Billions of people worldwide belong to and participate in social media platforms. It’s the online version of the “oneness of humanity”!

Artificial intelligence continues unabated to “mine” and learn from the data people generate on those platforms thereby growing in capacity, capability, pervasiveness, and sheer savviness on the way towards singularity. In effect, our online behaviors “teach” the machine.

The debate about when the machine reaches singularity, if at all, is irrelevant. The point is that it will have an increasing influence on our behaviors as it learns more with each passing day, hour, minute. So the real question is WHAT are we teaching the machine? And I submit if we aren’t careful, we’ll instill in it the same organizing principles that undergird those very systems and structures that increasingly do not serve us very well. This will make artificial intelligence—perhaps the most powerful tool humanity has ever created—an impedance rather than a partner as we make our way along the path toward a shared future as a global human family.

We have an opportunity to “teach the machine” to apply more inclusive organizing principles, e.g., oneness of humanity; everyone’s interconnected to everyone else; what one does affects everyone else, etc., in the development of its algorithms. And teaching the machine to do that begins with the manner in which we participate on the platforms and generate the data the machine will mine and learn from. The more we apply such inclusive principles when publicly interacting among ourselves or anyone else on these platforms–regardless of published purpose and membership roster–the more we’re influencing the development of the machine in ways that come to our aide as we transition to globally inclusive systems and structures that respect the collective well-being of humanity.

The pandemic has prompted greater usage of online communications. Mainstream social platforms are now populated by literally millions of adherents of a wildly diverse range of causes, cares, and concerns who voice their opinions and perspectives, join groups of like-minded folks, represent businesses that trade in preferred products and services, and advance organizations of all types that they feel will further their agendas. It’s amazing, albeit, a bit unsettling at times, how new activities get underway at the drop of a hat and precipitate myriad interconnections through “likes,” emojis, followers, shared content, comments, strings, cross-posting, etc. As these digital landscapes unfold, new territories open up just waiting to be explored and fresh opportunities to make a difference surface ready to be pursued.

I consider what we are doing by such online behavior as akin to being pioneers in a virtual world. And for many, it means leaving the relative “physical world” comfort of face-to-face gatherings and paper correspondence and venturing forth into the unknown realm of bits and bytes. As we encourage ourselves to get more and more involved online, we can reach wider and more diverse audiences, leverage our content and resources, demonstrate through our behavior what differentiates the emerging world order from the one that currently does not serve us well, if at all, and most importantly, teach essential organizing principles to myriad others—human and, I submit, machine alike.

My participation in and Mastodon among others constitutes my response to what I interpret as a global call for “virtual pioneers.” Put into the context of my personal faith: I aspire to teach people about the Bahá’í Faith through sharing my experiences as a Bahá’í, train the machine on the application of Bahá’í principles, and witness the travails of the global rebirth underway—one prompted by unity, love, and justice in a virtual sense and one that shines a light on the spiritual reality that lay ahead.