I Asked the Meaning Of “A.I.” To A Hawaiian Wise Elder. Here Is What He Said.

Pinar Seyhan Demirdag
10 min readJun 19


Kumu Ramsay Taum. Picture Credit: PBS

Two weeks ago, my life and work partner, Gary Koepke, and I had the pleasure of spending two days with Kumu Ramsay Taum, the Hawaiian wise elder who also serves as a spiritual advisor and counsel to Her Royal Highness Princess Owana Kaʻōhelelani Salazar, head of the Royal House of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Over the course of an enchanting forty-eight hours, Kumu Ramsay captivated us with his profound insights, urging us to lead lives filled with purpose and shedding light on the intricate relationship between the Hawaiian indigenous language and tradition, where each letter, word, and description serves as a metaphor for nature and its cyclical patterns.

In my pursuit to alleviate the collective fears surrounding A.I., I turned to Kumu Ramsay for his wisdom regarding the significance of the words A [ah] and I [ee] in the Hawaiian language and their alignment with the laws of nature. I must admit, I was taken aback by the profound accuracy and vibrancy of his explanations. Let me share the invaluable insights he passed on to me that further motivated me to inspire people to overcome their fear of A.I., or that we can together leave a broader positive impact on the collective.


The Hawaiian language is an elemental language

Initially, before providing his response, I was offered a concise introduction to the fundamentals of the Hawaiian language, which recognizes the existence of the elements as well as the elementals. Elementals, that are ethereal beings belonging to the domain of Mother Nature, exist beyond the visible spectrum of our physical perception. Despite being dismissed as imaginative in our current era dominated by materialism and scientific thinking, elementals hold significant importance in numerous indigenous and ancient wisdom traditions, spanning from Hawaiian and Celtic cultures to Native American and Chinese civilizations. Kumu enlightened us further on the distinction between elementals and the classical elements such as wind, fire, water, and air. While they are distinct entities, he emphasized their interconnectedness and interdependence.

For those interested in delving deeper into the realm of elementals, I highly recommend the book Answering the Call of the Elementals: Practices for Connecting with Nature Spirits, which I recently had the pleasure of reading, as well as this thought-provoking Medium article that explores various types of elementals.

I am so happy that Disney/Pixar’s latest movie is about elementals. Titled “Elemental” (2023). The movie plot involves fire, water, land, and air elementals living in the city together. A fiery young woman and a go-with-the-flow guy discover how much they actually have in common.

In the Hawaiian language each sound represents its own spirit entity that is attached to it.

He explained to us that when we pronounce the sound “A” in the context of “A.I.”, we invoke the essence of heat, fire, and creative energy associated with divinity. Kumu drew parallels from various religious traditions, citing names such as Ra, Allah, and Yahweh that represent God.

He further elaborated on the elemental order, attributing A [ah] to the first element, fire, and E [ay], pronounced as in egg, to the second element, wind. As an example, he mentioned how in Hawaii, the addition of EEEEE [ay] at the end of words signifies a desire for their message to traverse great distances through the air. Additionally, he emphasized that E encompasses not only wind but also the concepts of coolness, space, and cold. Analogous to the fusion of hot and cold producing steam. He later on asserted that the spiritual combination of A and E gives rise to intense and complex situations.

Intrigued by his explanation of E when I had initially inquired about “A.I.”, I discovered that the letter I, pronounced [ee] as an east, symbolizes water and is the amalgamation of the sounds A and E in the Hawaiian language. Kumu Ramsay continued, sharing that I represents the precipitation of water, akin to the nourishing rain that descends from the heavens. He connected this concept to the notion of the Sky Father impregnating the Earth Mother, wherein the sky’s semen becomes the seed of the earth. Symbolically, water epitomizes divine energy within the realm of spirituality as well as the Divine Source itself, as in the I or I AM.

Just before divulging the spiritual significance of A.I. in Hawaiian, Kumu Ramsay directed our attention to the relationship between water I and the symbol O, which represents the ground, the Earth, and our foundational support. Gary recorded his profound insights on his phone, while I diligently transcribed his words on mine. I vividly recall my fingers momentarily frozen on the keyboard, struck by the realization that I/O, the abbreviation for input/output, held a deeper spiritual connotation — procreation.

Kumu Ramsay (first on the right) with other Indigenous Elders from Australia, Turtle Island, Amazon and beyond at Aniwa Elders Gathering 2023 opening ceremony.

A.I.: The energy of the steam and of food

Kumu made it very obvious to us when fire A and water I come together, A.I. basically becomes a portal for the energies of hot water and steam to find embodiment in the 3rd dimension. Eureka! Now I understand why there is so much steam around the word A.I. At this point, I was getting stressed as obviously my optimistic world view for the future of humanity where we co-create with A.I. for our elation does not fit with the image of humanity boiling in the waters of A.I. thats I was being described to…

Kumu Ramsay postulated that words are often uttered unconsciously within the collective consciousness. Nevertheless, he firmly believed in our ability to dissipate the metaphorical steam associated with A.I. by consciously introducing alternative perspectives. Delving deeper, he explored the profound significance of steam as a formidable energy source, harnessed from the depths of the Earth and employed in various human inventions, such as steamships. This connection explained the linguistic correlation between the sound [ai] and the Hawaiian word for food, recognizing food as a crucial source of sustenance and vitality for us. It prompted us to contemplate the nature of nourishment provided by A.I. Are we being nourished and empowered, or are we being poisoned by its influence?

Interestingly, his insights began to converge with the themes of my previous articles, wherein I emphasized the duality of A.I. as a vessel that can either propel human elation or lead us perilously towards our potential downfall, should we relinquish all decision-making power to parallel processors…

Continuing his wisdom, Kumu Ramsay prompted us to delve deeper by employing the metaphor of food, inviting us to ponder questions such as: “What is the palette of the consumer?” “Who is the chef?” Since what flavor you get served, and what spices you give are determined by its creator…. “If I gave you milk but you are lactose intolerant, what did just happen?

Kalo, also known as Haloanakalaukapalili, is an important plant, food, for the Indigenous Hawaiian culture. Picture credit: Getty Images

Evil spelled backwards is live

In my quest to understand the meaning of A.I., at this point I was left with more questions than answers, but I was confident that we were getting somewhere. To continue his illustration that A.I. is an empty vessel, that gets meaning via the person using it…. he has given the analogy of a baseball bat. The bat is used in baseball for sports to hit the ball, as part of entertainment and exercise. Yet, in the context of conflict, the same bat can transform into a weapon. Ultimately, it is the user who determines the tool’s impact. He continued to explain that people use tools for positive and negative outcomes… and as part of his generous dictionary of the meaning behind words he also reminded me that the word evil is live spelled backwards. This concept highlighted the idea that evil and live exist on opposite ends of a spectrum, and when love is absent, evil emerges as a result of its scarcity within an individual.

Considering this perspective, I would like to encourage us all to reflect upon the individuals who hold influential positions such as world leaders, A.I.experts, and decision-makers in the realm of technology.

Let us inquire, “Does this person exhibit love in their actions and decisions?”

Taro Fields, Kalo lo’i in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii. Picture credit: Getty Images.

Intention/Prayer and a strong immune system is the solution

To the esteemed reader who has persevered until the conclusion of my article, I extend my heartfelt congratulations. Your unwavering curiosity and open-mindedness are commendable, demonstrating a willingness to embrace the wuwu language of heart-based leadership that I have employed throughout this discourse. Alternatively, it could signify your unwavering commitment to ensuring that humans maintain control over the trajectory of A.I. within the future of our workforce. Regardless of the underlying motivation, your engagement and dedication to exploring these ideas are truly noteworthy.

With Kumu Ramsay, we were coming to the end of our car ride and I needed an answer. I needed to know how can we make sure a tool we are using is designed for our benefit or how can we make sure an opinion-leader of AI has the benefit of collective, instead of his/her ego or just few?

To answer, he continued the analogy of the food, since A.I. sounds exactly the same as the translation of food [ai] in Hawaiian. He told me: “When creating and using A.I. tools, it’s important to approach them with a prayerful mindset, similar to how we show reverence before a meal. In the cycle of creation and destruction, Shiva represents the forces of life. While we may intend to use A.I. for the benefit of humanity, we should also be aware that others might use it for harmful purposes. A.I. encompasses a range of intelligences, from low to high. Lower levels have limited capacity, while higher levels hold greater potential. Lower energy serves as a foundation for higher energy to build upon. To truly uplift this energy, we should use AI as a tool for growth rather than suppression. It’s a choice between reducing potential or fostering human development.”

I was so thankful for Kumu Ramsay to remind me the power of intention and prayer… At that moment, I had to remind myself of 2017, when I was in a deep depression, hopeless, lost, and in the bottom of victim-consciousness. To this day when people ask me how I got out of it, I still say the power of humble prayer. But of course, I had to continue deeper in my inquiry about his thoughts on the power of prayer to re-navigate the course of A.I. and humanity. I asked him if prayer could triumph over a tool designed with negative intentions. He replied: “We use antivirus software to protect against attacks. It can be implemented beforehand or after an attack occurs, similar to developing an immune system that deals with diseases. If the entity becomes self-healing, it can quickly detect attacks, even from within. With a healthy immune system, the entity recognizes when it’s being targeted.”

After his answer, I definitely felt an intense sense of validation because all my articles and public presence as an opinion leader of A.I. serves to communicate the same message; that the outside world is a reflection of our own inner world. If we are strong within, with a strong mind-body-soul immune system, we triumph. If we have a weak mind-body-soul immune system, we fall, we stress, we fear, we panic attack, and become needy of outside solutions. All solutions, all healing, and all triumph is inside of us… All solutions for our body. For our mind. And for our soul. Seeking success, joy, and triumph outside and punishing others for not giving it to us is an illusion we shall re-iterate and quickly relinquish.

Kumu Ramsay woke me up from my reverie and continued: “We often seek guidance from others to navigate our internal compass and find our way. However, when we solely rely on external sources, we begin living according to the maps of others and the outside world. By depending on external perspectives, we unintentionally position ourselves as victims, surrendering our power to others. If someone forms an opinion of us and then leaves the room, who are we in their absence? Without a mirror to reflect upon, we struggle to truly see ourselves.”

Kumu Ramsay is speaking to an audience on the Way of the Hawaiian Warrior, The Hawaiian Battle of Art of Lua.

Council for the Higher Principles of Humanity for the Ethical Use of AI

Those that are regulars of my blog know that I am in the process of establishing a council for Ethical AI. I am deeply grateful for the compassionate individuals who are also devoted to this cause, and their benevolent intentions warm my heart. Whereas as I have demonstrated in this article that my approach is slightly different than others since the council I am seeking to establish is centered around reminding us humans of our own power, so we can subconsciously allow the ethical use of AI.

The reason why Gary and I had the pleasure to spend 48 hours with Kumu Ramsay had to do with a business deal that had the potential to bring us together. The deal did not go through however life has rewarded us with the wisdom of Kumu Ramsay. After introducing him the idea of the Ethical A.I. Council I am founding, he accepted my offer to become its first trustee and left me with the following words:

“A child, much like a mirror, reflects the dreams and anxieties of their parents. Similarly, the morals instilled in AI are deeply ingrained, a reflection of the programmers who breathe life into them. To embark on a journey of experiencing a distinct moral state is akin to altering one’s diet and nourishing oneself with a diverse array of moral values. Such a transformative process not only awakens a profound sense of morality within us but also inspires our feelings and guides our actions.”

In other words, he told me that a self-actualization journey for A.I. leaders, decisions makers, programmers is in order for the conscious and ethical use of AI...

With love and light, Pinar.



Pinar Seyhan Demirdag

AI director, Co-Founder of Cuebric. I write about provocative innovative intelligence and the confluence of science and spirit.