Finding Equanimity in the AI Era: A Stoic Perspective

Posted on 2023-05-11

We live in an epoch characterized by the rapid acceleration of Artificial Intelligence, a phenomenon whose effects are resonating throughout every fiber of our society. In the office, AI is reshaping the workforce; in our homes, it's shifting the dynamics of our daily routines. The seismic shifts caused by AI are stirring up a unique cocktail of fear, excitement, and anxiety. Yet in this maelstrom of change, the ancient school of Stoicism provides a beacon of tranquility, a philosophy of resilience that can help us navigate the turbulent seas of the AI era.

Stoicism, a philosophical school of thought originating from ancient Greece, posits that tranquility is achieved by accepting the world as it is, instead of how we wish it to be. In the context of AI's unrelenting march, this principle becomes a compass guiding us towards acceptance of change and the stress that comes with it.

One central tenet of stoicism is the dichotomy of control, which proposes that we should invest our energies solely in what we can control and accept what we cannot. This concept is especially pertinent in the face of AI advancements. We can't halt the tide of technological progress, but we can choose how we adapt and respond to it.

This is not to suggest that we should passively accept all the consequences of AI's evolution. Stoicism encourages active engagement in the world, coupled with an internal tranquility that's unperturbed by external events. For example, if AI-driven changes at work trigger anxieties about job security, a stoic response might be to upskill, adapting to the new landscape while maintaining an internal calm about the uncertainty of the future.

Another stoic concept, 'premeditatio malorum' or negative visualization, is a practice of periodically contemplating potential adversities. In the AI context, this could mean reflecting on possible job loss, privacy infringements or even societal changes. While this may seem counterintuitive, the goal is to decrease the shock and distress of negative events by mentally preparing for them in advance. This practice allows us to develop resilience, a quality that is increasingly indispensable in the AI era.

At the core of Stoicism is the pursuit of virtue and wisdom above all else, a trait that remains relevant even as AI alters the playing field. In the face of rapid technological advancement, wisdom, the understanding and application of knowledge, becomes even more critical. It encourages us to ask important questions about the ethical implications of AI, how it should be regulated, and what place it should hold in our society.

Stoicism’s emphasis on inner peace, resilience, and the pursuit of wisdom offer a solid foundation upon which we can build our response to the stress induced by AI. It encourages acceptance of change, adaptation to new circumstances, preparation for potential adversity, and a focus on what truly matters: virtue and wisdom.

In an era defined by unprecedented AI advancements, stoicism provides a timeless philosophical framework to help us navigate the uncharted waters of this new age. Like a lighthouse guiding ships through stormy seas, stoicism illuminates a path to tranquility amidst the disruptive winds of the AI revolution. So, as we venture deeper into the AI era, let us remember the stoic mantra: change what you can, accept what you can't, and have the wisdom to know the difference.