Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, which is China’s — and by some measures, the world’s — biggest online commerce company, foresaw that in the near future, all of us might only be working 12 hours a week or less because artificial intelligence and robots will be doing the work for us. Is this good news or bad? I think it depends on how you look at it and what kind of future you want for yourself and your children.
Since then, artificial intelligence has become a much-discussed topic. I bet most of us are probably thinking or even worrying about our future.
Here’s a concept I like so much that it’s become part of my personal faith: what you eat will decide what you become. Think about it: why is it that on this planet we have so many different plant species, animals, and different human beings? And in different countries, different people have different dietary habits? Why don’t we all only eat the same things the same way? Why do we all look different? I believe this is the most amazing thing on the planet: the biodiversity. But the sad thing is, more and more people overlook this. Instead, people are trying to create the same food for everybody: Starbucks, MacDonalds, Subway, Burger King, Pizza Hut, DQ…Seriously, this is crazy! All those big food manufacturers, distributors, and chains are everywhere around us. Our dietary habits are no longer biodiverse. We all eat the same things now: the same chicken, same tea, same coffee, same ice cream, same bread, same pizza…
So if what we eat decides what we become, then when we all eat the same thing, what are we? What is difference between us and robots? Robots all eat electricity; and now we all eat the same poultry that went through the same machine!
The point I’m making is that if we don’t treat ourselves as special, no one else will. We are individual and unique, but if we ignore this, we’ll become victims of powerful organizations. In the future, we won’t study how artificial intelligence works and how it can serve us. The future world will strive to make people into robots.
These are my questions, and as of yet, I have no perfect answers for them. Here are some more questions I have. Maybe you can find your own answers to them:
If we could save so much time on things like travel in the future, I would choose to slow down my life to brew more high-quality tea for myself and my friends. Are you ready to control the speed of your life?
Ok, I still have so many questions I’d like to discuss with you. But the point I’m making with those questions is that I want to help you see that no matter what kind of future we could have, it all depends on us. It all depends on whether you’re willing to participate or not. Just like an app in your smart phone app store, it can only work and hit critical mass if lots of individual people download it. Otherwise, it means nothing.
I know all this discussion may seem to have nothing to do with the business of tea, but in fact, it’s all about tea.
As I said at the beginning, tea isn’t just a thing you can drink or do business with. Tea is a way of thinking. It’s a way to help you feel things you want to understand in the world, and it will help you understand things much deeper and more directly – without the need to “cut” or destroy it. And it will teach you that just seeing things with your eyes is not enough to understand things correctly. It will teach you how you can directly feel the things you want to know – from the inside of the thing. From this perspective, you’ll see things at a different angle and feel things differently, and you can see things in a more comprehensive fashion.
I see the world is changing, and yes, it is changing very fast every day. But after becoming a tea person, I decided to work on my path at my own speed, no matter how fast this world is moving. I’ve been trying to hunt good teas in the mountains for years now. I saw how the lives of lots of tea farmers were changing. I always pay attention to what their focus is, what they believe, and the perspective they come from. In my eyes, no matter what you do, what you eat, who you date, who you marry, how you do your work…it’s all related to only one thing: dealing with humans.
When I’m on my tea journey, of course I focus on the quality of the tea. But another important thing I focus on is who are the people connected to the tea. Maybe I have some special natural talent. Usually, after talking with people only once or twice, I can generally get a sense of their personality, what type of person they are, what kinds of things they would interested in, and what they wouldn’t be interested in. This talent helps me find some of the very few good tea artisans who are not only good at making artisanal teas, but also have a good heart, with good intentions toward other people and Mother Earth. But also because of this talent, it can be very difficult to find the right tea artisans, because it makes me a very picky person, and unfortunately, there aren’t many tea people who meet my standards. So on my tea journey, I always feel very lonely as I search for the right tea artisans. Here, I want to share some of my stories about how I find the tea artisans.
When I’m out tea hunting, I know people look at me as a potential customer. When this kind of relationship is recognized, then naturally people have one common focus: trying to sell their teas to me. How they try to sell tea to me and what questions they ask me easily help me to find out if they’re the right tea person for me. I have some principles that help me find true tea artisans, which I would like to share with you now:
Therefore, if any “tea artisan” would show me they have many different tea categories they’re making, there are only two possibilities: A. This person is not a true tea artisan, but he or she might know some individual tea artisans and collect their teas. B. This person’s tea is not artisanal tea at all, and all teas are from tea factories made from machines. And this is the most probable situation.
Based on my own standards, when I check whether the tea artisan is good or not, not only do I have to check whether they can make good quality tea, but I also need to look at a few other very important things:
As I said, the world is changing, and it changes very fast every day. People are changing, too. In fact, people changing too fast is what leads the world to change faster and faster. Thirty years ago, hardly any families in China had televisions. Now, we all have smartphones and we’re expecting the robots to take over our jobs.
Leave the outside world behind when you visit the people in the mountains. Because you aren’t a tea artisan who lives their daily life in the tea mountains, and a true tea artisan won’t be checking a computer every day, try not to let your modern habits and differences influence them. Any of your actions could be a potentially damaging influence on these people.
There is a young kid I met about five years ago. He had a pure heart and was very shy when he saw people from outside his village. His father and brother made excellent ancient tea tree raw puer tea. Since then, more and more people from cities in the tea business found his family and wanted to deal with this family. They got a lot of business. Five years ago, when I met him, he was still working very hard learning how to make the best artisanal puer tea with his brother and father. Every year, we would get in touch and I would go visit them, but every year, more and more people brought more and more money to them. People who dressed fancy and drove fancy cars visited this small family and pushed them to produce greater quantities of tea. They even put a bunch of money in the kid’s belt and took photos to make fun of him. As of now, this small family has a huge house almost the size of a castle, and this kid is no longer the shy, hardworking little tea artisan anymore. He started smoking the most expensive cigars brought in from Cuba, driving a BMW, drinking every day until he passed out, chasing girls, and spending all his money to buy luxury junk like LV bags and Rolex watches to give away to girls. He was already divorced 3 times by the time he was only 25. He stopped making his own artisanal tea, and instead hired laborers to produce low quality teas that he then sold at a very high price. All of this happened within only 5 years.
I stopped visiting this kid, especially once he was rich. Once you were no longer one of his biggest customers, he stopped listening to any of your suggestions, and he no longer cared if you came back.
Tea farmers’ lives have changed a lot in recent years. When I look at them, I ask myself this question: no matter how this world changes and how crazy it gets, are you going to stay true to your principles and keep doing things as you have, or are you going to start to change hand in hand with this world, no matter how crazy it (and you) becomes?
It’s just like the question I asked above: Are you ready to eat and drink the same things as others, just like all robots eat electricity? Are you ready to give up your principles to have an unexamined life, until one day the robots can replace you?
I believe human beings can create the most amazing artisanal teas and do things that no robots can, but I also believe that if we all treat ourselves like robots: eat fast, work fast, live only for making money without any beliefs, drink tea without any consideration or consciousness, and don’t care what’s really good for our health or Mother Earth, then yes, sooner or later, we’ll easily be replaced by technology.
Ream more at 5 Element Tea
P.S. Let’s save our true Tea artisans, let them know we value their skills that bring so many happy moments to people around the world. Let’s say no to large scale factory produced teas and tea wares and protect these invaluable artisans for the next generation to enjoy.
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