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Existential risk and relatefulness

ai alignment empathy existential risks interconnectedness leadership mature leadership nonduality personal growth relatefulness self-understanding sustainable change unitive thinking world challenges Jun 13, 2023


Relating with the world's current state

As a species, we’re grappling with several seemingly contradictory perspectives:

  • We are facing enormously complex and dangerous existential problems like unaligned AI superintelligence, nuclear warfare, ecological devastation, and drastic polarization.
  • Yet, conditions for a larger portion of humans are better than ever before and continue to improve (as highlighted by Hans Rosling's Factfulness, and numerous global trends).
  • Our attempts to improve the world are often projections, a way to evade confronting our personal uncertainties and inner demons.
  • The constructs we use to frame things are enactive, decisive, and therefore carry ethical implications. (eg: seeing change as a revolution rather than crisis).
  • From a mystical perspective, all is one/nondual/God, and thus, nothing can truly be threatened and nothing needs to be done. This means there is no reason to not do things either (all illusions being equally illusory), so we do what we’re called to do.

I think relatefulness helps us synthesize these perspectives. Witnessing and being present with love as it animates us, cleaning up our shadows, and seeing through the illusion—allows for more direct, potent action (or surrender) where needed.



The Relateful Company's perspective and purpose

In other words, The Relateful Company sees none of these views as contradictory. We frame all these perspectives as supporting each other—eg: facing existential risks is part of some people’s psycho-spiritual journey; reclaiming projections, onto global issues, of personal struggles and uncertainties about life's purpose can ironically lead to healthier change.

From the vantage point of nonduality, we don’t believe that what we’re doing is any more or less valuable than a garbage man, UN Secretary-General, or whatever it is that you do. In the grand scheme of the Kosmos and in the great mystery of being self-aware beings, we do not know what anything is for, but we know that ignoring intuitive guidance tends to lead to more suffering.

Thus the world, being nondual and interconnected (the absolute view) is a play, and it’s more fun and meaningful to play all out. Life conditions continue to factfully improve through self-organizing systems, particularly evolution (the relative view), so the world doesn't need any particular us to do anything for it. But those systems move towards greater good when people and organizations work whole-heartedly in their unique calling, continually transcending and including what’s come before, and relinquishing everything in the way of that. So we’re here in alignment with our unique contribution to the freshness of evolution, and surrendering the rest. This principle of "relatefulness"—witnessing and being present with love as it animates us—allows for more direct, potent action where needed.



What this looks like in practice

This is all very philosophical. What this looks like is the Relateful Company working directly with some of the world’s top AI alignment researchers and organizations through 1-1 sessions, bespoke workshops, and long term leadership training. 

We also do live research, looking directly at the question of human values, civilizational alignment, how collectives self-organize, and what are the best practices of groups working together to ask questions that challenge our fundamental assumptions about reality and/or threaten everything we hold dear.

As but one recent example, in 2023 we convened a year long “Math and Metaphysics Symposia” for a select group of lauded researchers, with relatefulness as a core methodology for investigation. Within the first few days this resulted in some breakthrough new math, which is already being applied in AI Alignment puzzles. Part of what made this possible was the relateful attitude of balance, holding the event as serious and playful—nothing needs to be done, but by the same logic no calling needs to be avoided… The organizing team acknowledges the need for “legible output” but allows that to be secondary to the process of discovery, which includes whiteboards and lectures alongside time and space to be “stuck”. It includes a more holistic embrace of meaning-making, like toddlers and nursing mothers, dreams, literature, and movies.



Promoting better relating and mature leadership

Our evolutionary contribution-as-play emerges from this perspective, and so far has led us to focus on better relating and mature leadership. 

We believe these traits can help individuals face their projections, bridge divides, and navigate the complexities of our increasingly interdependent and uncertain world. These existential “threats” have no clear answer and call for a more complex, fluid, and multi-perspectival type of leadership that embraces a wide and polarized set of perspectives in a context of not knowing who or what to trust (“fake news”) while knowing that everything affects everything else. This is the exact kind of leadership The Relateful Company, Level Up ⬆, and the Coaching Course train.

Plus, as you’ll surely recognize, we waste a ton of energy and attention on personal grievances. Some of us know that deep empathy is a vital antidote to societal fragmentation, isolation, and superficiality, yet we struggle in our own triggers in activations. We don’t know how to bring empathy without abandoning ourselves, leading to resentment and further separations.

We suffer at the hands of unacknowledged interpersonal dynamics, unaware of how to navigate psychologically fraught communications, and therefore we often ignore the deeper underlying issues that keep us from being honest, compassionate, and getting stuff done. We have many of the resources and capacities to solve our biggest problems but like children in parallel play, we haven’t grown up enough to actually play together.



Embracing humility and nonduality

However, in our endeavor, we are cautious not to inflate our self-importance or lose sight of the broader perspective. 

So we do our best to see our role as 'gardeners', nurturing the future by creating conditions conducive to growth and harmony, but mindful of the sacredness and inherent wisdom of nature. We hold the whole thing lightly and assume there’s much more to the mystery of living (and dying) than we humans will probably ever know. Zooming out, we’re a whole-part in an unfathomably vast and intricate web of billions of years of evolution and entropy, in a universe made up of 95% mystery (“dark matter and dark energy”). And that’s just what we know that we don’t know!



Recognizing our apocalyptic projections

Our times seem crazy, yet in almost every era there were people who believed their times to be the end of days. Maybe they would have been right if they didn’t act, but these perspectives often reveal more about our inner struggles than the state of the world itself. Projecting our own sense of brokenness onto the world, or an inflated sense of importance of our historical time and place, is even easier when society and technology seem to be changing faster than ever before.

We believe that addressing these projections, fostering self-understanding, and promoting deeper, empathetic connections will not only contribute to personal well-being, but make for a more compassionate, sustainable world. We project our power right alongside our fears, and sometimes they interpenetrate. Our deepest fear, as Marianne Williamson suggested, is not our inadequacy but our power. This insight encourages us to show up and embrace our potential, using it not to dominate or control, but to cultivate understanding, connection, and sustainable change, ever conscious of the unending mystery and interconnectedness of existence.



Some inspiration

“Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it? I do not believe it can be done. The universe is sacred. You cannot improve it. If you try to change it, you will ruin it. If you try to hold it, you will lose it”.
- Tao Te Ching 


“They respect the essence in others and therefore do not need them to be different than they are […] Unitive thinkers also accept themselves “as is” in a non-controlling way […] Rather than passivity, the non-attached, impersonal stance allows for greater and more direct and powerful action where action is needed"
- Suzanne Cook-Greuter describing the Unitive Ego Development stage (indigo/coral)

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