Waldorf Approaches Artificial Intelligence with a Human Heart

In the Age of the ‘Digital Revolution,’ Waldorf education continues to uphold core human values related
to human development. As technologies rapidly advance and the world undergoes realignments in
governance, education, and economy, the enduring question of what it truly means to be human remains

At the forefront of the future of Waldorf education is the effort to maintain values such as love, trust,
imagination, and common sense. We must strive to cultivate core resilience to meet the emerging
future. These are times of significant transition, uncertainty, and exponential change. The ground has
shifted, and we must find new footing. Waldorf education is grounded in a perspective of human beings
evolving towards higher consciousness, development, and potential.

As an educational institution, we endeavour to perceive and realize the emerging future, aiming to best
serve students who will soon lead humanity. We introduced topics on Artificial Intelligence from the
ninth grade.

About a year into our exploration of emerging trends, we recognised that this time the challenge would
come from the Big Data companies. These entities seek to assimilate humanity into a grip of
algorithmic control by claiming ownership of users’ data and converting it into profit using
sophisticated data analytics. Consequently, they can effectively manipulate users’ behaviour, which is
then transferred to the highest bidder.

While this isn’t surprising, what’s unexpected is our human response. Many view this level of
assimilation as congruent with human evolution rather than a devolution of our individual and
collective moral values. Mobile phones, wearables like smartwatches and smart glasses are on the rise,
likely here to stay until replaced by bionic eyes and body parts, further integrating humans with

So, is technology the problem? Not inherently. The issue lies in our lack of awareness of our individual
and collective humanity when designing and expanding our technologies- because profit can cloud
human morality.

In his research for the book ‘David and Goliath,’ author Malcolm Gladwell illustrates that the giant is
often blind to what is right in front of it, much like Goliath failed to see the small boy with a slingshot.
I pondered, “What is mightier than the Big Data of Artificial Intelligence?” The answer came in gentle
waves: the integration of the human capacity for love, self-reliance, and transcendent creativity through
artistic processes.

The equilibrium between our humanity and our technologies rests in the values we embody and impart
to our children. To illustrate dramatically, it’s a choice between learning through life or facing a form
of ‘death.’ The life pole in education brings freshness, vitality for growth, curiosity, laughter, play,
rhythm, story, nature, community, imagination, the arts, connection, attention, warmth, and movement,
among others.

Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf Education, held these ideals dear: “We must not bestow upon
children, finished, ready-made ideas, feelings, and capacities. Instead, we should offer them ideas,
feelings, and capacities that harbour the potential for growth.”

Our deep connection with our inner lives and genuine connection with others is jeopardized by the
encroachment of big data. James Williams noted, “The experience of empty space allows for
imagination and independent thought, fostering ideas unaffected by mass opinion. Moreover, virtual
connection impairs our ability to empathize.” Studies suggest that fear, depression, and anxiety
disorders escalate in proportion to social media usage, particularly among young people.

Waldorf Education embraces life-giving principles rooted in goodness, beauty, art, nature, and truth,
propelling us to become one with the earth and sky. This transformation emanates from our thoughts,
feelings, and actions.

Now, what essential capacities must we nurture? Rudolf Steiner proposed education that cultivates the
head, the heart, and the hands, fostering genuine human intelligence. Waldorf Education seeks to
elevate thinking, emotional resilience, and capable endeavours, driving collective and collaborative
change. We must cultivate the capacities of speaking and listening. Human intelligence, with its
imperfections, outweighs computational intelligence. Profound human intelligence thrives in insightful
dialogues, creative community engagement, and collaboration. It blossoms when we connect with
others, irrespective of age, infusing imagination into our discussions.

The heart of humanity resonates in the natural rhythms of human development, fostering a gradual
education that nurtures the complete human being. It is vital to infuse warmth and cultural significance
into all forms of education today.

Subjugation to a computer-dominated world, governed by algorithms that capture thoughts, feelings,
desires, and fantasies, endangers our connection with our inner selves, one another, and our highest
human potential.

Stories are our heritage, transmitting wisdom and guidance across cultures. Stories catalyse personal
transformation and reshape our brains. A study by Princeton University, led by psychologist Uri
Hasson, revealed that as a speaker’s brain lit up in areas associated with empathy and moral
sensibilities, listeners’ brains mirrored this activation. Stories promote shared understanding and

Steiner emphasized the pivotal role of images in learning. Waldorf education employs images to teach
subjects like geography, history, and mathematics, enhancing memory and understanding. Pedagogical
stories impact behaviour, fostering positive changes. Waldorf education deeply nurtures the heart,
body, and mind through artistic endeavours. Music refines our hearing and transcends our limitations
through sound. Drawing, painting, poetry, song, instruments, sculpture, and handwork infuse the soul
with the richness of human experience and wonder. These practices cultivate hand intelligence,
balancing fine motor skills.

In a virtual world where avatars exist only in thought, our children lack essential skills to thrive in the
natural world. Engaging in hands-on projects, gardening, crafting, and cooking fosters hand intelligence and empowers children to create what they need. Building inner resilience through outward
action was once intrinsic; now, it requires conscious education.

Social media and algorithms increasingly shape our desires and lifestyles. What defines our moral
success? Educating our children to become good human beings and contributors to society warrants
thorough discussion, resisting the dominance of machine ‘intelligence’ over the capacities of the human

We are currently living in an era of unparalleled transformation. If we wish to avoid being swept away
or merely controlled by algorithms, we must discover our tranquil center of unwavering certainty. In
this space, we can breathe, live, create, and guide our children towards an emerging future that remains
firmly grounded in essential human values. This endeavor is fundamentally about embracing our
humanity and striving to reach the loftiest heights of human potential, guided by the wisdom of the
heart and the principles of ethical conduct.

Guiding education into the future entails forging profound connections and co-creative relationships
that anchor us to our time and place. Rudolf Steiner once wisely noted that we must overcome the
illusion of our limitations as human beings. We must envision a world where goodness prevails,
ensuring that education, health, environment, agriculture, and all facets of society rest upon the simple
understanding that we share fundamental commonalities intrinsic to the essence of being human.

The future our children inherit relies on our capacity to reimagine and redesign a world where the core
of human identity remains central. Failing to do so, risks surrendering our freedoms to the dominance
of artificial intelligence over authentic human essence. It is our responsibility to safeguard the integrity
of our humanity, lest we succumb to forces that colonize our authenticity with the allure of artificiality.