual) and FQ (physical). Over time, more and more attention has been paid to self-knowledge and the development of so-called soft skills, to listening to our intuition and the signs of our body. We increasingly act from a holistic vision, in the sense that we recognise emotional, spiritual and mental (energy) bodies as well as our physical bodies. Bodies that each absorb, process and generate ( perceivable ) output.

From IQ to AI
However, in the information-driven age in which we find ourselves today, these quotients are put under pressure and we are challenged to redefine which of them are of real importance and when. For us as human beings: in the world, on the planet and in the society in which we live. On a macro and on a micro level. And more importantly: whether this interpretation, with all of our ongoing insights, is still sufficient. We are increasingly confronted with (self-learning) systems, computers and algorithms that far surpass us in terms of our ability to absorb and process knowledge (read: IQ). Artificial Intelligence (AI) has since arrived and is developing at a rapid speed.

'Within ten years we will be able to buy computers that match the calculating power of our own brain, and less than twenty five years later we will have computers with the capacity of all human brains combined.'

~ from 'Bits, Bytes & Bewustzijn'.


Data is the new oil: an enormous amount of data about us is being generated, collected and analysed. However, the map is not the territory, there is so much more that cannot (yet) be measured, interpreted or observed (in and around us) by contemporary science.

'We move from data to information to knowledge to wisdom. Data isn't real knowledge'

By means of algorithms, however, AI is now able to read, predict and thus influence our behaviour, beliefs, preferences and opinions almost flawlessly. Just think of the Cambridge Analytica scandal surrounding the American presidential elections.

From EQ to LovingAI

'We are faced with the challenge that machines are becoming more and more human and that people are increasingly resembling machines'.

Over the years, the emphasis has shifted to the development of our EQ and SQ: our ability to empathise, be compassionate, be fully present with the other person, and be in touch with our deeper knowledge, our intuition. However, the rise of the smartphone has in many cases (partly) offset this development as we have collectively spent more time behind screens than in face-to-face contact with each other. We are becoming more and more addicted to, or dependent on, computer technology. Technologies that anchor us more and more in our heads, in time, in the material, increasingly disconnected from our feelings and from the world around us. Our streetscape and social life are increasingly dominated by people immersed in their smartphones, often referred to as zombification. Statistics worldwide show that we are more connected than ever, but that as a collective we have never felt so alone.

In addition to Smart, many systems are now becoming Kind (EQ, https://lovingai.org). Artificial intelligence is becoming able to read our facial expressions through cameras, to interpret micro-signals and from there to respond to our feelings. Microsignals such as perspiration levels, temperature and hormone fluctuations. In addition, it can also read microsignals in our voice via microphones, by means of voice recognition. Chatbots and digital assistants (think of Ava or Mica) are becoming increasingly human, both visually and audibly, AI psychiatrists and virtual therapists are emerging and Virtual Reality is being used to increase empathy. Through this 'artificial EQ', AI is able to respond appropriately: for example, to show understanding and compassion when appropriate. 

All this makes it less and less clear where our own feelings and thoughts actually originate from. Have they been influenced and manipulated from the outside, for example by AI systems/supercomputers such as Google and Facebook, or are they to be considered 'original'? Of course there are a lot of programs running in each of us, out of our upbringing, our culture and our frame of reference, but nowadays each moment we are bombarded with input and stimuli that have an influence on both our outside and inside world. Knowing oneself is no longer a luxury but a bitter necessity. If only to guard our autonomy, personal space and free will.

Timeframe
It is almost impossible to keep track of all these developments, the innovations, the automation, the processing of all data and in the meantime to guarding the human component. The world around us is becoming increasingly transparent, boundless and fluid. Boundaries are blurring between virtual and analogue worlds, between man and machine, between biological and artificial. Long-term plans are in vain because the technological tsunami keeps raging. Many organisations and teams experience a dichotomy, in this transition phase from the 'old' method to the new one. Employees and entrepreneurs become over-inflated and burned out. We try to uphold everything, but we have to make choices.

The invitation
All these developments invite us to ask ourselves what it is that makes us human, what sets us apart from the machine and what really needs our attention in terms of growth, both on a personal and on an organisational level. In order to ensure that computer technology supports us and continues to be of service instead of downgrading us as humans to organic robots. For there is no point in competing with the computer; certainly not in terms of processing speed, memory and storage/processing capacity.

'The challenge now is to further explore and develop our being human with all our abilities, to gain a deeper level of self-knowledge about ourselves so that we can (re)activate more of our 'Inner Technology'.

We will then be able to truly combine the power of man & machine, from their synergies. Because the possibilities are vast, in terms of (personal and economic) growth, innovation and (individual and collective) transformation. But first things first.

'We must pay equally as much attention to what it will mean to be or remain human in the future (i.e. What defines us as humans) as we spend on developing infinitely more powerful technologies that will change humanity forever.'

~ Gerd Leonhard in 'Technology vs Humanity'

Consciousness as a USP
We have now outgrown the era in which we focus on levels of intelligence. Through ongoing understanding and computer technological progress, this has now been outpaced by the age of Consciousness. After all, that is what makes us Human and what really distinguishes us from the machine. Our consciousness is, so to speak, our Unique Selling Point. We are able to look at ourselves from a third perspective, to reflect.

Who or what is this 'Self'? What is 'consciousness'? Where is it located? Is it visible, measurable? Where is its origin? Where does it emerge from? Is it the same as your personality? These are some of the big questions that occupy many (neuro)scientists, philosophers and psychologists. Nowadays, however, this research is no longer limited to just these disciplines; there is also a growing fascination for the 'phenomenon' of consciousness within computer science. When this question can be answered and consciousness can be converted into bits and bytes, it can be uploaded into a computer. Then we as humans will be able to live on in a synthetic or virtual body or robots will eventually be able to develop consciousness.

With the advent of advanced computer technologies, its exponential growth and the subsequent insights, we are becoming increasingly aware of what is truly of value:

1. Being conscious of who we are, what we are capable of (so-called Inner Technology*) and the reality we find ourselves in. What you don't know, you can't perceive or activate. #reloadinglostdata

*) For example the power of empathy, compassion, attention, creativity, love, intuition and of our imagination and perception.

2. It is our consciousness that determines our perception, our perception and thus our reality and what we can influence. When we manage to expand our consciousness, we will increase our ability to process information, make new connections, unlock supreme creativity and at the same time disconnect from our personality. We will also be able to activate flow and peak states that are characterized by the experience of timelessness, effortlessness, limitlessness and a sense of bliss. Partly due to a series of chemical activations in our brain.

'The awakening of consciousness is the next evolutionary step for mankind'.

~ Eckhart Tolle

Brain Hacking
In this new era it is no longer about open access to both hemispheres (left/ IQ, right/ EQ) and bridging the gap between them (SQ). It is all about (partly) 'disabling' or in some cases 'hyperactivating' the (entire) neocortex/prefrontal lobe: our thinking, conscious brain and with it the activation of the subconscious. That part of us that is primarily in the driving seat.

There are roughly three expanded states of consciousness:

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Entangled in the Web

Yfke Laanstra

It was spring 2017. My book 'Bits, Bytes & Bewustzijn' was finished, my writing work was done. It had found its way into the book stores and my message had been made accessible to the general public. In the form of a book with a free app. I remember very well that I realized the moment that it was finished. I wanted to rewrite another chapter, but all I had to say at the time had been said and it was in the right chronological order. I had just typed the last lines and with a huge smile on my face I proudly called my mother. 'It's done,' I yelled on the phone.

What a unique experience and what a relief to be able to put so much in perspective, to have so much empty space at my disposal to be able to outline a larger framework. About my passion for the cutting edge of consciousness and computer technology. How very helpful for myself, because this made it even easier for me to navigate and increased the urgency even more to bring this out to the public.

But the things I would realise about my book only months later were painfully confrontational and embarrassingly ironic. Even somewhat hilarious.

It actually started as early as during the preparations for the book launch. The build-up to this was one big drowning process. I was unable to steer churning streams of data in the right direction. I spent months reconciling in slides, information and research into finding that perfect image and that perfect structure. Day in, day out, I locked myself in my office, behind my screen, with yet another mind map in the works. Once in a while waves of inspiration came and I tried frantically to capture these in a framework. In vain. As soon as I tried, the inspiration would ebb away again and I would continue to struggle in persistent pools of despair. In the end I decided to relax a bit and trust in a positive outcome and was still able to unwind a bit on the day of the launch. But it was pointless: during the presentation I died a thousand times and I wished that I could crawl under my rock again, behind my safe laptop, in endless online surfing sessions. A tsunami of self-doubt, insecurity and judgment flooded me. Despite the positive reactions and the subsequent invitations to lectures. However, my fierce inner critic refused to make any positive statement. It was an intense experience, but fortunately, 24 hours later, I had picked myself up again: after all, an opportunity for growth had offered itself. I proceeded with courage. Many lectures followed and the experiences varied from being completely in my sweet spot to utter displacement and everything in between. Until at a certain moment I realized that I was hiding behind a beamer, in the shadow of technology, and didn't really show myself. I got the feeling I was stuck in a concept, in a format that didn't suit me. Allowing myself to be led by existing perceptions of technology and (unconsciously) helping to propagate them. But this wasn't my narrative. I didn't want to just warn humanity about technology, help strengthen some kind of polarity or herald the end of the world. I wanted to highlight the start of a new reality, where humanity and technology can go hand in hand. That is, with humanity at the wheel and consciousness as the key.

I became stuck, incredibly frustrated, tripped and fell. In the autumn I decided to unplug and reconnect to myself. I realised that I was running after my own book and hadn't (yet) taken the time to allow that what I had written down to sink into me deeply. To reflect on this and to mark my own position in it. The irony was, apparently this was not consciously necessary either: this process had already started at an unconscious level. I had bypassed myself, stumbled and had fallen on my head. My head that was really stuffed. To the point where I noticed that I was increasingly unable to properly concentrate, drowned in my own thoughts and was quickly overwhelmed. As in a bad joke I had to think back to the remarks in my own book about the emergence of new disorders such as Infobesitas.

Infobesitas
This is also referred to as data smog. An excessive intake of data, an information overload that leads to data congestion and decision-making stress and to an excessive stimulation of the senses.

However, as time went by, I couldn't really see the sense of humour any more. Before writing my book, I had already acknowledged to myself and my newsletter subscribers that I was addicted to my smartphone. At the time I thought that I had acknowledged this to its full extent. Perhaps a little light bulb should have been lit when my soul mate gave me a t-shirt with the text 'I love you more than wifi' ;)
Soon after the actual full extent became painfully clear to me. When I reread my own book, many paragraphs suddenly pinpointed some sore spots. Some very sore spots. I had to admit to myself that in some parts of the book I was totally describing myself.
Passages about the importance of spending time in nature, exercising, incorporating tranquility and relinquishing from spending time on your computer every now and then in order to recharge and reconnect to oneself. About how excessive computer use particularly activates your left hemisphere, keeps you occupied in your head, out of touch with your body. The negative health effects of the radiation. The possible addiction to smartphones, social media and the internet. The internet, the digital heroin. Ouch, how confronting. For someone like me who prefers to be glued to her laptop all day, endlessly surfing the internet and in the evening with the same ease switching over to her smartphone and smart TV. Who is very difficult to get outside and to get physically active. Whose world is mostly inside her head. Connected to the cosmos, sure enough. But where my strength is, there is also my biggest pitfall.

The other day I jokingly said to my partner: I am a Millennial who was born just a little too early. Millennials, also called Generation Y, are the generation that born between 1980 and 2000. In a world where the smartphone and the internet are commonplace and almost everything is available at the push of a button. A generation that is not known for its patience and that is based on convenience and instant gratification. Luck and friends can be 'ordered' online and no mountain is too high, until they have to climb it by themselves. From the beginning of this digital era I have embraced technology, I have become close friends with it. I'm also not known for my patience and expect instant results. I find it incredibly difficult to work steadily and over a long period of time at something, the smallest thing makes me change course or throw in the towel. Moreover, I am high-sensitive, very easily distracted and bored, always looking for the next big thing. New ideas, new input. This often results in an endless merry-go-round, looking for the perfect entry, the perfect perspective, the perfect design. In addition, I want to make a difference and also have big ambitions. Altogether more or less a recipe to actually get little done and, with an overactive inner critic, becoming frustrated and burned out. Another feature that Millennials are known for. 

I move about online just as easily, maybe even easier than offline, with the risk of getting more and more out of touch with the 'real', analogue reality. Given my insatiable hunger for knowledge, need for understanding and for analysis. My laptop, smartphone and tablet with wifi connection are willing, always available and they never complain. So much was clear by now: I had become entangled in the (worldwide) web. The web of which I had written extensively myself. Not overnight, but gradually. Like a virtual assassin. I had become more and more absorbed in it and got caught up in it, losing myself in the process. The big spider was lurking, ready to strike. Suddenly I realised: that's why the subject matter touched me like it did, of course, when I started to delve into it. That's what made me go deeper into it in the first place, on a subconscious level. Apparently this was my way of self-exploration. A painfully confrontational self-exploration.

In my book I talk explicitly about the importance of being human, with all its virtues such as empathy, love and attention. To explore what it actually means to be Human and I urge the reader in the chapter Slow Tech to guard this. To make sure that technology is and remains of service to this. Especially in the time in which we live today. It is this being Human, with its full emotional spectrum, that seems to be my biggest challenge. More than ever, because digital temptations are looming. And they are screaming for my attention. Increasingly I recognise how very dangerous this smartphone can be, if used unconsciously, and what really happens in and around us through these Smart technologies. How I increasingly drifted away from myself. How your and my attention and perception of reality are hacked. What the impact is on our social and professional lives and more importantly: on the connection to ourselves. By now I have come to realise that I am an experiential expert and I feel an even greater sense of urgency in getting this message across. Even I underestimated it to such an extent. Hugely underestimated it. For now my focus is on learning to use technology in a conscious manner and reclaiming my time and attention. This will enable me to consciously focus on what really matters to me.

And what I found somewhat hilarious? That all of this is actually so obvious that it seems like the proverbial elephant in the room. The thing we all know but nobody dares to say out loud. Let's first focus on our relationship with what we're all carrying in our pocket, instead of at this stage worrying about how artificial intelligence might herald the end of mankind. This is something that we will have to deal with at a later stage. First things first.

The biggest challenge of our time is not so much that robots will take over but that we have to make sure we don't become one ourselves.

Even when I write this, I feel that this touches me deeply. To me this is such a painful notion and I see this happening in and around me all the time. Even subtly promoted in the media: in films, games and series. Change can only start when you are aware of what's going on, of what needs to be addressed. After all, you can't change what you haven't yet acknowledged.

Today, I have adjusted my course, my priorities. Will you move along with me?

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