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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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The Transformative Technology Conference

I’m incredibly grateful for all of your birthday wishes! Also I feel fortunate to doing some videography at an amazing event in Palo Alto this weekend called the Transformative Technology Conference. As you might imagine it’s a comprehensive future-facing collection of people, companies & organizations that are thinking about how technology will transform our health, wellness and even are very consciousness for the better.

What you might be more surprised by is that a conference like this would also begin the day with a Kundalini meditation and that one of the recurring themes of the presentations is the importance of continuing deep inner work on ourselves as we explore deep outer work with our projects, research and other creations. A powerful and important piece of advice to heed as we explore the unchartered territory at the intersection of our technology and our own humanity.

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Master Cleanse Day 7 vs. The Great Chili Cook Off

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The Master Cleanse. Trusted and endorsed by Beyonce, so it’s gotta be good.

Most of us in the west are privileged to live in a time in which we don’t experience anything near true hunger. In fact, our next meal is so assured that we can be ultimately choosy with what sensation we want to chase. Much of what we ingest is well beyond what we actually need to sustain ourselves – and the rush of sweetness, comfort of fullness and jolliness of inebriation can become slippery slopes of addiction. Paul Graham, has written extensively on the ‘acceleration of addiction‘ in the modern world, and concluded that ‘we’ll increasingly be defined by what we say no to.’ This is very inline with the teachings from the Vipassana meditation courses that I’ve attended, which teach you how to become a master of your mind, and more aware of your blind reactions. Meditators have found that the ability to control your reactions to cravings and aversions has great effect on their level of happiness and fulfillment.

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