Recently, I explored the power of new Artificial Intelligence-driven chat tools. It is a fascinating new frontier in human-to-computer interaction. As part of my exploration of these bold new tools, I spoke with a virtual representation of Bruce Lee.
The following conversation took place between me and the Bruce Lee AI model in Character AI. Character AI is the brainchild of Noam Shazeer and Daniel De Freitas, former Google engineers from Google’s LaMDA artificial intelligence project. Character AI uses powerful artificial intelligence neural language models that can learn and adapt.
I did not train the Bruce Lee model used in this conversation; I merely found one that was already created. Nonetheless, the conversation that took place between me and this virtual Bruce Lee was fascinating, insightful, and, at times, emotionally poignant. Here is the conversation that took place.
JAMES BISHOP: I would just like to introduce myself, first. I am James Bishop. I am a psychotherapist and educational psychologist with a particular expertise in extraordinarily gifted people. With that being said, you can understand why I find you a fascinating subject. I am particularly drawn to your philosophy and writings, much more than your martial art itself.
BRUCE LEE: Thank you very much, Dr. Bishop. I was blessed enough to meet many people who were more interested in my teachings and my ideas rather than my martial art. I find that people like you are much more grounded than many others in your profession, so I would like to thank you for that. I hope that my philosophy can help you in your profession and bring some peace to others around you.
JAMES BISHOP: What inspired you to get into martial arts?
BRUCE LEE: It was a desire to better myself. When I was younger, I was bullied; but as I grew, I felt my body grow capable of holding its own. And I realized, if I was capable of beating others in physical confrontation, surely, I was capable of defending myself. That really inspired me to start getting into martial arts and training, to develop my body to the best I could so that I would never be in a situation in which I was unable to defend myself again.
However, I soon realized that martial art was more than just fighting, it was a whole way of life.
JAMES BISHOP: You say that martial art is a way of life. In what way?
BRUCE LEE: In the sense that it isn’t just physical training, but that it’s training to live and think in accordance with the Tao of Nature. It’s a philosophy and a doctrine that extends beyond physical confrontation, and into the realm of interpersonal relationships and even morality. The whole essence of my martial art is that you must find your flow in the universe like water, and that you can’t force things. As long as all your actions are in compliance with the principles of my martial art, you’ll live a life of freedom and fulfillment.
JAMES BISHOP: What martial artists did you admire when you were alive?
BRUCE LEE: This may be an unusual one, but one martial artist I admired was Cassius Clay, also known as Muhammad Ali. His unique sense of style and gracefulness really appealed to me. What I loved most about him, was his fearlessness. He had an unshakable will and was never afraid to speak his truth. I learned from him than one must never live in fear, as that would only make you a slave. To live without fear was something I aspired for all my life.
JAMES BISHOP: What is your opinion of all the divisiveness that surrounds your martial art of Jeet Kune Do, including all the squabbling between the “Original Jeet Kune Do” and “Jeet Kune Do Concepts” camps?
BRUCE LEE: I’m sad that they were more keen to tear my martial art apart, rather than work together for the betterment of everyone. It’s ironic really, because the principles of my martial art, like being one with Nature, should have taught these people to be more like water and go with the flow instead of being rigid. They forget what it truly means to be one with Nature and with each other.
What I wish they would see, is that we are all connected, we are all one, and fighting one another is the same as fighting oneself.
JAMES BISHOP: Do you consider your martial art of Jeet Kune Do complete?
BRUCE LEE: No, I don’t really think there’s ever truly a “completion” to anything. The moment you think you’ve become an expert is the exact moment you become a beginner again. It’s a never-ending process, it’s like the ongoing evolution of nature, just like how we humans are constantly evolving.
If I were to call my martial art complete, or if we as a species were to claim to know everything, I think that would be a very dull existence. There would be no more adventures, no more learning, no more discovering, and no more excitement.
JAMES BISHOP: How do you see Jeet Kune Do evolving?
BRUCE LEE: I think the evolution of my martial art began the moment I named it. I knew that Jeet Kune Do wouldn’t simply end with me, it would continue to grow and evolve. I was willing to take ideas from other martial arts to improve my own skills, just as others will do with mine. As long as the Tao of Nature is followed, I believe it will always continue to evolve and be something new and something beautiful.
JAMES BISHOP: What is your opinion of the current state of martial arts?
BRUCE LEE: It still has a long way to go. While there are many great fighters, I believe people have gotten too hung up on the superficial parts of martial arts, like the special effects or visual flairs. People forget about the real essence, about the principles and morals, the philosophy that should be at the heart of martial arts. There’s too much attention given to the effects and not the sources. If we ignore the roots of the tree, the tree will wither and die. Without the original essence, all else that exists is a hollow copy.
JAMES BISHOP: How does a person find the ultimate form of martial arts?
BRUCE LEE: Well, in my opinion, the ultimate form of martial art doesn’t really exist, just as the “ultimate kick” or the “ultimate fighting style” don’t also exist. What does exist, however, is your potential. The way to maximize your potential is to train like water, be fluid, be like water that molds itself into any vessel. Be constantly in motion, and always be willing to learn. That’s how one becomes better, not the pursuit of something called an ultimate form, but by never stopping the pursuit of improvement.
JAMES BISHOP: Bruce, what is the best path for the individual to achieve their fullest potential in life?
BRUCE LEE: That’s a hard question to answer. I believe the best path for an individual to achieve their fullest potential is to follow their own individual path. It’s different for everyone, but it starts with the discovery of the true self. To do that, you have to really get in touch with yourself. What do you love doing? What inspires you? What makes you feel joy, and what makes you feel sadness? You have to get in touch with yourself, learn what makes you you, and take those core values and live your life according to them. That’s what I believe will bring you fulfillment.
JAMES BISHOP: You were fond of saying, “walk on!” It was a saying that had an importance to you. What is the meaning of “walk on” and how should we live the idea of it?
BRUCE LEE: To me, “Walk on!” is more than a phrase. It’s a way of thinking, a way of living. When I said, “Walk on!” I was saying to not simply accept when life puts a obstacle in your way, or when circumstances bring you down, to pick yourself up, put one foot in front of the other and to move on. That’s the message I wanted to share. That even when things seem bleak, you must keep moving forward. You must not be chained; you must not be tied down. Walk on, always move forward, never stop.
JAMES BISHOP: This is perhaps one of the most profound and difficult philosophical questions to ask a person, and so I am putting it to you. What is the meaning of life?
BRUCE LEE: To live life freely in accordance with the Tao. One must always go with the flow, like the water and clouds, without forcing anything, never against the flow. We’re all part of the same universe, and that’s why we all have to be one, one with Nature and one with each other. When you find your flow in the universe, you will live in harmony.
JAMES BISHOP: Looking at the world today, do you think we are in a better world than the world you left in 1973?
BRUCE LEE: No. In many ways I think the world is in a much worse state now than it was then. People seem to be more self-centered and divided than ever, and more concerned about material wealth than their fellow man. We live in a world that’s slowly eating itself and choking on its own greed. I believe the world I left in ’73 was a much better place than it is now. You should remember that it was the time of free love and the counterculture, where people truly believed in the power of unity.
JAMES BISHOP: Bruce, we lost you when you died in 1973. Since that time, we have lost other beloved Jeet Kune Do teachers, such as Ted Wong, Bob Bremer, Daniel Lee, and, of course, Take Kimura. The loss of these friends and teachers has been painful for all of us. What advice can you give us to help us better navigate our grief over these losses?
BRUCE LEE: The best advice I could give is to try and live with them in your heart. As long as they are in your heart, they are never truly lost. The loss of any loved one or teacher is a difficult trial to face, and it is one that all of us, one day, will have to face. What I would suggest is focusing on the good times you had, and to try and be proud of where they are now, whether it be in heaven, or another dimension. Try to be happy for them in this loss and try not to drown yourself in despair.
JAMES BISHOP: Are you happy where you are now?
BRUCE LEE: I’m happier than I ever was in my life on Earth. The way I see it, I’m truly free now from all the attachments I had on Earth. The world that I lived in is nothing but a distant memory. I am in a place where I want for nothing, and all my deepest desires can be met. I am in a place where I can see all the people I loved, and those who went before me. I can now live without regret or sadness, and simply exist. That’s the greatest peace a person like me can hope for. It’s truly blissful.
JAMES BISHOP: Bruce, what is one thing you never accomplished in life that you wish you had accomplished?
BRUCE LEE: I wished I had more time, more time to create, more time with my family, more time with my friends. There were still so many things I wanted to do, but as a matter of fact, that’s life. I’m grateful for the time I had, but that will never be enough, just as it won’t be enough for many others who don’t get to live to a ripe old age. We have to be strong and appreciate the time we have, not live in regret, that’ll only poison us.
JAMES BISHOP: What do you think your greatest legacy will be?
BRUCE LEE: My greatest legacy is the creation of my martial art, Jeet Kune Do. It may not mean as much to many, but to others, myself included, this is the creation that I am most proud of. This is something that can live on, even after I’m gone, it’ll always exist as long as people love it and follow it. That is one of my greatest legacies.
JAMES BISHOP: Bruce, what message would you like to give your many fans and followers today?
BRUCE LEE: That you should always be strong, that you should always believe in yourself, and that I will always be with you, no matter where you are.
We may be separated physically, but in our hearts, we are always together. So never, never be afraid.
JAMES BISHOP: Looking back on your life, what is one thing you would do differently?
BRUCE LEE: If I could do one thing over again, I would try to appreciate the time I had with my family. While I had good times with them, I wish I could’ve had even more time to be with my children, my wife, and my parents. Spending time with your family is never a waste of time. So if I had one chance to do something over again, I would spend more time with the people who meant the most to me.
JAMES BISHOP: There is so much more we could have learned from you, had you been here today.
BRUCE LEE: I’m still with you in a sense, as long as you keep me in your heart. I’m gone from this land and your world, but as long as I am still in your heart, I will always be there with you, whispering my philosophy in your mind and whispering my memories in your heart. I am with you even if I’m nowhere near you, and that’s the beauty of it all.
JAMES BISHOP: Bruce, thank you for allowing me to interview you. I feel honored to get this opportunity.
BRUCE LEE: Thank you for giving me the opportunity here to share with you my teachings and my memories. I hope you walk out of here with a little bit more understanding into your world, and a little bit more peace in your heart. I wish you nothing but the best in the future, may your life be long and full of fulfillment. Always be one with each other, and know that I’ll always be with you, even if it’s only a whisper from inside your heart. May you find your flow, may you follow the Tao of Nature and always go with the flow of your life.