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What is Somatic Intelligence?
Fusing Intuition, Rationality, and Technology: A New Paradigm for Success
Things are changing. Fast. Last year brought a lot of disruption and – at least for me – 2024 has started at full speed. Opportunity is in the air, together with a lot of uncertainty, and maybe a little danger, too. Science and technology are making leaps and we're still getting used to the impacts of the pandemic and the current political climate.
I bet you've been hearing a lot about AI and its impact on our work and lives. Maybe you're using ChatGPT to help you draft emails or automate research. But have you ever stopped to think about how we, as humans, can stay ahead in this tech-savvy world?
That's where our new newsletter, "Somatic Intelligence," comes in. Every month, I'll share ideas and insights about how we can use AI and other new developments to not just do the same we did yesterday a little faster, but radically rethink how we work. We'll explore how we as humans can stay relevant and how we might adapt our teams to work in tandem with AI.
But let's start at the beginning. Why Somatic Intelligence?
Somatics is the field of body-focused practices, in essence saying that as humans we have both a brain and a body, both are part of what makes us intelligent. For the last few centuries, we had a fairly stable understanding of intelligence. And maybe it's time to expand it a little. I believe that the key to a successful adoption of and co-existence with AI is to develop a differentiated understanding of intelligence. By combining Artificial Intelligence with human reasoning and the intelligence of our biology, we can unlock a level of intelligence that any one of these alone can't achieve.
Let's look at the three
[Intelligence is] the ability to learn, understand, and make judgments or have opinions that are based on reason. – Cambridge Dictionary
Starting with Descartes' "Je pense donc je suis" (I think therefore I am) and the Enlightenment era, we embraced reason as the highest standard. Modern science is based on gathering proof and reasoning step by step until we can explain something. And then using that new insight to make decisions going forward. Let's call this Critical Intelligence (CI). It's all about logic, proof, and reason. The real power of reasoning comes in seeing parallels between seemingly unrelated, but similar ideas. By thinking in complex concepts, we can generalize an idea and transplant it to a new context. CI has been our go-to for centuries, driving progress and innovation. Until very recently we thought of our own species as the only creatures capable of reasoning. That's what sets us apart from other mammals and what made computers our tools.
Enter Artificial Intelligence (AI). It's the buzzword of our era, reshaping how we work and think. It's exciting and a tad overwhelming, especially when we think about our roles in this fast-evolving landscape.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability of computers or machines to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as learning, reasoning, and problem-solving.
The promises range from fully automating spam emails for your company (they call it cold outreach) to instant personalization that generates a personal ad creative for anyone or magical personal assistants that you just have to talk to – maybe Siri finally learns to do more than search the web.
Currently, most of the "AI" solutions we see on the market are based on Large Language Models (LLMs) like GPT. These models reason in a different way than humans do. Human reasoning follows a logical process: formulating a question, making a plan, gathering proof, making decisions, and moving to the next step. LLMs work more like a very elaborate guess if you pardon the oversimplification for a moment. Think about how your phone keyboard guesses the next word even before you start typing. It gives you three options to make typing faster. Your phone can do that because it has read a lot of text messages, including yours, and now it can predict what you will type next. ChatGPT follows a similar pattern, just with a whole lot more information. LLMs are very efficient at predicting the next word – over and over again. That looks like magic and can lead us to think that AI knows everything. We'll get into the details in the coming months. If you heard about AI hallucinations you might know that it sometimes literally makes things up. That's because LLMs don't reason like we do, instead, they work out what's most likely – they are probabilistic. Many examples of hallucinations like the ones above are very plausible but factually not correct.
In the short-term, AI has huge potential to increase our efficiency by outsourcing tasks that comparatively slow humans used to do to incredibly fast computers. It also holds huge creative potential and has already led to amazing discoveries in science. The biggest difference between the AI that we use to create social media posts and the AI scientists use to fold proteins or discover a new antibiotic is how specialized the AI is. Highly specialized models allow for a lot more control and skill, whereas foundation models like GPT are pretty good at a lot of things, but maybe not great at anything. In either case, we need humans in the loop to sense-check decisions and steer AI. Think of AI as a collaborator, or as tech analyst Benedict Evans said in 2018; it's like giving every company infinite interns.
In the mid-term, AI has the potential to completely transform how we live and work. AI can already bridge language gaps, and automated systems like China's social credit system show how state surveillance can be combined with a kind of incentive scheme "to do the right thing", leading us to scenarios of total Algocracy.
One of the big questions coming up again and again is about how we might control AI to make sure it does the right thing. What the right thing is in this case, is an ongoing ethical debate. Let's say it is to make life better for as many people as possible, without explicitly harming anyone in the process. How might we do that? How might we even get to a definition of what "the right thing" is?
Somatics uses the mind-body connection to help you survey your internal self and listen to signals from your body.
Now, this is where Somatic Intelligence (SI) comes into play. SI is about tapping into our intuitive wisdom, the kind of insights our body and subconscious offer us. You know, those gut feelings that sometimes seem to know more than our brains? That's Somatic Intelligence in action. Recent developments in psychology like Polyvagal Theory pioneered by Stephen Porges are suggesting these gut feelings are a lot more than made-up romantic ideas, but come from our biology and are anchored deep in our evolution. Porges introduces the idea of neuroception, an almost instant "knowing" that originates from our nervous system and bypasses cognition. Our biology has evolved to firstly keep us safe from harm and secondly enable us to collaborate with others. Learning to create a work environment that allows employees to feel safe on a biological level unlocks our ability to collaborate effectively. And successful collaboration with other humans re-inforces that safety signal, making us even better at communicating and creating.
So in short, Somatic Intelligence is about sensing connections and insights from our biology. In psychotherapy, modalities like Hakomi combine insights from our body with tested therapy tools to work with trauma and other complex conditions. In business accessing our SI might lead to better products and services, because we find product-market fit faster or reduce user churn, by tailoring them to essential human needs. Or it might help us create a corporate culture that attracts and retains talent when we can demonstrate that employee well-being is more than a weekly meditation class or a free subscription to an online counseling service and the products they create leave a lasting positive impact. And last but not least, SI can be the first sense-check of AI. In a recent project, I worked with an international consumer-electronics brand. Their CEO, who holds several PhDs in Machine Learning, was excited about our ideas on how we might integrate AI into their platform but vehemently insisted that there always has to be a human in the loop. You might call it human-in-the-loop-AI, better safe than sorry, or – as I like to think of it – AI as a collaborator, rather than a replacement.
Imagine combining all three aspects of intelligence. CI gives us structure, AI offers innovation, and SI brings depth and intuition. Together, they can revolutionize our decision-making, creativity, and even how we connect with others.
Through this newsletter series, "Somatic Intelligence", we'll explore how this powerful blend can transform our professional and personal lives. Think about it – combining the speed of AI with the intuitive depth of SI, guided by the rationality of CI. It's a recipe for something truly extraordinary.
So, what do you say? Ready to embark on this journey with me? Let's unlock the potential of our intelligences – all three of them – and redefine what it means to be savvy in the digital age.
What questions are you holding as we embark in this new chapter? Let me know. Drop me a message below. I read and reply to every message.
I can't wait to explore this together,
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