Our Weapon Against AI: Connection

Thank you to all who have responded to my FB post about the fake book generated using AI and published in my name. That was the spark for writing this blog post. I’ve been thinking how best to respond to so many comments. What stands out for me in so many responses is that one person (me) said what happened to me, and then one person after another responded, and many took action as well. I am grateful for all of the support.

So this is what I think: AI will not be going away. It is here to stay, and we have no real grasp on how it will change things in every field imaginable. But here is an important truth: we have a defense against AI.

However AI changes the world, we have an unshakeable defense that will not yield to AI: authentic human connections. Real people together in a real space in real time, doing real learning with each other, with real animals. The old fashioned way. Choosing to be in ONE space, not half watching a webinar on your computer while texting friends and scrolling through TikTok. Choosing to be attentive and responsive as a learner. Working with your own hands with a real Other being, however many legs it may have.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Heather and I went to a horse training clinic on a mountain in NH with trainer Nahshon Cook. It was COLD. It started at 8:30 and went right on thru to 5, both days. The chairs were uncomfortable. I’m still sporting a chemical burn from using a hand-held heater the wrong way. It cost money and time, and maybe if it had been streamed online I would have tuned in for a bit here and there. But the focus on what this remarkable teacher had to offer, the nuances in him and the horses and their interactions — all that video never ever shows — all simply priceless. I needed to be present where he was doing whatever happened in that moment with those people, those horses.

What struck me hardest of all was that these two days were a (welcome) return to the learning that got me to where I am today. Sure, there were books and videos, but the staggering majority of what I have learned I learned by showing up, focusing, being truly present, reveling in the luxury of being able to focus on that and only that, and applying seat of pants or hands to bodies or reins or leashes or partners or however and whatever needed to be done so that I could begin to truly understand.

There was often discomfort involved. Too damn hot, ready to faint from humidity, fatigue, so cold my bones hurt, thirsty, hungry, dealing with people I disliked. There was always sacrifice, and not just financial though that was substantial too. Learning always involved time away from my loved ones, my home, my comforts, and always with no guarantee that I’d chosen well re how to spend my time and money, and no way to know ahead of time that the learning I hoped for would actually occur.

From some events I learned “not how I want to do things.” From others, some useful tidbits. And from a very few, life-changing learning that was not always comfortable. Few things are as difficult as wanting *so* much to good at something but having to struggle through the learning, the practice, the inevitable errors and mistakes which are also critical to learning assuming the learner Re-arranging one’s brain is not a pleasant process! but the desire to know, to understand, to somehow approach what that teacher demonstrated was possible — all eclipsed the struggle to make the changes I needed to make.

Though technology tries to convince us otherwise, one can only occupy one spot on the time-space continuum at a time. Quality of life and true learning require that we choose, deliberately, what spot we wish to be in at any given time.

When we opt for the convenience of the virtual, we are losing something important. I recognize as much as anyone how technology makes it more available and affordable for people around the world to connect with my work, with anyone’s work. That helped save this farm during the COVID years, and I am grateful for all of the support for my work.

But in the end, convenience – as always – robs us of quality, authenticity, and above all, genuine connection if only with ourselves and the moment we have chosen. Ironic, since what people seem to value about my work IS the connection and the authenticity.

Fight AI by opting for authentic reality wherever and however you can. Remember what it means to be face-to-face with a fellow human, and all that entails. Not easy advice to hear, I know, but this old introvert is going to do her best to walk the walk. I am trying to figure out how to make online interactions as authentic as possible, and welcome your suggestions.We need to use our most powerful defense: our very humanity.

Otherwise, I fear for what we can be spoon-fed by AI. Each of us needs to find their way back to authentic connection. Resistance in all wars and against all propaganda always begins with a human looking into another’s eyes.