Humanity is on the edge of an unprecedented transformation, and few of us are prepared for how quickly artificial intelligence will change our lives. Here’s how Stoic thinking can help us embrace the coming revolution and thrive in a vastly different world.

by Phil Van Treuren

philosophy ai

“Everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist. Think of how many changes you’ve already seen; the world is nothing but change.”

Marcus Aurelius

The world isn’t ready for what’s coming . . . but it will come nonetheless.

That could be said about countless transitions in human history, but breakthroughs in artificial intelligence will soon usher in the most exciting and opportunity-rich era that humanity has ever seen.

ai philosophy

The rewards will be available to everyone, but they’ll only be reaped by those of us who can embrace inevitable change and accept things that are outside of our control.

Sadly, for a big percentage of the population — those who refuse to adapt, learn new things or reinvent themselves — the next few years might be aggravating, confusing and even frightening.

That will be their choice to make. But rather than mocking or ostracizing them, true Stoics will offer understanding and guidance. Don’t forget how rewarding it can be, mentally and physically, to do things “the old fashioned way.”

artificial intelligence philosophy

How AI Will Transform the World with Unprecedented Scope & Speed

Most of the world hasn’t noticed the mind-blowing advances made in the field of artificial intelligence over the last year. Some attention has been given to generative AI like DALLĀ·E and ChatGPT, but media has largely focused on outrage from artists and writers who’ve been blindsided by the technology.

Generative AI creates new content — like images, artwork, articles and stories — modeled on human-created examples. By training itself with existing content amassed in giant databases, the AI learns to create new content in similar styles.

Generative AI observes content, gets a feel for unique styles, and then produces its own stuff based on what it learned. Human artists and writers do the same thing when they learn their craft . . . they just do it much, much more slowly.

philosophy artificial intelligence

” . . . accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Marcus Aurelius

Generative AI is amazing enough by itself (and will rapidly get better as it learns to create content that surpasses anything from humans). But it’s only a whisper of the shock wave that’s coming.

AI’s ability to analyze massive amounts of data and improve existing systems will soon be applied to more fields than you might imagine. Medicine, law, economics, biotechnology, energy, food production, logistics, entertainment, manufacturing . . . these are just a few arenas where you’ll see artificial intelligence start to be applied in the next few years.

In fact, it already is being applied and prepped for launch. Much like generative AI suddenly emerged this year, the advances in other fields will seem, for most people, to come out of nowhere.

What is the role of philosophy in AI?

Humanity’s Looming Identity Crisis

The AI revolution will be great for humanity, allowing us to be healthier, happier and more fulfilled than ever before. But initially, as people realize that AI will make their professions obsolete and their talents unremarkable, we’re in for a rough adjustment period.

First will fall the artists and writers, like me. In the very near future, AI will be able to create an article like the one I’m writing now . . . but it will write it much faster, and much better.

Soon after that, other professionals who thought their jobs could never be replaced by AI will start getting nervous.

What is the philosophical question of AI?

“Everything’s destiny is to change, to be transformed, to perish. So that new things can be born”

Marcus Aurelius

Attorneys will watch AI do a better job at studying ordinances and presenting legal arguments. Doctors will watch AI do a better job at analyzing patient health and prescribing preventative treatments. Staffers will watch AI do a better job at answering phones and responding to emails.

AI will develop more effective medicines, discover cures for diseases, create stronger construction materials, and invent new machines that make living and learning easier for all of us.

The rise of artificial intelligence is not going to mean Armageddon for humanity, and it won’t condemn anyone to poverty unless they choose to be. But people who define themselves by their careers (yes, even you) may find the next few years to be nerve-wracking.

That’s why now is the perfect time to learn that our happiness isn’t controlled by external stuff like jobs and technology . . . and that we can always find joy in our talents, regardless of whether we’re the best at them.

Is AI related to philosophy?

Some Tips for Using Stoicism to Cope & Thrive in a Wildly Transformed World

Although it was developed thousands of years ago, Stoicism may be the perfect philosophy for a society on the cusp of a technological revolution.

Remember: the world around us might change dramatically, but humans — and human nature — remain the same.

Accepting stuff outside of our control, choosing to be happy regardless of external circumstances, and turning obstacles into opportunities are all core tenets of Stoic thinking.

the philosophy of ai

“If anyone can show me I’m looking at things from the wrong perspective, I’ll gladly change. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”

Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism is a philosophy meant to be applied directly to our lives, and it was designed to be simple. Here are a few ways to apply Stoicism in the coming years that will help you thrive as the world transforms.

#1: Don’t worry about stuff you can’t change.

When the integration of AI starts to become more noticeable, a lot of people will get upset and attempt to stop it. They’ll try protesting, boycotting, and even outlawing artificial intelligence.

They’ll fail, just as the Luddites failed in their attempts to stop textile automation back in the 19th century. But some people will continue being angry about AI for the rest of their lives.

Don’t be one of those people. Technological advancement isn’t something you can change, so don’t waste time worrying or getting angry about it. Instead, accept that it’s going to happen and focus on being happy and productive in new, inevitable surroundings.

philosophy of artificial intelligence

#2: Turn the obstacles into opportunities.

It might be tempting to look at artificial intelligence as an obstacle to your happiness — especially if it threatens to make your job obsolete. But don’t let that blind you to the countless opportunities AI will create for people to make a living in new, exciting ways.

Rather than bemoan AI, start learning about it, having fun with it, and finding ways to exploit it. Figure out how it can magnify your natural talents and help you create stuff that was impossible when you started your career.

It’s natural to experience some apprehension — and even a little fear — around things you aren’t familiar with. Don’t let that stop you from staying flexible, reinventing yourself, and taking advantage of new opportunities that AI will bring.

#3: Look for joy and purpose in yourself, not in externals.

No matter how much AI advances, it can’t take away your talents, passions, experiences and choices. You can still find joy in creating and nurturing things you love, regardless if machines can do the same stuff more quickly and with fewer flaws.

What does philosophy say about AI?

If your personal identity is attached to your career, start visualizing how you might find purpose while doing something different. Your worth isn’t defined by your job, and feeling happy is better than feeling important.

#4: Resolve to have fun and practice gratitude.

It’s not change that upsets us, but our judgments about change (that’s from Epictetus, by the way). Happiness really is something we choose, and AI will make lots of fun new experiences possible. You could enjoy it . . . if you let yourself.

Allow some gratitude into your thoughts, too, for being alive at such an amazing time in human history. We have the opportunity to learn more, live healthier, and experience stuff that our ancestors could never have imagined.

artificial intelligence stoic philosophy

#5: Be patient as others find their way.

Because of how quickly AI will become integrated into our daily lives, many people will be surprised and frightened by it . . . especially the older generation. Be patient and try to help them understand new technologies, but respect anyone who chooses to continue doing things “the old fashioned way.”

Using our own minds and bodies to do things slowly, deliberately and carefully can be rewarding in many ways. Friends and loved ones who don’t want to cut corners with artificial intelligence will still have a lot to teach you about life, too.

Don’t be afraid to “disconnect” every now and then to let them remind you what it really means to be a human being.

A Note from the Author:

All of the research, writing, editing and image creation for this article was done on my cell phone, with my thumbs, in my spare time.

No one taught me how to do any of it, but I had to learn to use some technology that I wasn’t comfortable with a year ago.

It was easy . . . and it can be just as easy for you. Embrace uncomfortable change, use it to become better, and don’t let anything about the future intimidate you.