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Transformational Technology Conference and the Future of Human Well Being

I may live in an off the grid cabin the the wilderness of Oregon but once in a while I venture out for a little dose of technology, new ideas and social interaction. This weekend I’m in the Bay Area for a conference called TransTech which is “wiring humanity for future” by highlighting technologies and companies that are helping us increase our mental and physical health, improve our overall well-being and connect us more deeply with ourselves, others and the planet. Besides two days of inspiring programming, there’s an expo room that has booth after booth of products that seem like they hopped right out of a utopic sci-fi movie. Products that remind you to breathe more deeply, light therapy visors, heart rate variability monitors that help you get into a flow state, lucid dream activators and other sleep aids, and more than a few VR mediation experiences that promise deeper relaxation and improved focus, these are just a few of the real life products on display.
This morning’s opening talk, presented by Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen, was about creating a wearable, low cost way of seeing into our bodies that is a billion times higher resolution than MRI and has the potential to be cheap enough to be packaged into a consumer level device. The resolution is so high in fact that it can monitor chemical processes within our brains, including the levels of dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin and others that underly our emotions. OpnWatr.io is the company that is producing the technology and is led by Dr. Jepsen, former head of Facebook’s VR devision. OpnWtr employs near infrared light and LCDs worn near the skin to emit, receive and reconstruct scattered light with the use of well established holographic technology. Besides diagnosis and monitoring of all sorts of diseases and chronic conditions, such as clinical depression and Alzheimer’s, the technology could eventually even be used in non medical applications such as producing words and imagery directly from our thoughts. While OpnWatr’s technology is still some years away, it’s coming. In fact there’s already a developer’s kit in the works.
Every year we carry more sensors, more powerful computers and are producing an increasing deluge of personal data. While our digitally connected world has evolved at a rapid rate, our primate brains just simply haven’t been able to keep up. And it’s stressing us out, big time. Anxiety and depression rates are on the rise across the planet. The paradox is that with each app upgrade that promises to make us more connected, we are feeling more *disconnected*, even if we can’t quite figure out why or from what. Most people, besides those few who are are fully aware either through a gift of nature or practice of discipline, are still limited in our ability to deal with the growing onslaught of stimulation and distraction. While the term ‘mindfulness’ is beginning to appear with more societal prevalence, most humans are still primarily led by reactive impulse, survival mechanisms that are a relic of an old world. If humanity is to move beyond a culture rooted in fear and scarcity, and into a world that fosters self-actualization on a grand scale then technology will continue to play an important role in augmenting our existing senses. While the tools are constantly changing, this is nothing new. The most intuitive among us have always felt called to develop and deploy technologies that help us expand our consciousness. In Buddha’s time, his mediation teachings were the cutting edge, and continue to play an important role in our conscious advancement. It’s the experience age, and the ability to have your mind blown wide open has never been more accessible. But integrating these enlightening experiences into our daily lives is where our personal and collective work really lies. Well designed technological systems, systems that combine the best of the old with the best of the new, have the potential to upgrade our humanity in a huge way.
There are already products and services that are beginning to help us maintain and improve our health and well-being, as well as more effectively deal with the stresses and complexity of our modern world. But beyond mere survival and fulfillment of our basic human needs, beyond even the lofty be state of self-actualization, lies a future in which we may experience the oft omitted summit of Maslow’s hierarchy, self-transcendence. Some privileged individuals might have felt brief glimpses of this state through a variety of profound experiences, but what does the world look, and more importantly what does it *feel* like when these experiences and technologies are available to all? We can only begin to imagine.

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Inauguration Day and The Century of the Self

“The original idea had been that the liberation of the self would create a new kind of people, free of social constraint. That radical change had happened but while the new beings felt liberated, they had become increasingly dependent for their identity on business. The corporations realized that it was in their interest to encourage people to feel like they were unique individuals and then offer them ways to express that individuality. The world in which people felt that they were rebelling against conformity was no longer a threat to business but had become its greatest opportunity.”… “If politics is also Freudian, i.e. if it’s a matter of politicians appealing to the same basic unconscious feelings that businesses appeal to then why not let businesses do it? Business can do it better. Business knows how to do it. Business after all is in the business of responding to those feelings.”

— The Century of Self, 2002

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On this memorable day I’m curious about how we strike the right balance with our egos. After all, they can be used as a powerful driving force but left unchecked it can easily run rampant. In some ways it can be viewed as a formless and highly virulent parasite, intent on establishing itself through growing its collection of material objects, reputation and power.

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GhostBot Helps You Dump Bad Dates

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This is equally humorous as it is upsetting. Technology has so much potential to connect us with ourselves, others and the planet in deeper and more meaningful ways. But so often it’s basic use case attempts to be a stand in for having to deal with anything that doesn’t feel ‘good’. In this case for example, learning how to communicate like a grown up. When we no longer need to have difficult conversations that help us learn how to deal with our emotions in healthy ways then what kind of people do we become? Inept, malleable flesh bags calling out to AIs for apps and assistance? Sheesh! Sometimes WALL-E and Idiocracy look less like entertainment and more like prophetic visions. On the flip side, technology is simultaneously ushering in an unprecedented age of consciousness hacking that promises to assist us on our path of enlightenment and self-actualization. I’d ask “BUT WHICH ONE WILL WIN OUT?!” if I wasn’t such an avid supporter of duality dissolution. After all, it’s ALL a part of this crazy cosmic sitcom we call Life 🙂 Aah, now there’s a thought that REALLY feels good <3

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My Future as a Two Marshmallow Adult

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Moving from a one marshmallow kid to a two marshmallow adult means learning how to delay gratification …and it can be a real bitch let me tell you. That said, life seems to have a habit of throwing curve balls at our plans and expectations so it seems like an important skill to master. Some of us may have had the good fortune to learn this early on from parents or other role models during our formative years. For the rest of us, it means some real dedication and often sitting in some uncomfortable ass situations while the lessons get woven into our behavior. And just when we think we’ve got it, WATCH OUT! It often seems like the moment we have the hubris to think “I’ve got this” is also the precise moment that the universe counters: “Oooooh really, let’s see how much you’ve got this!” BAM!

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Our Thoughts Are the Seeds of Our Reality

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Our thoughts are the seeds of our reality. So it pays to be mindful of what we sow.

I just finished a 30 day meditation course on the topic of focus. It’s so fascinating to watch my mind reach for distractions just to avoid feeling or thinking about the things that it doesn’t want to. In the last year, as I’ve begun focusing on cleansing my mind, body and spirit, I discovered a subtle ripple of anxiety that still lingers in my shadows. A remnant from an emotionally turbulent childhood which often left me feeling generally unsettled and not good enough. As an adult I dedicated a lot of time distracting myself from this underlying feeling in an attempt to convince the world, and hopefully myself in the process, that I was perfectly functional, successful and happy. It felt like the easiest, quickest way to deal with it.

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This is Your Brain on Love

Sure, it’s magic. But it’s also an impressive symphony of brain chemicals! This funny and insightful overview of what love does to you brings me back to the great Mindshare L.A.​ talk by Sena P Koleva​ at our Valentine’s Day event a few years ago!

Personally I’m a little bit of a romantic, and since it’s Valentine’s Day I couldn’t help but think about how my understanding of love has expanded over the years. I replayed the various forms of love that I’ve experienced and the relationships that have shaped me. Needless to say, this made me laugh out loud. And cry a little bit too 🙂 I even have had the honor to officiate four weddings and each time it deepened my understanding of what real love really means.

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Creating the Education of the Future

The Future of Learning, Networked Society” (20mins) outlines how archaic and flawed the standard teaching model is while offering some examples how it can be done differently. The film claims that “more people will receive education in the next 30 years than in all of history combined” so argues it’s an especially good time to rethink our learning institutions and their methods. How can we transform education from a rote system of standardized testing, designed back in the day to expunge individuality and create good little cogs for the industrial complex, into platforms for teaching our children how to solve relevant challenges in their own minds, in their communities and in our world?

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Keto-Cheesecake and My Inner Mother

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This morning I dropped off my buddy’s daughter at school and then picked up some ingredients for a keto-cheesecake that I’m baking for my extended family tonight. It’s not every day your buddy asks you to be the man of the house and look after his wife and daughter (not to mention goats, dogs and bunny!) when he’s away for a week. But this is exactly what happened to me and it’s been not only fun, but deeply profound to be a family man for a little while. If you are looking for a recipe for keto-cheesecake go here, otherwise if you like exploring emotions and personal growth and stuff, read on!

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Learning to Trust our Intuition

When we get out of life’s way and stop clinging to how we wanted or expected it to be, we can then appreciate ourselves, others and our surroundings for how they truly are, finding beauty in the transient and the uncertain. In every moment lies an opportunity to choose how we want to see the world around us. We can choose to be victims of circumstances outside of our control, or instead choose to be powerful creators, weaving our stories through a harmony of improv and chance. Alan Watt’s said “Each of these lives is the right one. Each of these paths is the right path. Everything could have been anything else and it would have just as much meaning…” So let’s relax, breathe, and begin to trust our own intuition more than ever 🙂

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The Merits of Dialectical Behavior Training (DBT)

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This evening I completed an eight week Kaiser Permanente workshop on the topic of Dialectical Behavior Training (DBT) which explored mindfulness, meditation, emotional tolerance and coping strategies. It was surprising to me that two thirds of the class had never even heard of mindfulness before. To celebrate my “graduation” from the course I called my Mom whom I hadn’t spoken with in a year, and whose birthday just so happens to be today. How timely. I told her I loved her and looked forward to visiting her later in the month to begin healing our rocky relationship. And I really am looking forward to it. Throughout this year I realized that when I love others unconditionally as they are (not as I want them to be or wish they could have been in the past) then I can fully love that reflection of others within me. By practicing this I move one step closer to my fullest human expression of love in our world.
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