It has been said that what separates us the most from our close primate relatives is what is known as “intentionality”. Without getting too much into the use of the term “intentionality” in a number of fields, let’s just say that intentionality is our ability to apply thoughtfulness in action or decision. Our “being” as a result of “intent”.
Keep these words in mind…. “being” as a result of “intent” !
Let us now very briefly examine a famous experiment conducted by John Searle (b. 1932, Denver, CO; Ph.D. philosophy, Oxford; currently Professor of Philosophy, UC Berkeley). The experiment – known as “Chinese Room” – was conducted in 1980 and in very simple terms it goes something like this: there is a man sitting in a room which is empty other than a set of rules which are set out in the classic “if >> then” fashion. The room has two windows through which messages by another two people are passed through the man in the room. Where it gets interesting is that the two people outside the room are passing messages to each other in Chinese. The man in the room does NOT speak or understand Chinese…he simply follows his “rule book” which tells him when he sees character “X’ he places character “Y” on a piece of paper and so on and so on….. and then passes it through the other window.
If only. This experiment my dear friends has created such debate in the fields of philosophy, psychology and AI, that we will not even go near it in this little blog at this time. However…. let us simply accept the words of Mr Searle that the man in the Chinese Room lacked “intentionality”. In other words, although he answered messages in Chinese from one person to the other, he himself had no idea what they were saying or what the messages were about. He was simply following his “rule book” and the classic “if >> then” scenario.
Now…. forgive me for oversimplifying what is a truly profound experiment…. but like my interpretation of the lyrics of “Comfortably Numb”, this experiment has always left a very clear impression in my mind in terms of what it really represents. Let’s forget the questions of consciousness and deep AI for now. Let’s focus on the man in the Chinese Room and his “if >> then” rule book. He does things simply because the rules tell him so…. he has no real idea what’s going on around him…. he serves a purpose without questioning….
Does he remind you of anyone?
For years I have asked this question of managers, of staff in large corporations and just people in general. Who does the man in the Chinese room remind you of ?
At times the answer was immediate, other times it wasn’t so obvious to the audience.
Personally I think we have all been the man in the Chinese room. We have all worked to a rule book…. the most common “if >> then” rule being: “If I turn up every day… and I do exactly as I am told… then I get paid on Thursdays”. You can substitute “Thursdays” with any frequency you like…. but the concept stays the same. You turn up, you follow the rules to the letter….then you get paid and you get to play the game again next week. It’s what makes the world go around…. and around.
Only one thing wrong with that picture. What a pathetically sad world this would be if we all did that. If we all just worked like mindless robots…. without any real understanding, or motivation, or creativity, or intentionality. What would this world look like if we all followed that “if >> then” formula?
Sadly my friends I believe an awful lot of people get caught in this trap. They turn up, they have no desire, no motivation, no real understanding, no purpose….no intent. They simply live to get paid… or to just exist. A life without purpose… a life without clear intent.
The good news of course is that it can all be changed in an instant. All it takes is a dream, an idea, a notion, an epiphany and your life has changed. You just need to allow yourself the pleasure of running with the thought in your mind. Trusting your instinct that what you think is right… really is, that it can change your life…. that it can change the lives of many.
It is amazing how you feel when your life is full of purpose. Full of INTENT. One of the main reasons I wanted to follow the theme of “finding your passion” is exactly that. Finding your passion is finding intent. Finding your passion is “living with intent” !
Another enormous benefit of “living with intent” is that you tend to substitute “impossibility” with “possibility” thinking. The negativity of thinking that everything (or at least most things) are impossible, suddenly is replaced with positive “possibility” thinking. Everything is possible when you have clear intent. Your dream is suddenly a blueprint for your life and your new sense of purpose fills you with energy and excitement. All of the sudden everything feels new, fresh, exciting and yes…. possible, doable, achievable. It’s like being very much in love… which not surprisingly is exactly what the lovely Carla Coulson told us she felt when she discovered her passion for photography.
It’s also amazing how infectious your intent can be. People are attracted to people who have clear goals, living with passion and clear intent. You suddenly find all kinds of similarly minded people gravitating towards you, adding to your momentum, just as you are adding to theirs. It becomes a positive forward motion that carries you to places you never thought were possible to reach.
The funniest thing of all? Intent is not conditional, it’s not based on race or ethinicity, it’s not based on education or cultural background, there is no age limit attached and there is no minimum income requirements. It’s simply a matter of choice. Our OWN choice. We can either choose to live with a purpose or we can choose to live like the man in the Chinese Room.
Find your passion…
Don’t just live…. “BE” with full intent !
Let’s make this a great week for all of us ;-)
Just wanted to wish a speedy recovery to the lovely Lala at My Castle in Spain… get well soon gorgeous girl ;-)
Also wanted to thank the lovely Kirsten at Write on Thyme for her mention of this little blog while she’s enjoying San Francisco (one of my fave US cities). Thank you Kirsten…hope you enjoy your visit ;-)