The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Thursday 27 June 2024

Asthmatic Earth

When we (humans) breathe we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Trees do exactly the opposite. Via the process of photosynthesis, trees “inhale” carbon dioxide and “exhale” oxygen. This cycle is crucial to our life on this planet.

This process often has trees and forests metaphorically characterised as the lungs of the world.

Normally, when we are healthy, our breathing is a relatively quiet activity. However, when we get sick or develop a disease of some sort, especially one that affects our lungs, we cough. Coughing is a symptom of some illness.

What if trees get sick? What if the normal process of photosynthesis becomes diseased?

Do trees also “cough”?

It seems that – metaphorically at least – they do?

A study released in November 2023 by a team of earth and planetary scientists from Pennsylvania State University reveals a disturbing trend. When trees get stressed by high temperatures and/or limited water then the process of photosynthesis gets impeded, and a reverse process commences.1

This reverse process, known as photorespiration, means that trees no longer take up carbon dioxide; rather they begin to send CO2 back into the atmosphere.

The lead author of the study, Max Lloyd (Assistant Research Professor of Geosciences) says that “Trees in warmer, drier climates are essentially coughing instead of breathing.”

This is a worrying condition. Continuous coughing in humans can be a sign of asthma. To stretch the analogy of trees breathing a little further we might ask: Is the Earth becoming asthmatic?

There is no known cure for human asthma. Is there one for an asthmatic Earth?

Not likely.

Plants and trees presently absorb around 25% of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans. If these “lungs” become diseased, and the world becomes “asthmatic” then the ability of trees to absorb this carbon dioxide will diminish.

Consequently, a positive feedback loop in the carbon cycle of Earth becomes established. Humans pump CO2 into the atmosphere, trees absorb that, thus sequestering it. But now, a positive feedback loop gets launched, whereby trees no longer sequester the CO2 – they contribute to the rising emissions. This form of “positivity” is not good for trees, it is not good for humans, it is not good for Earth.

Just as asthma sufferers worldwide find ways to cope with asthma, so will we as a species have to find ways to cope with an increasingly asthmatic world.


1. Max K. Lloyd et al., Isotopic clumping in wood as a proxy for photorespiration in trees, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 2023, accessed 25 June 2024.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

War Is Not Healthy (Song For an Unknown Foe)

When I was a teenager and young man the Vietnam War was raging and coming to its final end. I participated in many anti-war marches and rallies. One of the most prominent posters of the time read: “War is not healthy for children and other living things.”

The etching upon which this poster was based was created by Los Angeles printmaker Lorraine Art Schneider in 1965. She donated the etching to a women’s anti-war group called Another Mother For Peace. The poster and sentiment rapidly permeated the large anti-war movement around the world.

The sentiment in this etching has remained with me ever since. Over the years I have discovered just how many ‘living things’ are encompassed by the words.

Amongst those ‘other living things’ are the soldiers themselves. Many came back from wars traumatised men. Many still do from the wars around the world today. Today we know this as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) During World War 1 it was known simply as shell-shock. Shell-shock could strike down men on all sides.

I tried to capture this trauma, pain, and sorrow in a poem titled Song For An Unknown Foe. It is written from the perspective of a German sniper in World War 1.

Today I shot a man I did not know
Though I shot him through the head
Straight through my heart that bullet sped
Leaving me in pain and deep sorrow.

Lying in that god forsaken muddy field
Thousands call it, name it, no-mans-land
Yet, in this confused and cratered land
Lies many a man, his guts and bones revealed.
And now another son I’ve taken from this earth
For ‘twas my ’pon that vile trigger
Stole from him his vitality, vim, and vigour
In this wretched war of little worth.
Now I hear the Generals propound
‘He did his duty, he did it well’
Yet no pride have I, no chest to swell
No honour in that duty have I found.
When I awake with each breaking dawn
Consider that foe whose name I know not
All those others with each practiced shot
            I’ll picture him lying in a soldier’s lawn.’

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Large Language Models: Destroyers of Communication

This blog is on a topic I know little about. However, I do know three things. First, I know how to listen to my inner-tutor (my intuition) and second, I know how to listen to experts in the field. Third, and most importantly, I know how important trust is to the building and maintenance of community and global well-being.

Large Language Models (LLMs) are computational models that enable language generation and processing. Probably the most well-known expression of LLMs is ChatGPT.

When I listen to my intuition and the thoughts of experts, I grow increasingly wary of, and sceptical of, LLMs and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in general.

AI poses many threats and risks to humanity and the rest of the world. To mention just a few here: 1. The energy use by AI is doubling every 100 days, 2. Studies are now being show that LLMs are learning to lie and deceive, 3. Universities and other institutions are being challenged by the issue of plagiarism and originality of thought because of LLMs, 4. Inbuilt bias (gender, race, class, sexuality etc) occurs in the ‘harvesting of words’1 that LLMs undertake, 5. AI undermines democracy and privacy.

I want to focus here on another issue, that of trust.

First though, we must discuss what communication is and is not. Communication is not simply the passing on of information. As with many words in the English language, communication comes to us via Latin, in this case, communicare. In Latin this word can be translated as: to share, divide out, join, unite, participate in, impart, inform.

Communicare itself derives from communis, meaning in common. Com = with, together, and unis = oneness, union.

When we understand this, we realise that communication is much, much, more than simply passing on information.

Communication is a means to commune, a way of building and maintaining relationships. Wholesome communication is a cornerstone of healthy communities.

This is what AI destroys.

Relationships are built on trust, and that is what LLMs undermine.

A study undertaken by the University of Queensland in 2023 of over 17,000 people from 17 countries showed that three out of five people were wary of trusting AI systems.2

Not trusting AI systems is one thing. Not trusting each other is another. AI does nothing to mitigate the already high levels of mistrust and polarisation in the world. It may indeed exacerbate it.

The reason for this is that LLMs are not a communication tool. They are simply an information tool. They pass on information, without regard to the veracity of the information gleaned and generated.

Let me pose a scenario, which is likely to become more prevalent in the future. Suppose I am in communication with someone and have built a relationship of trust with that person. When I read something from them I do not question that what I read is that person’s own ideas and thought.

But then, what happens if I discover that that person has begun to use ChatGPT (or other AI) to generate what they write? Will I accept that the words are indeed those of the person I am in communication with?

If all I am interested in is the information in what I read, then I will possibly be accepting of the material.

However, if my concern is more that of maintaining a relationship with that person (including the exchange of information) then knowing that the material has been generated by AI, and not by the person themselves, my trust in future interactions with that person is likely to be diminished. In other words, the communication between us is seriously undermined.

LLMs, and AI generally, is poised to damage levels of trust between people. When trust is destabilised then relationships founder, and polarisation follows.

Already, the levels of inter-personal (and inter-national) trust are decreasing, and polarisation  increasing.3 AI exacerbates this trend.

AI is destroying true communication.


1. Harvesting of words: a term used by Tracey Spicer in a public presentation on Artificial Intelligence, 8 June 2024. Spicer is the author of Man-Made: How the bias of the past is being built into the future, Simon & Schuster, Australia, 2023.

2. Gillespie, N., Lockey, S., Curtis, C., Pool, J., & Akbari, A. Trust in Artificial Intelligence: A Global Study. The University of Queensland and KPMG Australia. 2023, doi:10.14264/00d3c94

3. For example, in the US less than 40% of people felt that ‘most people can be trusted.’ Dan Vallone et al., Two Stories of Distrust in America, More in Common, New York, 2021.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

What If We Weren't Alone?

Homo sapiens and
Homo neanderthalensis
The question ‘are we alone in the Universe?’ has been pondered for decades. The Search for
Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a collective term for the many forms of search that exist for intelligent life beyond our planet. Scientifically, the search began in earnest soon after the invention of radio.

What would we do if intelligent life were discovered elsewhere in our own galaxy or in other galaxies? How would we react? What would we think of our own existence? Would we react with fear, or with open arms?

Would we re-evaluate our own place in the cosmos? What about our life on this planet? Would we reconsider our place here on Earth?

Crucially, would we continue to think of ourselves as the supreme beings? Would we continue to think of ourselves as the Crown of Creation or as the Pinnacle of Evolution?

Of course, notwithstanding various conspiracy theories and ufology, there has not yet been any scientific evidence to confirm the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Nor, however, has there been any scientific evidence to confirm that extraterrestrial intelligence does not exist.

Are we alone? We don’t know, but so far, we seem to be.

Yet, we haven’t always been alone.

Just 100,000 years ago, right here on our home planet, we Homo sapiens were not alone. We shared the planet with at least five other hominins of the genus Homo. The longest living of these was Homo erectus who lived from around 2 million years ago up until the relatively recent time of about 100,000 years ago. Homo erectus was widespread throughout Eurasia.

Two of the others, Homo luzonensis and Homo floresiensis were confined to islands (Luzo in the Philippines and Flores in Indonesia respectively.) We, Homo sapiens, most likely did not know of the existence of these two long-lost cousins at the time they existed.

But the other two hominins, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo denisova we probably did know of, as well as interacting with. Homo neanderthalensis (the Neanderthals) roamed throughout Eurasia from (possibly) around 430,000 years ago until as recent as 40,000 years ago.

Homo denisova were an Asian species living from about 285,000 years ago until just 25,000 years ago.

We certainly did know of these hominin cousins. Indeed, we knew them quite well. Modern day Homo sapiens of European descent contain approximately 2% Homo neanderthalensis DNA. Homo sapiens from Asia, Melanesia, and Australian Aborigines contain up to 6% Homo denisova DNA.

Hence, as little as 20,000 – 40,000 years ago we were sharing our planet with two other species of Homo. We were sharing the land, trees, fruits, nuts, grains, and waterways with these cousins for some 80% to 90% or more of our existence.

What if those two species were still extant? Significantly, what if all five of them were still living and breathing somewhere on Earth?

We would have to re-evaluate our notions of superiority. We would have to recognise that we (Homo sapiens) had to share this planet with at least five other species within our genus. Recognising that, we might even begin to accept that we needed to share this Earth with other-than-human species.

A corollary to this thought experiment is the question of why these other five species of Homo died out? The reason is chilling.

A study in 2020 strongly suggests that the extinction “coincides with increased vulnerability to climate change.”1 In the case of Homo neanderthalensis competition with Homo sapiens at a time of severe climate change appears to have hastened their demise.

The study further suggests that we (homo sapiens) managed to survive the climate change of the time because we were the “only species whose climatic niche was still expanding … when the Neanderthals went extinct.”

Nowadays, however, we have nowhere further to expand. Climate change affects everyone, everywhere. We are the latest of the Homo genus, we may well be the last.

Unless we change how we perceive of ourselves and if we were to think of ourselves as not alone.


1. Pasquale Raia et al., Past Extinctions of Homo Species Coincided with Increased Vulnerability to Climatic Change, One Earth 3, 480–490 October 23, 2020.