The true value of a human being comes from their character. Now is the time for all of us to express our good character.
Do you consider yourself smart? Whether you do or not, how do you feel about it?
Across almost all cultures and timelines, intelligence has been highly valued. Individually, it has earned people wealth, status, and opportunity. Collectively, it has allowed humanity to make unimaginable strides in securing its survival and comfort. Human intelligence is strong enough to let soft and not very large mammals to move mountains, divert rivers, and change the atmosphere.
The wonder of human intelligence, supported by the backs of laborers, has built great works and wrought great destruction, but even human intelligence and laborers are gradually being replaced by the superior processing power and physical strength of machines and computers. Artificial intelligence (AI) can process information and learn from it at an unprecedented rate, so much so that it can do the jobs of radiologists, lawyers, drivers, and travel agents.
Although artificial intelligence can do so much, for the time being, what it does is directed by human beings. It’s determined by human values. In fact, you could say that the value of humanity is determined by what humanity values. We can use our human and artificial intelligence to promote the enrichment of the few with the exploitation of the many and the planet, or we can use it to promote equality, health, and sustainability for all.
What Should We Value?
More valuable than intelligence, then, is character. I believe with character, human beings retain their value no matter how much stronger or more intelligent machines and software become. Most cultures and religions have overlapping ideas about what we could call “good” character. In general, you could think of it as being honest, responsible, and sincere; it’s treating others as you want to be treated. I would like to add that a person of good character has the ability to make themselves happy and healthy and wants to help other people be happy and healthy as well.
To have a healthy and peaceful world, many of us need to embrace our good character and act on it. We all have it, and most of us use it most of the time. But now is a critical time in which the world is changing quickly and AI is developing faster and faster. It’s a time in which we need to go beyond what we’ve done before.
We cannot rely on governments and corporations to have good character. At this point, our human value can only be built from the bottom up. If enough people demonstrate what we value through our lifestyle and purchase choices—and our vote—those in power will have to respond.
Character Starts with Empathy
But how do we develop character? I think character comes from empathy—our ability to feel other people and things as if they were ourselves.
From empathy, the desire to act in ways that are helpful to others naturally arises. Because of empathy, people show kindness to others without expecting something in return. They have compassion for and want to live in harmony with not only other people, but animals and plants as well (Hongik). As our understanding and awareness expands, we even feel empathy and compassion for the planet itself and the rest of the galaxy and universe.
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Start with Ourselves
To strengthen and spread empathy and character, we can start with ourselves. Do you feel like you have enough empathy for yourself? Do you pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and body? Do you have compassion for your own ups and downs? Do you respect and take care of yourself?
It’s easier to empathize with others when we are more in touch with ourselves. It’s about loving ourselves first. We can begin to do that with meditation and self-reflection. Instead of only looking outside of ourselves, we can discover the love, peace, and strength inside ourselves. And we can learn to get the answers we need for living a loving life from inside too.
Management with Love
Loving ourselves naturally leads to loving others. And when we think about the earth, we naturally love the earth as well.
If we love the earth, I think we’ll want to engage in what I call Earth Management. We’ll look at the earth’s resources as a whole and figure out how to use them without abusing them for the good of all people and creatures. We’ll cooperate with each other so we can all coexist peacefully. By working to manage health, happiness, and peace at a global level, we can streamline production and distribution so that all people have enough to eat, safe drinking water, adequate shelter, exemplary education, and safe spaces. Our skies and waters will be clear, other species can thrive, and the warming of the atmosphere can slow down or stop.
Many of us value this vision of the future. With dedication and practice, I believe we can live our values and bring this dream to life.
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