The Power of Writing and Reading: Conversations with the Dead, Time Compression, and AI
Table of Contents
Amadou Hampâté Bâ once said, "In Africa, when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground." Bâ said this when referring to the amount of knowledge and wisdom unique to the deceased person.
The person's passing is the loss of not only the soul but also the wisdom, which is now gone forever.
The metaphor of the library refers to the importance of what the library contains and not the mere edifice. In other words, the meaning is in the written scriptures and not the library per se.
You can see a link established between the person and the mind, highlighting their close relationship, almost as if to equate the two.
It could even suggest that while losing a person is difficult, creating a significant societal and emotional gap that should not be overlooked, losing the mind could be an even greater loss.
Death surely causes our inability to interact with deceased ones and have a conversation with them. We will miss their voices and feelings, smell, and facial expressions, which are all important aspects of communication and human connection.
Yet death doesn't always stop every conversation.
And even more, it is the case that some people had and continue to have conversations with people they would have not conversed with within their lifetime.
Let me make it clear that the approach I'm referring to doesn't involve any mystical practices such as necromancy or spiritualism.
I am talking about a completely different approach here.
What if we could connect back again? What if there is a way to actually have a conversation with the dead?
There exists a means of perpetuating the dialogue in a manner that endures the test of time and transcends the boundaries of mortality.
For most of us, it would be through visuals such as pictures or videos. But for others, it is through written texts, a method that has proven even more efficacious.
Words in Writing: A Dynamic Force
Many religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, to name a few, have continued to live through written scriptures.
Although we cannot discount the influence of cultural and historical context, as well as sociopolitical factors, it is important to acknowledge that the expansion and continuity of these religions are not merely a consequence of the messengers and prophets who have passed down the messages across different epochs.
Though, they too have contributed immensely in that regard.
The written texts of these religions, acting as guiding compasses for the messengers and guardians of the faiths, are the backbone of their endurance through time.
The act of writing and reading has a profound and enduring power that can be traced back throughout human history.
Let’s take an example I am sure you might be familiar with. The Ten Commandments. One of the most famous and enduring moral codes in human history.
They were transmitted to Moses through an engraved inscription on stone tablets.
This story is central to the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and continues to resonate with people of all faiths and backgrounds today.
The story goes that Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the commandments from God himself. The commandments cover a wide range of ethical and moral issues, from respecting one's parents to not coveting what belongs to others.
The significance of the Ten Commandments lies not only in their content but also in the way they were delivered.
One might wonder why God chose to convey his message in writing, as opposed to other forms of communication such as verbal, dreams, or through angels.
Could it be because written words have a certain force that other forms of communication lack?
What is it that imbues writing and, by extension, reading with such potent force?
The fact that they were written on stone tablets, rather than being conveyed through oral tradition, underscores their importance and permanence.
The idea that writing has the power to immortalize and crystallize the thoughts and ideas of its author is a compelling one.
When people die, their minds may no longer be present in the physical world, but the words they have left behind can serve as a powerful testament to their legacy.
However, it's important to recognize that the act of writing alone is not enough to bring this power to the surface.
The words that are written need to be read, shared, and disseminated in order for their impact to be fully realized.
The Missing Link: How Reading Brings the Power of Writing to Life
Though writing is important, what is written also needs to be read and understood to bring its value to life. And when you read the words of those who have come before, you become part of a larger human conversation that spans generations and transcends time.
That forms the beginning of the conversation. It starts with questioning what is written, especially non-fiction texts.
It is how we have the actual conversation with those that write the text—deceased or alive.
Conversation, in essence, is dialogue. How can you have a conversation only on the receiving side of the equation? This would rather be a monologue.
This means we should question what is written to spark conversation. When reading, you don't necessarily agree with what the readers said.
This is because you don't know if what the author said is still as relevant today, or if he or she even believed what is written.
It should serve as a lens through which to think rather than simply accepting them as unquestionable truth.
So, while the act of writing may be a way to immortalize one's thoughts and ideas, it is only through reading that these ideas can truly come to life or better— be alive.
The Concept of Time Compression in Reading
Reading is a powerful tool that allows us to access the collective knowledge and experiences of others in a condensed form, bringing different perspectives to our fingertips.
Anyone who has read Sapiens by Yuval Noah(or any other well-written book for that matter) can attest to this.
When we immerse ourselves in a text, we embark on a journey that takes us to places we may never have been and introduces us to people we may never have met.
The creative process of writing can be an arduous and painstaking journey, requiring immense dedication, skill, and patience.
Yet, reading allows us to access the fruits of that labour in a fraction of the time it took to create, often effortlessly.
This is a testament to the power of the written word and the remarkable ability of reading to transport us into worlds and experiences that may have taken years or even a lifetime to live.
Reading is a window into the tremendous power of the written word.
It's astonishing that some of the books we read in just a few days or weeks took their authors decades to produce.
Here is an important concept worth knowing, the 10 to 10 (Yes I know another concept we don't need).
Next time you pick up a book, consider shifting your mindset from seeing it as a waste of 10 minutes to gaining 10 years of knowledge in just 10 minutes. Isn't that an amazing deal when you think about it?
However, it's important to keep in mind that while reading can be a powerful way to gain insight and knowledge, we cannot fully experience the author's life as our own.
We can only engage with their ideas and experiences in the limited time we have.
So, reading demands our active interpretation and perspective to make meaning out of it, but the potential for expanding our understanding of the world is truly limitless.
AI's Rapid Progression in Text Generation
"With the development of powerful algorithms, AI can now generate text that is almost indistinguishable from human writing.
While the standard writer may take hours, if not days, to write an article or report, an AI system can do it in minutes. That means more content, more quickly, and at a scale that's never been seen before."
The above two paragraphs are AI-generated. You get the point.
It is clearly impossible to distinguish between human and machine intelligence. And maybe we shouldn’t try to. What we should aim at, individually, instead, is to start questioning what we are served.
Because to be able to think for yourself you need to develop that muscle—the brain. I mean, after all, of what use is it to you if you don’t operate it effectively?
The point I am trying to make here is that we should use AI as an extension to our own abilities and not as a replacement for them.
We should view AI as a tool to extend and amplify our human capabilities, rather than a replacement for our own unique qualities and expertise.
For example, AI can help us process vast amounts of data at fast speeds, identify patterns that we may have missed, and even make predictions about future outcomes.
However, AI lacks the human intuition, creativity, and critical thinking that are crucial to making complex decisions in uncertain and rapidly changing environments.
Moreover, AI models are only as good as the data they are trained on and can produce biased or flawed results if that data is incomplete or inaccurate.
Therefore, rather than relying solely on machine intelligence to make decisions, you should strive to incorporate the best of both worlds by using AI as a complement to your own expertise, which can only be gained through practice and experience.
The Bottom Line
The act of writing and reading holds a transformative power that cannot be replicated.
Even movies or other forms of videos do not come close to the in-depth sophistication of well-written literary masterpieces.
Writing is an irreplaceable experience, and like reading, can only be accomplished by engaging your own mind - a muscle that must be exercised.
When you put in the effort, you'll reap the full rewards of your hard work, rather than relying on someone or something else. Because you built the muscle.
However, as AI technology continues to advance and generate increasingly sophisticated text, we run the risk of losing the ability to think and write for ourselves.
By relinquishing control to our "second brain," we neglect to exercise and strengthen our own intellectual muscle, ultimately resulting in a dependence on technology.
In the wise words of Elbert Hubbard, "one machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man."
Let us strive to be that extraordinary person, harnessing the power of our own minds to create meaningful, impactful writing that transcends the capabilities of any machine.
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