Seeking and Finding

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already in widespread use. In multiple automotive applications. In HVAC system thermostats. Virtual assistants, like the Amazon Echo. Global positioning system technologies. Computerized language translation systems. Email spam filters. Automated house floor maintenance devices. Facial recognition technology. Autocorrect computer applications. Real estate search engines (like those and and and Chatbots. The list could go on and on. The value of AI is evident, despite the warnings about the existential dangers posed to humankind by the technology. Though I do not doubt the potential for AI to exercise far more control over human activities than humans intend, I am relatively confident humans will establish safety nets around its applications, limiting the potential for devastating harm. That confidence is what allows me to desire AI applications that will meet my needs/desires without undue fear. And one of the applications I would like to see would be a dramatically enhanced method of identifying and selecting places I might like to live. and and once seemed, to me, almost magical in their abilities to quickly sort through available housing options. But as technologies have continued to become more and more sophisticated, those search capabilities no longer seem so spectacular. I want to be able to establish parameters that are not limited to searching for housing in specific locations. Rather than simply allowing me to set search criteria for number of bedrooms and bathrooms and various other attributes of housing options, I want AI to enable me to input an almost limitless set of search parameters across an enormously wide search area. So, for example, I want AI to help me find communities with specific attributes that appeal to me: like political leanings of residents, weather patterns, low levels of insect pests (like chiggers and ticks and mosquitoes), affordability (in the context of my personal financial wherewithal), geographical characteristics, etc., etc., etc.  Once I establish criteria, I want AI to return a list of places that match my needs, desires, and financial capabilities; then, I want to be able to continue to compare those places by incorporating additional search parameters.

AI might determine for me that my “ideal” place(s) are in areas I might never have considered on my own. Perhaps I might learn that communities in Nebraska or Michigan or the Lake District of England or English-speaking enclaves in the south of France are my “ideal” places. Or maybe I would learn that my desires are, in fact, simply fantasies and that there is nowhere I can find all my desired attributes and conditions. Either way, though, I would have an answer. The time I waste “wondering” about places and trying, without success, to learn deep, deep details about a potential home community, would be replaced by productive, valuable time I could devote to deciding for myself what AI cannot do for me.
It is entirely possible that such capabilities already exist, or will exist in the very near future. But I will not count on it. Instead, I will keep seeking answers the old fashioned way; using the drudgery of investigative analyses.


The suicide arrives at the conclusion that what he is seeking does not exist; the seeker concludes that he has not yet looked in the right place.

~ Paul Watzlawick ~


Seeking one’s own “ideal” circumstances tends to mute compassion in favor of selfishness. If I devote my time and energies to searching for something that will yield personal satisfaction, I am apt to let my compassion for others take on a lesser role in my identity. But if I sacrifice my search, opting instead to let my compassion guide my actions, I might at some point resent my failure to act in my own self-interests. That is the conundrum of looking for the perfect environment or the perfect set of circumstances. Sacrifice is built into the process because people sometimes have competing desires that, if attained, are mutually exclusive to one another. Sometimes, questions have no “right” answer; only multiple answers that are “less wrong” than some others.


Guilt never disappears. It lingers for eternity. It sours successes and thwarts happiness. And when happiness succeeds in overcoming guilt, that very happiness later exacerbates the guilt, causing the happy, guilty person to be consumed with even more guilt for allowing himself the happiness he was after. Then, he realizes it was not the happiness he thought he wanted; it was simply the erasure of the excruciating feelings of guilt. Guilt feeds on itself, growing into a monster that devours happiness. Seeking comfort from gnawing feelings of guilt, a person discovers that consolation provides only a brief respite; the “cure” is akin to responding to a stovetop grease fire by dousing it with gasoline.


This weather is a prelude to summer. Today is a gentle warning of things to come. Heat. Humidity. Chiggers aplenty. Gah!

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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