We Need to Talk About the Evolution of Consciousness

As the world burns and AI races toward intellectual dominance, what other choice do we have?

Filling the air: smoke from The Camp Fire, the most destructive fire in California’s history.

It is November 10th and I am sitting at a bus stop outside the Lincoln Theatre in Yountville, Napa Valley, California. I am dressed for a film festival: shiny jewelry, chunky heels, lipstick. My “artist” badge dangles around my neck. The air is smoky, the sun orange-red, and I’m waiting for a bus that will take me back to Napa, to the filmmaker lounge, where I will drink copious amounts of free booze and, basically, party all night.

We all know the analogy about the frog in boiling water, right?

The smoke rolled in two days ago. Driving up the valley to a networking event, I peer out the window at the rows and rows of grapevines, oak trees drooping over the road. It’s beautiful when you can see the hills, my friend tells me.

We stop to take photos at the edge of a vineyard. The smoke casts a beautiful filter over us, the sun’s glare diffused orange-pink. I adjust my outfit, noticing white flecks on my shirt. I begin to curse my dry scalp until I realize… it’s ash.

Back at the bus stop, I consider the callousness of our photo shoot. The world is burning and we’re mugging for Instagram. But at what point do we stop living our lives the same way?

A bus pulls up and a nervous woman gets out. The bus driver gets off after her. I can’t tell what they’re talking about and I’m pretty sure this isn’t my bus, but I lean into their conversation and ask.

The Napa bus might be held up, he tells me. There is a man with a gun on the grounds and about six cop cars at the entrance. But they seem to have things under control.


I nod and sit back on the bench.

I had arrived three days ago to clear and sunny weather, excited to explore this part of the world and take in the Napa Valley Film Festival for the first time. Outside the theatre on opening night, the first person I meet is documentarian Chris Paine. He’s here with a film on Artificial Intelligence. I tell him I generally avoid stories about AI because I find the whole concept terrifying. He confirms my fear of AI is valid. We get our photos taken on the red carpet, head into the old Art Deco theatre and later at the party, wine flows.

The apocalypse sun stares down at me, still sitting at the bus stop. I just saw his doc — Do You Trust this Computer? — and I’m shaken. When the bus driver mentions the shooter, I barely blink. Numbed by the fear of impending robot overlords and the hazy, dystopic sun, there is nothing left in me to feel.

The bus arrives. I ask the nervous woman how much it costs. She shows me the money in her hand, sees the five dollar bill in mine, and through broken English communicates that they won’t make the change. I shrug — five dollars is still way less than an Uber — and she gets on the bus ahead of me. As I wait my turn, I notice the stillness around us, this soft-filtered world. I have a hard time picturing cop cars or the disturbed man they were after. The air is quieter when it is made up of smoke. Heavier. Dreamlike. Numb.

Ahead of me, the woman is digging for extra change in her wallet, paying my fare. Oh my, I stutter as I watch her find the last coin. That is so… Thank you. Thank you. She gives me a small smile and nods and carries on to the back.

I cry on the bus back to Napa as I scribble into my notebook, We need to hurry up and evolve.

The time has come to eagerly and rationally discuss how we are going to collectively evolve.

At what point do we stop living our lives the same way? Cheers-ing and ’gramming as the world burns around us? Cut me off, bartender. I don’t want to be drunk and dancing while the ship sinks. Pardon my mixed metaphors. Fortunately, I believe we have a life raft, and it’s evolving our consciousness.

We need to talk about our consciousness, now, as loudly as we can.

But, wait, what is consciousness?

There are many different definitions but it is easiest to define through Eastern and Western schools of thought.

The West defines consciousness as the state of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings. Western philosophy and language define consciousness as our self-awareness, our ability to think, process, communicate and ask questions of ourselves.

The East takes that definition of consciousness and calls it the mind. Eastern philosophy considers consciousness to be separate from the mind. In the East, consciousness is fundamental — it is the unchanging basis of existence that the mind is evolving to understand. As such, this essay could also be titled “We Need to Talk about the Evolution of our Minds” … but the “Evolution of Consciousness” was catchier, and I live in the West.

Regardless of your perception of / beliefs around consciousness, we don’t have to agree on a definition. We simply have to agree that whatever it is that allows us to think and ask these questions — be it consciousness or the mind or something else entirely — we have to agree that it can evolve.

What if simply acknowledging the fact that we are evolving will help us evolve faster?

We need to wake up. And I know, I know we are already in that process. But there is more to wake up to.

We need to wake up to the understanding that reality is not fixed.

That change is the only constant.

We need to believe that with the radical self-awareness and intelligence we now possess, we may be able to provoke and expedite our own evolution.

Because we have no other choice.

Because we are racing towards a future we do not want to live in.

A future that may not be possible to live in.

For the first time ever we possess both the self-awareness and the technology to engage first-hand in our own evolution.

I am not suggesting we stop fighting climate change or gun control or don’t bother regulating AI. On the contrary, I believe that discussing the evolution of our minds will expedite solutions, connect dots, quicken growth and strengthen understanding. Self-awareness is contagious.

We are in the middle of a shift. All possible timelines exist in front of us and it is up to us to choose which one we want to live in.

Evolving your consciousness is up to you. I firmly believe we hold the answers inside ourselves. That means you know exactly what you need to do evolve. You just have to figure out how to listen.

For me? I like to get still, be in nature, meditate, write poetry, read Cleo Wade and Rupi Kaur, seek articles on black holes and the Multiverse, read Medium essays on enlightenment, discuss and break down human behaviour with friends, smoke weed, dance, analyze my own behaviours and actions and motivations, research biocentrism and quantum entanglement, study witchcraft with Lisa Lister, listen to Donald Hoffman talk about reality, read works of science fiction and history and magic realism….

There are infinite ways to expand and evolve your consciousness / mind. The only things you must do are:

  1. believe that you can evolve
  2. evolve

The world continues to change rapidly around us. Let’s intend to keep up with it. I know it’s easy to get scared. It’s easy to let numbness wash over. Do not let it. Allow fear to motivate you, to show you that you are on the precipice of change. Trust that we are toeing the edge of something new, something better.

There is a future where we are in harmony with the Earth and each other and the technology we’ve brought to life.

Open your mind to the infinite possibilities, the possibilities we cannot yet perceive. The best possible future is out there and it is up to us to conjure it forth.

Single-celled organisms. Tetrapods. Primates. Humans. And then?

We are all connected. Nothing is separate from anything else.

Everything you do to evolve your consciousness will ripple out into the world, helping others evolve.

Stay positive.

The future is bright.

What does the evolution of consciousness mean to you?

Kelly Tatham is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer on the quest for the love and the true nature of reality. Her award-winning short film, Multiverse Dating for Beginners, will be available online February 2019. She is currently in pre-production on a documentary about consciousness, the underlying connectivity of all things, and the search for the true nature of reality.

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