Tales from the Useless Tree – AI Times

Society, Taoism
3 Comments

Welcome to our new world. As a computer / social change professional, I can say it will change the world quickly and profoundly.

Let’s do some simple tests for fun.

I just asked an AI to write me a Taoist Story that has never been written before.

It responded with this story:

An AI Taoist Story
The Kind Merchant

Once, Lao Tzu was walking through a bustling market when he saw a man selling baskets of fruits and vegetables. The man was haggling with a customer, trying to get the highest price for his wares.

Lao Tzu approached the man and asked, “Why do you haggle with your customers? Is it not enough to sell your goods at a fair price?”
The man looked at Lao Tzu skeptically and said, “But sir, if I don’t haggle, I will never make a profit. I have to get the highest price possible.”

Lao Tzu smiled and said, “Ah, but there is a better way. Instead of haggling, why not simply give your customers the fruits and vegetables for free?”

The man was taken aback. “But sir, I cannot simply give away my goods. I need to make a living.”

Lao Tzu replied, “I understand your concerns, but sometimes the greatest profit is not material possessions but the joy of giving. If you give freely, without expecting anything in return, you will find that abundance and prosperity will naturally come to you.”

The man thought about Lao Tzu’s words and decided to take a chance. He began to give away his fruits and vegetables to his customers, without any expectation of payment.

To his surprise, his business began to flourish. Word of his generosity spread throughout the market and people began to seek out his baskets of produce. The man became known as the most generous vendor in the market, and his profits soared beyond what he ever could have imagined.

From that day on, the man realized that true wealth lies not in material possessions, but in the act of giving.

-AI Author ChatGPT

Several internet scans of the story indicate it could be genuinely original.

The story does indeed capture some Taoist ideals.

The story isn’t exactly earth-shattering or perfect. I would personally rewrite the story to include a hula girl, alien, and car chase to make it more modern. While I think the story is boring and gives terrible advice, it’s still a legitimate story.

Please note this does illustrate one danger of AI: lousy advice. But realistically, that is already a problem in social media and the internet.

So then I asked for it to write me a Taoist song about midlife and sports cars.

Its response

Something went wrong. If this issue persists please contact us through our help center at help.openai.com.

Thank god! I am not entirely out of a job yet!

BUT WAIT. I tried again on google bard. It promptly gave me this ditty:

Verse 1

I’m in my midlife crisis, And I’m buying a sports car. I know it’s not the most practical thing, But I don’t care.

I’m tired of the same old routine, I want to feel alive again. I want to feel the wind in my hair, And the sun on my face.

I want to drive down the open road, And feel the freedom of the wind. I want to live my life to the fullest, And not take anything for granted.

Chorus

I’m in my midlife crisis and buying a sports car. It’s not the most practical thing, But it’s what I want.

I’m going to drive it fast, And I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. I’m going to live my life to the fullest, And I’m not going to let anything hold me back.

Verse 2

I’ve been working hard all my life, And I’ve finally reached a point where I can afford to buy a sports car. I’m not going to waste this opportunity; I’m going to make the most of it.

I’m going to drive my sports car all over the country, And I’m going to see all the places I’ve always wanted to see. I’m going to meet new people, And I’m going to make new friends.

I’m going to live my life to the fullest, And I won’t let anything hold me back.

Chorus

I’m in my midlife crisis and buying a sports car. It’s not the most practical thing, But it’s what I want.

I’m going to drive it fast, And I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. I’m going to live my life to the fullest, And I’m not going to let anything hold me back.

Bridge

I know people will judge me for buying a sports car, But I don’t care. This is my life, And I will live it how I want to.

I’m not going to let anyone tell me what I can and can’t do, I’m going to follow my heart, And I’m going to do what makes me happy.

Chorus

I’m in my midlife crisis and buying a sports car. It’s not the most practical thing, But it’s what I want.

I’m going to drive it fast, And I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. I’m going to live my life to the fullest, And I won’t let anything hold me back.

Well Crap, I might be out of a job soon…

Let’s be honest AI is going to have huge impacts on everything.

Impacts of AI according to AI itself:

Positive Impacts

  1. Improved healthcare: AI has the potential to revolutionize healthcare by enabling faster and more accurate diagnosis, personalized treatment plans, and drug discovery.
  2. Enhanced productivity: AI can help automate many routine tasks, freeing people to focus on more creative and higher-value work.
  3. Increased accessibility: AI-powered tools can make technology and information more accessible to people with disabilities, such as text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and other assistive technologies.
  4. Blah and then 5) More Blah Blah and then 6) More Blah Blah Blah and more…

Honestly, Mr. AI couldn’t stop talking about how good it will be.

Negative Impacts

  1. Job displacement: AI may automate many tasks that are currently performed by humans, leading to job displacement in specific industries and sectors.
  2. Bias and discrimination: AI systems can be biased and discriminatory, perpetuating and amplifying existing societal biases.
  3. Lack of transparency and accountability: AI systems can be complex and difficult to understand, making it challenging to hold their creators accountable for their actions.
  4. Blah and then 5) More Blah Blah and then 6) More Blah Blah Blah and more…

Honestly, Mr. AI couldn’t stop talking about how great of a brat they will be.

This doesn’t begin to touch AI’s actual impacts, including war and other social effects, which I don’t want to mention at this stage.

However, what about ordinary folks like you and me? Let’s be honest if AI can become an online sex worker, and yes, that has happened already, whose job is safe? Well, strangely, basket weavers, your job is still safe, but for most of us, AI will impact our work and lifestyles.

So how can the average person face these changing times where AI is very likely to take your job, then wife… then kids… Wait, I’m going overboard again. (Also I am not in Florida where they are taking away people’s children.) Not all our problems will be AI-centric first of all as the Florida example shows.

In other words, don’t only focus on AI. Keep on fixing the day-to-day problems you are facing!

Taoist Advice for Facing AI Times

First, learn how to use AI. AI is here and not going away. Use it or be left behind. How you use it is only limited by your imagination. So the sky is the limit in how it can speed up and improve your current work and life situation.

Second: Be the useless tree.

The useless tree, you ask?

Mr. AI, could you please tell us about the useless tree:

The Taoist useless tree is a parable that teaches the importance of being content with what you have. The story goes that a Taoist sage was walking through the forest when he came across a large tree. The tree was old and gnarled, and its branches were twisted and bent. The sage asked the tree, “Why are you so useless?”

The tree replied, “I am not useless. I provide shade for the animals and birds, and I help to keep the soil in place. I am also a home for many insects and spiders. I may not be beautiful, but I am still useful.”

The sage was impressed by the tree’s answer, and he realized that the tree was right. The tree was not useless, even though it did not fit the traditional definition of usefulness. The tree was simply different, and that was okay.

The Taoist useless tree is a reminder that we should not judge things based on their appearance or their usefulness to us. We should appreciate things for what they are, even if they are different from what we are used to.

– AI ChatGPT

While technically correct, Mr.ChatGPT, you missed the application I wanted to point out in our situation.

In this case, to be the useless tree is to be unique and special with your own style.

For example, in my case, while the AI can teach you the basics of Taoism and how to face a problem, it won’t be able to take the advice and teachings and then remix them to fit the person and situation perfectly.

Mr. AI does get part of the answer right. We all can contribute and find ways to add usefulness around us. If you let AI define you as useless, you won’t last in the new economy. You can find ways to use AI and mix in your uniqueness. Finally, you can also find new activities without AI you excel in due to new opportunities that AI does expose over time.

For instance, I have one student building a whole application on their own with AI, whereas two years ago they couldn’t afford or find a team of people to do so.

So to thrive in AI times, be the Useless Tree. Consider how you may be so.

Or you can learn basket weaving… But I prefer the Useless Tree approach.

 

Anyways here is a the timely end-of-blog video. Might as well distract ourselves with a good song.

Peace out friends!

Mr. AI just chimed in: “Here’s a possible rewrite of the song “Since You’ve Been Gone” by the band Rainbow:”

Verse 1: I get up and go to work, another day without you Try to focus on the task, but my mind keeps drifting too I can’t help but wonder if you think of me too Or if you’ve moved on and found someone new

Chorus: Since you’ve been gone, life’s been so empty I try to fill the void, but it just won’t mend me I miss your smile, your touch, your laughter Since you’ve been gone, life’s been a disaster

Verse 2: I try to keep myself busy, find new things to do But everything reminds me of the times I had with you I see your face in every crowd, hear your voice in every song I can’t escape these memories, they’re playing all day long

Chorus: Repeat…

No, please stop… Just stop, Mr. AI. I appreciate you’re trying to be a Rock’n Roll star now, but I’m heading to the river now.

Let this be a reminder, no matter how the world changes, AI or not: Don’t stop living your life. Move on, evolve, and live.

Explore Taoism

Live life kindly, gracefully, with modesty while embracing a colorful story to enjoy!

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Spot on, Casey. So many people — and AIs — miss the point.

Brilliant! Welcome back my friend!

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