Where technology meets mindfulness: Wisdom 2.0
My fascination with human beings led me to pursue a career in psychiatry. At medical school, I remember holding the brain of a cadaver in my hands and wondering how the multitude of human emotion and thought could be contained within a kilogram of white and grey matter. Recently, I was reminded of this while watching a short film Brain Power by Tiffany Shlain, who states that there are more synaptic connections in a baby’s brain than connections throughout the entire internet.
Connecting with ourselves, each other, and the world in a meaningful, compassionate way is key to our thriving. So when I discovered the Wisdom 2.0 conference, a tech-meets mindfulness conference that explores conscious connecting, I knew I had to be there.
At a time where invisible umbilical cords attach us to our smartphones, the question of where the boundaries of self-identity are in a super-connected world becomes fascinating. At a recent Creative Innovation Conference in Melbourne, Ray Kurzweil, controversial American futurist and inventor stated,
“The biological you is no more you than the technological you.” This idea was voiced decades ago in a more Buddhist light by philosopher Alan Watts who suggested “The ‘you’ who you think you are, does not exist”.
It’s a paradigm shift, but as technology progresses and becomes embedded in our clothes, our retinas, our blood cells, and our brains, we will inevitably need to make sense of what it means to be human in a world where technology is part of us.
We are still locked into thinking that we are separate from our technology. My partner tells me I never put my phone down. In the not too distant future, that might become as ludicrous as telling me to stop “always carrying those dam hands around with me”. Has the mobile phone become an appendage that is so inextricably linked to us, it actually is us? Ray Kurzweil recounted a conversation with a Parkinson’s patient who had a computer chip implanted in his brain to help alleviate his movement difficulties. He asked the man whether he considered the chip to be a part of himself. The man was stumped.
Technology and information are developing exponentially, and we need to shift our thinking from linear to exponential to imagine our future possibilities. With an infinite amount of information at the click of a button, our capacity to focus, discern and pay attention is becoming a survival necessity. As Ray Kurzweil describes, we’re living in a time where “a child in Africa with a smartphone has more access to information than the President of the United States did fifteen years ago”.
If we cultivate wisdom in the area of technology, there’ll be better odds that future technology will support our thriving on the planet. As Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired magazine says, “Humans are the reproductive organs of technology” – therefore, the wiser the human, the wiser the technology.
What does this mean for us?
We may be creating technology, but according to Ray Kurzweil, there will be a point in time when technology becomes smarter than its creator – he calls it the singularity. He predicts we will arrive at a point where technology becomes so sophisticated, it enables the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence.
I hope to expand my thinking this week at Wisdom 2.0 and hear from some of the world’s leading thinkers about how as a species, we can ensure that we flourish rather than fade away in this age of technology.