There has been a lot in the media recently about OpenAI with growing concerns that its responses are so well formulated that it can pass a university medical exam. That got me thinking. Given that the adoption of regenerative tourism approaches and practices has been slow, and there has been some resistance, I wanted to ask a few questions. These questions were mostly borne out of my own exhaustion in advocating for change.
I wanted to find out whether #ChatGPT, an OpenAI tool, could offer any insights on exactly what barriers were that stopped some people from understanding, and whether it had any insights that could help me communicate regenerative tourism more effectively. (I've been researching and writing on this topic for a good few years, but I was interested in whether AI could offer me any insights that I was missing. The results were, all at once, shocking, curious, validating, and frustrating.
But before we dive in, what is #ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is an OpenAI tool and its tagline says it all: Optimising Language Models for Dialogue. It's an AI tool that has been trained to interact in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.
Here is how the conversation went:
"How important is it to shift the tourism industry towards a regenerative approach?"
ChatGPT responded: "It is crucial for the tourism industry to shift towards a regenerative approach in order to minimize its negative impact on the environment, communities, and cultures. A regenerative approach focuses on regenerating the natural and cultural resources that tourism depends on, rather than just trying to minimize damage. This can include implementing sustainable practices, supporting local economies, and preserving cultural heritage. By adopting a regenerative approach, the tourism industry can contribute to building a more sustainable future for all."
"What barriers to implementation are unique to regenerative tourism?"
ChatGPT responded: " There are several factors that may be preventing the tourism industry from fully embracing a regenerative approach. Some of these include:
Lack of awareness or understanding of what regenerative tourism is and how it can benefit both the industry and the environment.
Limited investment in research and development of regenerative tourism practices.
Difficulty in measuring the impact of regenerative tourism practices, making it difficult for companies to justify the cost of implementing them.
Resistance to change from established industry players who may be more comfortable with traditional business models.
Limited government support for regenerative tourism initiatives.
Lack of regulations and standards for regenerative tourism.
Difficulty in integrating regenerative practices with existing tourism infrastructure and operations."
(The final two dot points that referenced 'regulations and standards' and 'tourism infrastructure and operations' suggest that OpenAI does not recognise that regenerative tourism is a paradigm shift and that regulations and standards are going to become less important as mindset shifts and we connect more fully with hearts, minds and souls to the challenge. I will come back to these later.)
"I think what you are telling me is that governments may be resistant and that they could create the space for regenerative tourism?"
"There could be a variety of reasons why governments may be resistant to embracing regenerative tourism. Some possible reasons include:
Lack of understanding or awareness of the benefits of regenerative tourism.
Limited resources or capacity to invest in research and development of regenerative tourism initiatives.
Short-term focus on economic growth and tourism revenue, which may not align with the long-term goals of regenerative tourism.
Resistance to change from established tourism industries that may be more comfortable with traditional business models.
Limited understanding of the systemic changes required for a regenerative approach and the need to coordinate across different sectors.
Political pressure from lobby groups or industry players who may be more focused on short-term economic gains.
Limited engagement with local communities, who may be essential partners in regenerative tourism initiatives. It's important to note that the reasons may vary by country and by context. Also, it's possible that some governments may be more advanced than others in their understanding and support of regenerative tourism."
So why aren't governments doing this?
ChatGPT responded: '"There are a variety of reasons why governments may not be fully embracing regenerative tourism. Some possible reasons include:
Lack of awareness or understanding of regenerative tourism and its benefits.
Prioritizing other economic or political issues over tourism and sustainability.
Limited resources or funding for tourism-related initiatives.
Resistance to change from established industry players who may be more comfortable with traditional business models.
Limited research and data on regenerative tourism practices and their impacts.
Short-term political and economic thinking that prioritizes economic growth over sustainable development.
Limited public pressure and demand for regenerative tourism.
Limited participation of the tourism industry stakeholders in shaping the policies and regulations."
"It's important to note that governments and public policies are influenced by many factors and are subject to change over time, thus, it's possible that with increased awareness, research and education, public pressure and participation of the industry stakeholders, governments will start to prioritize regenerative tourism more."
Let's be clear, I did not ask these questions so that I could focus on what government is or is not doing. The conversation simply took me that way. Remember, OpenAI compiles what is explicitly known and written about on the topic. Nevertheless, it was quite revealing because it also got me thinking about what was being said between the lines of text. By focusing on how we as human readers interpret that text is telling. There is a process of implicit sense-making that occurs when humans draw together knowledge that connects knowledge generated in our heads and hearts with our lived and felt experiences. Put simply, it's about listening to your head, heart, and gut as you read the words offered by AI.
Upon reflection, referring to 'regulations and standards', #ChatGPT was a bit 'off' with its understanding of regenerative tourism. 'Regulations and standards' represents the old scientific way of thinking. It reflects the need for control, top-down solutions, and the heavy hand of regulation. However, in many other respects, #ChatGPT captured in a clear way what we know about:
the short-term focus on economic goals.
the power and resistance of industry interests.
the comfort and familiarity with existing business models and thus fear of change.
lack of awareness.
absence of case studies, examples and learning opportunities.
limited understanding of the systemic changes required for a regenerative approach and the need to coordinate across different sectors.
In these conversations, ChatGPT generated a summary of the explicit knowledge on the subject of regenerative tourism and its implementation challenges. But what was perhaps most revealing is what the conversation implicitly suggested, and the way that our human interpretation fills in the gaps with implicit knowledge.
Our implicit sensing of what we know comes from an alignment between our head (the head-dominated cognitive knowledge that ChatGPT generated), our heart, and our instinct. Our instinct is derived from internal sources of knowing, such as lived experience and felt experience. Neuroscience is now starting to reveal the importance of these sources of knowing, which our First Nations have known and felt all along!
It's a deeper sense of knowing derived from sensing and integrating our sources of knowledge. It's the pursuit of rational scientific knowledge over the last few hundred years within our education systems that has diminished our ability to recognise and interpret this knowledge. So, let's do a quick exercise:
An exercise in 'feeling' the need to shift
In your reading of the above conversation with #ChatGPT, pause for a moment and think about where you are feeling these insights in your own body. If you need to, scroll back up and reflect again on the conversation. Take a deep breath, exhale slowly (a couple of times if necessary), and ask "How do I feel about #ChatGPT's summary of regenerative tourism? Where do you feel those ideas in my body? In your head (cognitive knowledge), your heart (values), or is it your gut (instinct)? Perhaps it's a combination?
For many, the #ChatGPT conversation will be deeply instinctual and you will feel it in your body. For others, it might be a shrug, a contraction of uncertainty, or even fear because it is outside your comfort zone. What is happening is that our different sources of knowing are being brought together in a more holistic way. Perhaps it triggers an instinctual idea about how to proceed or what to do. Our implicit felt and lived experience - i.e., embodied knowledge - is helping us interpret and identify the insights from AI.
Why is this all relevant? It is relevant because, in the process of reading the #ChatGPT response, how many of us were interpreting and supplementing this explicit information with our own implicit knowledge and lived experience? Put simply, could you observe yourself filling in the gaps with your own internalised knowledge, lived and felt experience?
Imagine if you could tap into that way of thinking and working, how empowered you would feel to drive regenerative change!
How often have you felt depleted, exhausted and frustrated in trying to drive regenerative change?
A key challenge in driving the regenerative shift in tourism is to do the inner work. It starts with aligning our different sources of knowledge, understanding our worldview, and navigating the paradigm change in a constructive way, so that we can have those important conversations. We have found that aligning this knowledge is energising and inspiring. Moreover, undertaking this inner work can inspire and motivate us to undertake more effective team collaborations.
In our CoLab Course, Shifting Mindset, Shifting Cultures, (starting February 2023) we explore how we can align and build the mindset for regenerative change.
We explore how we know, and how we can see and understand the opportunities and challenges of regenerative tourism more clearly.
We explore the role of explicit and implicit knowledge, and we build awareness of our inner ways of knowing. This inner work sharpens our awareness of how we think and why we think in certain ways.
This work empowers us to recognise the conditioning within which we operate so that we can address those barriers, create new neural pathways, and create a mindful space for regeneration.
In working this way, we have the opportunity to evolve our mindsets and contribute to the shift. Paradigm change is not easy. It is slow and there is often resistance and fear of change. This course allows individuals and teams to develop a clear-eyed view of the change ahead, to build their confidence, and to develop their team's capacity to evolve thinking and choose their response.
The Tourism CoLab is an online tourism education and change-making agency specialising in disrupting tourism through unlearning experiences and experimental journeys.