Artificial Intellingence (AI) Tarot and Astrology Readings: A Bad Idea!

Artificial Intelligence has been in common use for a little under two years, and while it is certainly useful in certain industries and domains, it is also currently being used in ways that are problematic. The problem with this technology is not that it exists, the problem is that it is being used for a wide range of applications it shouldn’t be used for and used in ways that are unethical or problematic. As I haven’t been shy about sharing my opinions on AI over the last two years, I’ll continue to provide some commentary here on how it specifically ties to nature spirituality, esoteric practices, and nature in general. My earlier posts on AI have explored why AI is a bad idea from a bardic/creative perspective and also why you should avoid using or purchasing oracle or tarot decks or any other spiritual tools that are created with AI. In a nutshell, I’ve shared the importance of developing your own practices as a way of spiritual development, meditation, and connection–and the importance of creating spiritual tools to do the same.  Today, I’ll continue my commentary on AI by examining another rising phenomenon: the use of AI systems for quick divination and astrological readings–and why this is a very bad idea!  Basically, the way I see it, there are many things we can relegate to the machine (laundry!) and there are things we should never give to the machine that are our own (spiritual practices, divination, art, our own words).

Where we are with AI in 2024

It has been a little under two years since AI hit the mainstream, and in that time, a few clear issues have arisen, particularly surrounding AI Large Language Models (like Chat GPT) and AI image generators (like Midjourney).

AI Can do everything but nothing well. It is now well known that AI produces “hallucinations” which are misleading or inaccurate bits of information.  AI also has a problem of overpromising and not delivering in its attempts to please the user. Thus, AI is generally not very accurate and can produce a wide range of bullshit and drivel (see for example, this recent scientific article on AI producing what the researchers call “bullshit”).  Reports suggest that current AI gets things between 75-85% correct but almost always has some kind of problem or inaccuracy.

AI is resource intensive producing emissions and using precious water resources. Another problem that is not as well known is that AI systems are extremely resource intensive: energy and water for their cooling systems, which are exacerbating climate change, ecosystem decline, and stressing already overtaxed ecosystems and natural resources.  AI is also being used for more robust and efficient operations to extract and burn fossil fuel, for example. This is one of many reasons that I do not use AI as a matter of principle.

AI deskills people.  Rather than learning sets of skills that you can do yourself, teach others, and carry on various traditions of practice (which have a very wide range of benefits that I outlined in my first AI post, benefits well beyond just the end result of the skill), AI “deksills” you.  This is my word, but I think it fits.  I’ve talked a lot on this blog and in my book Sacred Actions about the importance of “reskilling” or learning skills to be able to take care of ourselves.  AI is teaching entire generations of humans to have even fewer skills than they already do.  AI is basically encouraging people to be fully dependent on the machine.  I see this first hand in my job teaching writing: in two short years, people are now entirely dependent on AI to write for them (and the writing AI produces is never very good).

AI has systematic biases. AI systems are built upon what was widely available and stolen from the Internet, and that data has problems with diversity, racial stereotyping, and more–and thus, AI itself shows a lot of bias.  One of the concerns I personally have is that AI shows great anthropocentric bias and does not recognize the value or importance of other life on earth.

AI is a profit-generating system that demands dependence. AI systems that exist that the public has access to are generally created by people to make a profit.  And where there is profit to be made, there is a host of problems.  It doesn’t cost me anything to learn how to write or learn how to write my own music if I have access to a local library, a local group or even AI–but it certainly costs to let the AI write for me.

AI has major privacy concerns and lack of ability to “opt out”. AI systems are mining and using personal data in ways not even considered 2 or 5 years ago, and the question of what privacy even means is a challenging one. Adding to this, most user agreements are now including the use of your data for training…often without your knowledge.  This might be your words, images, or other creations, or even your spending habits.

AI is unethical. For me, this is where it all began–having every piece of art stolen from me to train AI systems, with Midjourney being able to replicate my artistic style. Two years in, artists and creators are still battling to have their stolen works compensated. And meanwhile, young people have entire fun, exciting, and desirable careers closed to them in the arts and humanities.

AI is dangerous to humanity. I don’t know of a single other field whose top practitioners and visionaries routinely talk about the fact that AI may destroy humanity…yeah.  A large survey of almost 3000 researchers who published on AI and found that their respondents felt there was a 5-10% chance of AI leading to human extinction.

While all this is happening, people are using AI for just about everything, and I mean everything. The use of AI is skyrocketing because it is efficient, costs less than human-created things, and it takes less time–and right now, with everyone in such a fast-paced and demanding society, it is being embraced. While AI offers cheap efficiency at the expense of everything else, many people embrace it for its convenience.

AI For Astrology and Divination

So with some of those broader points made, I want to turn to today’s topic: the increasing amount of people who are using AI to perform astrology and divination and the development a range of programs that are AI-based to offer astrology and divination services to end users.  The reason that people use AI is twofold–it is easy and it is very quick.  AI offers efficiency at the cost of everything else.  And while that may not matter as much in certain applications, I would argue it matters a great deal in the applications tied to spirituality and esoteric subjects, including astrology and divination readings.  I’ve been hearing about the AI Tarot apps and people using systems like ChatGPT to read tarot or oracle decks, and even get astrology readings.  My partner, who is a professional astrologer, has also been sharing how much astrology is changing due to the increasing use of AI.  In today’s post, I wanted to explore these concepts further.

While I don’t use AI as a matter of ethics and principles for the reasons listed above, to conduct this research for this post, I did briefly use AI to ask a series of questions to evaluate how accurate and useful these answers are so I could write with direct experience rather than supposition or secondhand experience (I am a social scientist by day, so I like speaking from a place of data and direct observation!) (I will also say that after I used these systems, I took a cleansing bath and smoke cleansed my computer and keyboard, lol!).

For this research, I asked ChatGPT for three readings: an interpretation of my natal chart and upcoming transits (of which I’ve already had a professional reading), a reading from the Tarot of Trees (my tarot deck) and a reading from the Plant Spirit Oracle (my oracle deck). Like any other AI interaction, I was able to phrase useful prompts and also ask follow-ups of the system.

How Accurate are AI-based Readings?

Art I created to speak out against AI generated images
Art I created to speak out against AI-generated images…I don’t really want to put any other images in this post, sorry!

All three readings were riddled with inaccuracies.  In the Natal reading, AI placed four of my planets in the wrong houses (after I confirmed we were both using the same house system), and then when I indicated they were wrong, AI did a “re-evaluation” and then placed them in the right houses.  But AI also gave me interpretations that no astrologer would actually give.  AI also read my transits inaccurately, giving me only positive dicussions. Just like most other AI, it was about 80% accurate, and only deep knowledge of my chart already allowed me to ascertain what was problematic.

In terms of divination, I attempted three different readings.  I first asked from a reading from the Tarot of Trees, AI made up both cards and information. I asked for a majors-only reading from the Tarot of Trees (since I know I have several unique cards) and asked if it could do tihs.  It said it could, and while it said it was giving me a specific reading from that deck, it was not. The interpretations were basic but not particularly insightful. I then asked it if it could do an oracle card reading from my Plant Spirit Oracle, after confirming it knew what the PSO was, who created it, and when it was published.  It proceeded to draw a card not in the deck and gave me an inaccurate response; I told it the card wasn’t in the deck.  It did the same thing twice more, drawing cards and making up responses.  Finally, it drew a card that was in the deck but did not actually give me an accurate reading of the meaning of the card. All the while claiming it was accurate and knew how to give readings. I then asked for the most general tarot reading without specifying any decks or spreads, which it did, but it still was very broad and not very insightful. Anyone could do the same, even a beginner, with a book in front of them.

Here’s the thing: the only reason I was able to successfully evaluate this output is because I know my natal chart quite well, I know my upcoming transits.  I obviously know the Tarot of Trees and Plant Spirit Oracle very well as they are my decks.  So I was able to easily evaluate this information for accuracy, and in all cases, the program sounded confident and like it knew what it was talking about when it was actually spouting drivel.

So from a very practical standpoint, using AI to read your chart or read cards for you gives you the same kind of accuracy challenges present in other AI systems–which is to say, if you are lucky you’ll get about 80% accuracy.  Perhaps you know decks and astrology well and you can actually evaluate the output you are getting to see how accurate it is. And remember, AI aims to please you even when it can’t actually fulfill what you are asking, meaning you will get all kinds of made-up stuff.   But I think most people who are using these systems are using them as a shortcut to actually learn the system or do a reading for themselves (or have someone else read for them) and that’s when we really get into trouble.  AI doesn’t do this, AI has really no way of evaluating that which it produces.  And because so many people use divination to help them evaluate and make life decisions, this is a huge concern.

What are you connecting with in the AI-based readings?

There are lots of theories about what divination systems actually do, that is, what energy or force or wisdom you are tapping into.  Some theories suggest you are connecting with some kind of divine or higher power, while others suggest you are tapping into your subconscious, and still others to various other helping spirits.  I actually think that all of these things may be true, and it may depend on both the person and the question.  Sometimes, I specify when I’m asking a question and sometimes I just leave it up to the will of the spirits.  As I shared in my last post on AI and tarot deck creation, my question is–what is the AI system tapping into?  I am not sure I want to know or be connected with that energy that the AI system might be using (especially given my list above).

Can you trust AI to read for you?

But really, the way that I see this is that when you ask AI for a reading of any kind, you are essentially commissioning AI to do something for you. It’s just like if you would ask a person to do a reading for you–that might be a friend, fellow grove member, or a professional.  You are putting your trust in this person: that they know what they are talking about, that they’ve done the work to be able to connect with the cards and the spirits, and that they have your best interests in mind. And most importantly: a seasoned reader is using their intuition as much as they are the divination system or charts.  Part of reading and reading well is tapping into the energy of the person, the question, and the situation.  Experienced readers can do this and read so much from the cards using all of their senses.

Of course, AI has none of this: no intuition, no experience, and is just using language models to put probabilities together. AI readings are inaccurate, the AI hallucinates, and they try to please you even when they can’t accomplish the task.  They make up things to give you something rather than telling you they can’t do it or don’t have all of the information.  Is this really the kind of “person” that you would want to get a reading from?  I just don’t believe that these AI systems are capable of any realistic and accurate reading because of these trust issues.

How can we Support Human Readers?

The other thing I’ll share here is that I think it is important to support human readers–whether they are friends, whether they are professionals, whether they are people looking to practice.  Being willing to read for others takes a lot of practice, skill, and when you are first starting out, a lot of courage.  I have a few friends who are professional readers, and they have honed their craft to an incredible level.  If you get a reading from them, you will be getting a fantastic reading not only using their extensive knowledge base but also support them in their work!

Readings and their Uses

When I outline this reality above, my real concern comes down to three issues. The first is how divination is used.  Maybe someone using AI is just using it for fun, to see what their card of the day says.  But many people who are spiritually minded use divination in a very serious way.  Divination systems, understanding things like our natal charts or our transits, help us make sense of life and help us make decisions.  Thus, my real concern with all of the above is that most people (myself included) use things like our astrological transits or divination systems to help us make decisions, understand the deeper nature of things, and help plan our lives.  I’m not only going to use divination, but I am going to use it as one of many tools that I use to help me navigate the world around us.

The other thing that may matter here is your own spiritual development.  If you are a person who is pulling a card every day, these are subject to your own human experience and interpretation. If I learn to read tarot, I do this through the realm of lived experience. I might lot of different books, hear different people speak or take classes, and eventually come to my own understanding by synthesizing what these cards mean in relationship to all of the rest. I am doing this in a way that is relevant, personal, and makes sense of my own worldview.

The third concern is simply to ask the question: what things do we want to do on our own, concerning our spiritual practices especially, vs. what are we willing to give to the machine of efficiency and progress? How does giving these things to the machine limit our own growth?

To conclude, I really think that there are things we should keep human and recognize the critical importance and value of human work, especially things tied to our own creative practices, spiritual practices, and interaction with the spirits.  I am very skeptical of AI’s ability to any of these things well (especially more so after my experiments) and so I’ll urge readers to proceed with caution and be fully aware of what they are using when they use these systems for spiritual purposes.  During this time of great upheaval and transition, reach out to the humans in your life who do this kind of work and be grateful.  If you are one of those humans who reads for others,  keep on doing the good work!

 

PS: If you are in the Western or Central PA region, do check out our PA herbalism calendar of events! We have a number of upcoming classes in July and August, including a women’s retreat!

Dana O'Driscoll

Dana O’Driscoll has been an animist druid for almost 20 years, and currently serves as Grand Archdruid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America. She is a druid-grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and is the OBOD’s 2018 Mount Haemus Scholar. She is the author of Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Spiritual Practice (REDFeather, 2021), the Sacred Actions Journal (REDFeather, 2022), and Land Healing: Physical, Metaphysical, and Ritual Approaches for Healing the Earth (REDFeather, 2024). She is also the author/illustrator of the Tarot of Trees, Plant Spirit Oracle, and Treelore Oracle. Dana is an herbalist, certified permaculture designer, and permaculture teacher who teaches about reconnection, regeneration, and land healing through herbalism, wild food foraging, and sustainable living. Dana lives at a 5-acre homestead in rural western Pennsylvania with her partner and a host of feathered and furred friends. She writes at the Druids Garden blog and is on Instagram as @druidsgardenart. She also regularly writes for Plant Healer Quarterly and Spirituality and Health magazine.

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5 Comments

  1. AI has no heart or soul.

    1. Indeed, Donna! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Bravo! Thank you for your insight and your experiment with AI readings. It shows what we as spiritual beings already know and that is machines are not tuned in to the spiritual, or divine. (But you have to put it to the test for some folks.) The fact that someone thought this was a good idea for an AI program shows how little they know about divine guidance or inspiration regarding tarot or astrology. Please continue to write on this subject.

    1. Thank you, Shelli! I seem to be writing about one post a year on this topic…it is about all I can stomach. These machines may be good for many things (although I’d even debate that) but they certainly aren’t good about this particular thing. Blessings to you!

  3. Thanks for testing this so we don’t have to. Outsourcing one’s spiritual development to AI seems like a really bad idea, on so many levels.

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