Robots do not dream; humans do.
Robots do not meditate; humans do.
Consider these statements, beginning with our anxiety. Think about what has happened to us just within the past decade. We suffered a political upheaval that threatened the existence of our democracy itself; we fear for the safety and well-being of our citizens as violence has come increasingly to be accepted as a model for settling differences; we now know our planet heads toward a climatic catastrophe; racial tensions bubble ongoingly in personal life and within the institutions of our society; we have been brought to our knees by a minute virus that seems not to have finished with us yet, while other pathogens loom just over the horizon; war rages in Ukraine and threatens world peace.
I could go on, but you know this litany very well yourself. No wonder then that our anxiety escalates while we wait for the next blow to fall, or for a forthcoming rescue at the hands of our scientific promises in medicine and technology, of which AI, or artificial intelligence, commands more than its share of attention, with the breakthrough of Chatbot that writes articles, comprises poems, mimics Shakespeare, etc., etc., while other robots paint would-be masterpieces. (And, no, my writing stumbles along without the advice of our robotic friends, who probably are shaking their heads at my musings.)
Speaking of which, however, here is another anxiety not included in the list above — the drama anticipated decades ago in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," when "Hal," the heuristically programmed algorithmic computer, assumes not only control of the spaceship's systems but command over the human astronauts.
Of course, as one of my friends suggested, many of our so-called humans have long operated with either no intelligence or "artificial intelligence," meaning the quirky personality trait of fake or phony role playing that belies any quality of authenticity.
Here we come upon the theme that evokes our interest in what is truly "human," that which signals the way of human existence and the way of robotic transience. Human existence is endowed with Meaning; robotic transience is directed toward function. Human existence moves toward erotic union; robotic transience operates toward singular purpose. Human existence dwells within the countless centuries of an unfathomable creation; robotic transience will always be traced back to the human engineering of mechanics and the homo sapien as technocrat.
Importantly, human beings dream; robots do not. Human beings meditate; robots do not. And here are the quintessential qualities not only of human existence, but of human authenticity. The closer we move toward robotic transience, the greater is our loss of authenticity.
What makes us most profoundly human are the awakening of consciousness, our moral sense, the moral instinct, and the desire to love and to be loved. Within this consciousness comes the realization of human freedom, not to operate with a calculated program, but to have a capacity to choose between alternative courses of action while considering the consequences of each.
Is this then as some people may suppose yet another packaged program of morality as proposed by religious organizations of different stripes? And, yes, while that no doubt is at work within our paths of becoming human, the so-called religious programming is not the root of human consciousness. That root within all human beings is the capacity to dream and to meditate.
Why is the dream important? Carl Jung expresses it this way in his Collected Works Vol. 16, para. 304:
The dream comes in as the expression of an involuntary unconscious
psychic process beyond our control of the conscious mind. It shows
the inner truth and reality ... as it really is; not as I conjectore it to
be, and not as [we] would like it to be, but as it is.
In other words, I cannot hide me from myself. I cannot conjure up a way of acting or speaking contrary to the truth without my psyche observing this deceit and the resulting compromise of my authentic self. In this way our dreams serve a most important function, that is the compensation of my conscious life. There is no hiding place.
Of course, I can ignore, suppress, or repress, conveniently "forget" my dreams. But they will continue to come. Dreams are relentless in the service of compensating my words, deeds, false impressions of myself, but also my deepest fears and anxieties.
In addition, when I sit quietly in meditation, images arise, memories flood my mind, paths taken and not taken, wounds I inflicted upon others, wounds suffered myself, lies and misrepresentations of myself and the truth—all of these appear again and again in my dreams and meditations. But also may appear portals I might pass through, possibilities I have never considered, potential to be explored, fearful actions to be taken awaiting my courage.
This is not to say that I can remedy the floating anxieties of the world beyond my reach. Nor can I solve all the inner stressors that flood my mind with anxiety. But I must do what I can, and I may find guidance to resolve my greatest concerns.
And with that attitude comes an unexpected peace of mind. Even on the way to their death, criminals and/or terminal patients refer to the resolution of their fear, making amends where that is possible, seeking appropriate closure that presents itself, taking actions that may be taken—much of which appears in our dreams and meditation.
There is much to be anxious about at this present moment. And there indeed are many things to be feared, but fear itself need not be one of them. How to stand in this chaotic moment we may not know, but our dreams do. And robots do not dream or meditate, but humans do.