Spiritual Computing

Spiritual Computing

FEMALE SPEAKER: Good morning,
ladies and gentleman. Welcome. We are pleased to have with us
today Craig Warren Smith, who is with [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Spiritual Computing Research
Institute. I’ll leave it to Craig to give
us a little bit more detail on his background, and what he’s
been working on lately. But I was privileged enough to
meet Craig at [UNINTELLIGIBLE] when he led a session on
spiritual computing, and what does that mean, and what are the
implications for work done by computer scientists. So the reason that Craig has
come here today is to talk to us a little bit about what our
thoughts are on that topic, and also to see if there are
any [UNINTELLIGIBLE] interested in working on
research of this kind, or getting a group together
here to talk about topics like this. So, welcome to Craig. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: Thank you. It’s always interesting to see
who would show up in a meeting that brings these two
words together. It’s pretty weird, right? Spiritual and computing– You may be here just because
you’re curious about what could come out of those two
words, but you might have a more specific idea yourself. So I’d be interested to know
what connections you see with what might be spiritual
computing or what you’re doing here Google that might be
potentially connected with that topic. I just really like to hear
from you, just any ideas. Yeah? AUDIENCE: So there’s Kurzweil. That’s what [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
means. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] talking
about [UNINTELLIGIBLE] talking about this. It’s not really the
same thing. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: So,
Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines– yeah, that’s definitely
something I’ll talk about. Anybody else about how this
topic may relate to what goes on here Google? AUDIENCE: Well, Google has this
“don’t be evil” sort of notion that morality and spirituality are somehow related. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: Right. There’s an ethical dimension
of this, surely. OK. Well, let me just start, but
first of all, to say something about myself, as Leslie
requested. I put in about a decade
exploring how the technology sector might be contributing
to humanity, or harming. As digital technology takes over
and as networks spread, what’s the social
impact of that? What are the net pluses and
minuses as we get from the first to the second billion
network individuals. I explored that by helping to
create a movement to close the digital divide. I organized a conference in
1999, on the eve of the Seattle World Trade Organization
meeting, that brought world leaders together
around that topic. Since then, I’ve been teaching
that topic at Harvard and advising governments in Asia
about how to spread networks into their countries. And it led me to understand
that this issue of how to bring out the potential for
digital technology for human benefit is not something that’s
going to be worked out by government leaders. It is so deep. The issue is so pervasive, that
it does have to be worked out on a spiritual level,
essentially. The issues that are arising as
digital technology enhances its impact on human culture is,
at its heart, a matter of affecting the very nature of
what it means to be human, and what it means for humans to
shape reality that brings out the potential of the
human condition. So all those issues are
essentially spiritual issues. And so I spent about ten years
looking at the social impact of technology. And now I see that it’s led me
to this spiritual terrain. But this is not the first time
that an exploration like this has taken place. I can draw your attention to a
situation that happened 2,500 years ago when someone was born
into a wealthy family and offered a lot of material
rewards, sort of going along with the father’s agenda. But instead, this guy he dropped
out, totally rejected his parents’ solution for what
would bring happiness. And he decided to launch his
own investigation into this question, himself. And he essentially ended up
developing a technology called openness, in which he explored
the methods of actually cracking the code on how a human
can achieve sustainable happiness, or empowerment,
user empowerment. And once he made this discovery,
he didn’t feel a need to patent it, because he
was motivated in that way. And yet the discovery he made
might be considered the ultimate, original open-source
discovery, that there’s a way for the mind to work out
how to be happy. And then he began to tell
others about it. So this person, you might
guess by now, is who? AUDIENCE: The Buddha. CRAIG WARREN SMITH:
The Buddha, right. But now, having said that, I
don’t want you to think that I’m pushing a Buddhist
agenda on you guys. The Buddha lived at a time that
is now being referred to is the Axial Age, or the
Age of Transformation. It’s a period that began about
800 BC and continued to about 200 AD. And this is a period where most
of the significant ideas in the realm of spirituality
were really presented in the form of individuals who
revisited their own traditions, whether it was
Greek Rationalism, or the Hebrew traditions,
or whatever. And they began to explore how
these traditions form the basis of technologies that
generate empowerment, human empowerment. So these people, Christ,
Mohammed, Confucius, Lao-tzu, some of the Greek thinkers, they
all lived around the same period of time. And they all came up with
complimentary answers to the question of how humans
could be empowered. And then religions grew
up in their wake. But these religions didn’t
always do a good job as stewards of the spiritual
experience of these great spiritual adepts. But we do have religion trying
to carry forward the legacy of these great leaders. And we’ve seen that since that
time of the axial age, the spiritual impulse, that desire
to crack the code on how to achieve, how to adjust your mind
in such a way that you become happy, that tradition
has been at odds with the tradition of technology. Technology has wedded itself
with authoritarian governments, and tyrannies, and
with commerce, in such a way as to lead people away from that pursuit of happiness. So human culture in the last
several years, several thousand years, had technology
moving in one direction and spirituality moving
in another. AUDIENCE: Is the printing
press a counter example of this? Or is the printing press
unusual as a counter example of this? CRAIG WARREN SMITH: There have
been counter examples. And that’s a good point, that
even though these trends have existed, that over time,
gradually, we’ve seen the technology world and the
spiritual world beginning to hint that there might be a
convergent point, a meeting point, between these
two worlds. And as digital technology was
born about 40, 30 plus years ago, terms like icon, or avatar,
or names like Oracle, suggesting that there’s some
kind of spiritual underpinning to what might be going
on here in digital technology, began to emerge. But I think it’s only now, in
the year 2006, where the preconditions exist for a real
alignment between the worlds of technology and the worlds
of spirituality. And it relates very much to
what’s going on here in this room, and in this incredible
place called Google. It’s the search business,
right? So search, what is it? It’s about aggregating
information. But is that the end game? How does information get us
to meaningful information? And how does meaning
get us to wisdom? And how does wisdom get
us to empowerment? This has become central to
the search business. So search by itself exists in a
larger context of what is it that people really want. And what does it mean for people
to embark on a search process to get answers to
questions that they don’t think they already have? And how does that then lead them
into a dynamic where they actually find that what they
want is what the Buddha wanted, sustainable happiness? Is there some way that, through
the search business, that that can be aligned with
this historic effort to find true meaning in life? It seems that– AUDIENCE: Sorry, I didn’t wan
to interrupt, but I had a hypothesis. And this is a completely off the
top of my head hypothesis, so I may get to the end
of my sentence, and say, no, that’s wrong. So much as there is a
natural ecology of– I think there’s an information
ecology that exists in a changed landscape. So historically– here’s a biological metaphor– historically our ancestors had
to hunt and scrape for enough calories to survive. We are evolved to taking all
of the calories we possibly can, because there’s
never been enough. Now, of course, there
is too much. There is calories everywhere. We all have dietary problems
and we need nutritionists. Historically, information
has been power. There hasn’t ever been
enough of it. It would be useful to know if
there is a leopard over that hill over there. It would be useful to know
all of these things. And I think, intellectually,
we have evolved the same mechanisms for this hunger for
information, that our bodies have evolved a hunger for
calories, essentially. The more we can get, the better,
the more likely we are to survive. And our brains haven’t adapted
to these last 20 years. We need the equivalent of
information nutritionists to say, no, no, clicking on the
trivial quote of the day 15 times isn’t good for you. CRAIG WARREN SMITH:
Good point. Very good point. Well, to set up this discussion
further, I like to just refer to some of the
precursors for this alignment between technology and
spirituality to help us get some indication of what might
come out of the space in which these two worlds
come together. For example, think of the
experience of George Lucas, the filmmaker, 30 years ago. He was, I think, a roommate of
Francis Ford Coppola out of the USC film school. And they were dreaming, as
young, idealistic men, about creating an alternative to the
Hollywood studio system. But Lucas understood that he
also needed to know a lot about technology and what
technology can do with film. So he brought a lot of those
tools with him up to Marin county, where he established
his base away from the Hollywood star system. And he began to work on the
script for Star Wars. And he worked on several
versions, but he couldn’t quite get a compelling story
because he knew he wanted it to be about search, but
he knew that it had to be search for what. So he read this book he found,
called Hero with a Thousand Faces, written by who? Joseph Campbell. Joseph Campbell is one of those
people who, himself, is an innovator, but in the other
world, the world of spirituality. And he has seen a kind of
alignment between what’s been going on in these spiritual
traditions, and say Jungian psychology, the concept
of archetype. And he began to see a pattern
here, that humans have intrinsically the desire for
search, search for meaning. And it’s called a Hero’s
Journey, that one begins the search with some kind of sense
of renunciation, that you don’t have the answers. You have to go out to find it. You go out with questions. You get those questions
answered. But at the same time, in the
process, you get power. You become empowered. And the empowerment that you
find is ultimately about letting go of your own ego
control and opening to the larger potential for good. So he got from Joseph Campbell
the story that became Luke Skywalker’s empowerment, and
how, then, Luke Skywalker, himself, understood that to
defeat the dark force out there, he had to find the basis
of his own confidence. He had to find the balance
between being focused and aware of the context
of his experience. And of course the Star Wars
franchise became an enormous commercial success. It actually is one of the,
still, probably, one of the most successful, commercial
breakthrough. So it’s not as if this spiritual
quest idea is antithetical to network
effects. But it does seem to involved
design principles where you factor in spiritual wisdom, so
that that begins to dominate what you do with these
tools that digital technology has created. So 30 years ago, we had a
conversation between two individuals, that was
kind of like a blip in the film industry. It didn’t actually create an alternative to the star system. Maybe Robert Redford has. Who knows. But the time wasn’t right
30 years ago. But there are two other men,
whose lives I want to mention, that have actually brought us
right at the doorstep of this convergence that we find right
here happening in Silicon Valley now. One of the men was working on
the spiritual side of the equation, and the other on
the technology side. First, for the spiritual side,
there’s this guy named Francisco Varela. Have any of you heard his name? A Chilean. Well, he was a young student
of an esteemed biologist, named Humberto Maturana, who
came up with the notion of autopoiesis, which is a concept
of self-organized systems. It’s based on the
biology of the cell, that the cell exists of sort of
semi-autonomous parts that for a kind of ecology. This notion became the basis of
questioning for Francisco. And he had felt that he had to
leave Santiago and go study with spiritual masters. He found Tibetan Buddhism. He found the Dalai Lama. He began to see that, in Tibetan
Buddhism, one can begin to see how brain systems
can come into convergence. Affective and cognitive
dimensions of one’s brain could sort of come together
through meditation. So in a dialogue with the Dalai
Lama, he eventually brought that dialogue
into neuroscience. This led to– and he brought it to– he revisited the French
Existential and Phenomenological tradition. He lived the last ten years
of his life in Paris. Unfortunately, he died rather
young, about five years ago. But he articulated a notion
called first-person science, the notion that experience
itself could be the basis of empirical inquiry and it could
inform design principals, by becoming an expert
on experience. And he also talked about how
the third-person science of neuroscience could study
meditation adepts and used FMRI technology, the visual,
scanning technology, to indicate what empowerment
actually looks like as a brain image, and measures could be
developed to delineate the empowered brain from the
less empowered brain. So right now, at neuroscience
labs, like University of Wisconsin, Stanford, University
of California San Diego, we have meditation
becoming a serious object of inquiry. So that we are beginning to see
what optimal brain health looks like. We are beginning to see what
it is that these have been aiming for, in terms of brain
systems. And surprise, surprise, we are beginning
to get measures that the technology labs can use as they
seek to optimize user experience. So neuroscience has made a
connection with spiritual traditions that has great
implications for technology. And it is because of the
spiritual quest of people like Francisco Varela. Their own seeking process has
led them to this, so that Francisco, at the end of his
life, was able to tell his mentor that he helped carry that
tradition of autopoeisis, and that wonderful tradition of Chileans, like Pablo Neruda. He was able to bring the jewels
back to Chile, and return to his own people the
insight from his own journey. Now we also have another person
who lived right around here at Stanford, pow-wowed
at the Xerox PARC, who you probably do know, Mark Weiser. Does anybody know Mark Weiser. Who he is? Tell us who is Mark Weiser? Who was he? AUDIENCE: He was the head of
the laboratory in Nepal. And it was the lab at Xerox
but ended up working on ubiquitous computing at Xerox. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: Right. So he was a contemporary
of Fransico’s. And he died at the same
age, rather young. Both of them died of cancer
several years ago. Mark Weiser came out of this
incredible collection of people at the Xerox PARC
lab in Palo Alto. And this was a time and place
where design principles were emerging that are bringing out
the potential of what digital technology might contribute. So Weiser never developed a
lot of books or anything. But he wrote two articles that
have had enormous effects. One of them was on the concept
of invisible technology, which is basically the notion that
computing isn’t essentially a matter of me sitting here in
front of this machine, in this sort of cognitive lock between
this TV-like box and me over here, in which all my energy
is very visual. And we’re trying to
find a solution. It’s not about that,
necessarily. But he talked about a world in
which technology can become invisible, get out the way,
become embedded in objects. And the whole body becomes freed
in the way that it’s mediated by technology. So Weiser formed the basis
of what is now– it goes by several names. One of them is ubiquitous
technology, pervasive technology, [UNINTELLIGIBLE] technology, a world in which the
real life, physical world of atoms converges with
the virtual world. And out of that comes an
enhancement of human freedom. He articulated this potential,
even as the commercial forces around him were still focusing
on technology as a productivity tool. He was looking ahead about how
technology could be an empowering tool. He also wrote a book called
Calm Technology. Have any you heard
of that article? You might want to Google it. Calm Technology is an amazing,
visionary piece of work. It’s just a few pages long. But in Calm Technology, he
said that the fundamental challenge of computing is to
restructure the relationship between focus, or what’s at the
center of your attention, and what’s at the periphery. And this, of course, is a really
fundamental notion in meditation, or in spiritual
traditions, is how you keep focused and still
let in context. It also relates to spiritual
search, right, because you have an idea of what you want. you want to hold onto that, and
yet new things arise that you didn’t count on, coming
in from the periphery. So Weiser explored this only at
primitive level by thinking about how objects could remind
you of things, gently, in the periphery, how you could
be given gentle reminders of things. But this notion that technology
could help you manage attention, so that you
were not overwhelmed by information overload, but that
it helped you achieve mindful focus, while at the same time,
in an appropriate way, open you to context. This is a fundamental insight
that we’ll be working with in the next ten years in innovation
and computing. All this is from the work of
this guy at Xerox PARC. And many other of the other of
his proteges at Xerox PARC are doing incredible work now. So if you look on the globe,
you’ll see different points of innovation– some of them up in Finland, with
Linus Torvalds, and some of them out of MIT, and some
here, some there– little hints of what it might
mean to bring the world of spirituality and technology
together. And hey, this is new. This hasn’t been talked about. We don’t have the seminal
book on this. And speaking of Ray Kurzweil,
who was it that [UNINTELLIGIBLE] you were? In 1999, he was looking– he is an inventor. He is an engineering guy, and he
can be forgiven for taking the approach that he has,
because he’s been this self-enclosed, engineering world
where he hasn’t really known that there’s a realm of
expertise called spirituality. So he can write a book called
The Age of Spiritual Machines as if he almost invented
the word spiritual. And that’s what he
did in 1999. And he talked about a world,
the law of accelerating returns, predictable innovation,
where we will get to three-dimensional
semi-conductors, and so forth. And eventually we will get
to machines that are smarter than humans. And so, out of this, he thought
that maybe we all might make choices to download
parts of our brain when they start to wear out. And we’ll achieve some
kind of immortality. And you can call that
spiritual machines. That we will all become
spiritual machines voluntarily. I’m sorry, but this doesn’t
sound like spirituality to me, because that guy Joseph
Campbell, the one that inspired George Lucas. The first thing he said George
was, George, you know what spirituality is about. It happens as soon as you
realize that you’ve only got so long to live, and you want
to make that period of time meaningful. And so it pushes you into
questions about the nature of your own existence, so that by
the time you die, you can really let go. This is not the Kurzweilian
vision of the future, I’m sorry. So when spirituality meets
technology, it’s a space that really hasn’t been opened yet. AUDIENCE: So I guess I take
issue with the argument that mortality leads to
spirituality. I think there are just as many
issues raised by the question of, OK, I’m going
to live forever. I think if somebody told you
that you were going to live forever, I think that raises
just as many questions. I’d say [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
spirituality to me feels more to be any form of introspection
on self and consciousness and existence. And I guess, it’s sort of
like flipping a coin. You flip a coin, and either
yes, you’re going to die someday, or yes, you’re
going to live forever. Just flipping the coin
is an act of– or knowing that there is going
to be an answer there one way or another, is a
spiritual act. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: That’s
a good point. And I think that the
implications of your point is that technology is being forced
to ask fundamental questions, in order to address
it’s own future, questions about the human condition, which
have been outside the field of engineering in the
past. Engineers have been those people who didn’t
have to ask those fundamental questions. They could just go ahead and do
practical things, without having to get too deeply
into philosophy. But now maybe we have to begin
to inquire more deeply. And I think if we draw expertise
from spiritual traditions of all kinds, they
will tell us that facing one’s own death is a part
of the equation. AUDIENCE: But there is also a
part of this in radical AI and mind uploading. You have to call into serious
question what is you. And I think that is some
attractive [UNINTELLIGIBLE] of this, this kind of inquiry. What would I be if you take
away my body, take away my major motor brain,
[UNINTELLIGIBLE]. I agree with Kurzweil. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] I guess it’s a bad term, but
there is some very badgeless kind of thing going on in
this line of technology. But it’s still interesting,
It is interesting. And I think you’re right that
the question of what is you is at the core. And maybe being just a
trickster, provocative, to get us thinking about who we are– and essentially, another
framework here we could think of is Web 2.0. We’re all familiar,
everyone here is familiar, with Web 2.0? Pretty much? You know how the concept– Someone define Web 2.0 for us. AUDIENCE: Web 2.0,
unfortunately, is mostly a marketing term. And it means whatever who’s
saying it means it to mean. So I think that if you are going
to talk about it, maybe it would be more helpful if
you would define what you think about it. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: Well
obviously, it came out of Tim O’Reilly’s interactions in his
conferences and so forth, and trying to try to find a
framework to explain why some websites have really taken off
after the dot com bust, and others haven’t. And then they tried to somehow
articulate the principles that define which sites have been
able to achieve great network effects and what could
explain that. And so they’ve aggregated a few
trend areas in this field, like social computing and the
notion that what seems to be going on here has to do with
freeing the end user to become more active and participatory,
and sites that trigger the engagement of the end user,
sort of architectures of participation. And of course that notion then
seems to have struck some kind of chord. Obviously it’s been used as a
marketing tool, but it’s a notion that was simply mentioned
in a round table conversation like this, only
a couple years ago. And now if you do a Google
search on it, they’ll be a 126 million references
to that term. So there’s a suggestion
that maybe– I mean, if you put quotes
around it– maybe there’s something there
that the notion that sites that aggregate user experience,
users, and lead them into meaningful experience
might be really central to the future
of computing. And indeed, most of the
laboratories that I’ve been visiting are seeing that they’re
ultimately in the experience business, not the
device business or the software business. And that their challenge is
to develop more compelling experiences than their
competitors. And compelling can
mean meaningful. And meaningful can
mean empowering. So it may be that the technology
sector, by the dynamics of technological
innovation itself, may be leading into the spirituality
conversation about what empowerment might mean,
what the nature of experience might mean. And these are topics that have
been the subject of intense empirical investigation for
thousands of years. So maybe there is meeting point
in which definitions of things could be worked out and
hypotheses and ideas could emerge as those two notions can
now be brought into the same– two cultures, really–
can be brought into the same conversation. Yes. AUDIENCE: I was just wondering
if you knew of any women that were prominent– CRAIG WARREN SMITH: Any what? AUDIENCE: –Women, that were
prominent in this field? CRAIG WARREN SMITH: You know,
I think it’s a field that is yet to be born. But in terms of precursors to
it, certainly on the spiritual side of the equation, some of
the great spiritual innovators have been women. On the technology side,
nothing right now comes to mind. But it’s a good question,
an important question. So there are several streams of
research that I think are coming together in a framework
for spiritual computing. One is gaming. So the notion of spiritual
quest, as incorporated into gaming, and how gaming, the
experience of gaming, could lead to more meaningful and
empowering experience, is where we’ll probably see the
first applications of spiritual computing. There’s also ways in which
different user groups, like health care systems, as users,
education, as users– how they will incorporate technologies that engage users. For example, biofeedback, that
uses, that targets, attention of the patient so that they can
begin to heal themselves in a very targeted way, using
new interfaces, this will certainly arise in
health care. We will, as affecting computing
matures, and as computers are able to sense the
emotional state of users and users are able to influence
machines to detect their own emotional state, we’ll
see more opportunities for conveying empowering
experiences in all types of technology. So I’ve been going around the
world, beginning with Nokia in Finland, and these kinds
of conversations. And in each company, each
laboratory, sometimes academic labs, sometimes corporate labs,
sometimes no lab at all, like this, but just a corporate
conversation, it seems that when you open a space
to bring these two terms together, ideas seem to arise. People seem to have ideas that
can come to the surface. So, for the most part, what
spiritual computing is just a way of structuring that
conversation so that ideas can emerge in that space. And women and men can begin to
formulate applications, design principles, processes, that
could lead to new technologies, products,
services, and experiences that come out of a convergence
of those two worlds. So this process is involved
in formulating a spiritual computing research group. Nokia is the first partner. Microsoft is becoming involved,
kicking and screaming, perhaps. One finds in a company like
Microsoft several streams of research that is leading them
into concepts like sacred space built into the
home of the future. Religion, how to reach out to
religion as a kind of user category, and create technology
that address these spiritual principles embedded in
religion, or the spiritual experiences in religion. So right now, I would just like
to open the discussion up, any questions, any notions
about how any of these ideas might relate back to what’s
going on at Google and your own work, your own lives. AUDIENCE: Please help me
understand a distinction that I think I hear you drawing,
between enabling an empowerment versus mere
productivity. And technologies– is there a fuzzy line there? Are you drawing a distinction? How do you see that? CRAIG WARREN SMITH: Well, going
back to Tim O’Reilly and Web 2.0, I think one of the
common themes he saw in the sites that were compelling to
users was that they were not based on productivity
enhancement, but on eliciting creativity or engagement that’s
behind the blogging phenomenon, Flickr,
and so forth– how it is addressing aspects
of one’s life that don’t directly involve productivity
enhancement as the primary driver. That could be questioned
perhaps. But clearly we’re seeing the
potential for digital technology to affect lives
in ways that go beyond productivity as the end game. So with spiritual traditions,
clearly one has to have a certain level of economic
development or confidence in order to embark on these
questions of human quality of life. But yeah, we’re mostly talking
about looking beyond productivity as the purpose of
technology when we talk about spiritual computing. Yes. AUDIENCE: I wanted to go back
to your notion about search, and search [UNINTELLIGIBLE] to
me about applying the wisdom, because [UNINTELLIGIBLE] here last week, and explained
that although, now with the internet and search capability,
we can have a vast array of information
available to us. But he has noticed that people
now search out for information that they already agreed with,
that reinforces their previous selves’ beliefs. And that, instead of empowering
them, they are just simply reinforcing what they
already believe, which is probably not empowering
at all. So I wanted to get your thoughts
on your phenomenon, and if you see a solution
Yeah, I don’t have the solution to that. But I would be very interested
to know what you guys think about this, that is there some
way that design refinements could come to this searching
industry so that information gathering could lead to
meaningful learning, that might go beyond simply– How you go from aggregating
information to aggregating intelligence or meaning,
do any of you have ideas about that? Perhaps you do. AUDIENCE: There is something
I’m still uncertain of of the focus. I think it’s maybe a rephrasing
of your question. I’m seeing a spectrum, in fact,
of what you’re proposing and what I’m– let me see if I
can drag things back a few thousand years to where one
direction is the making technology serve spirituality
versus making technology more spiritual or more holistic. Making technology serve
spirituality, for example– Islam gave us modern astronomy
because they needed to predict exactly when the new
moon would start. And that required developing
math, and a lot of understanding of science and
technology that we just didn’t have. And that essentially made
it possible for early Muslims to figure out when is
it that we are going to have the new moon, when is
it that sun down, sunrise, is going to happen. And that was taking technology
and essentially making it serve that particular
spirituality, versus as you say, calm computing, which isn’t
a thousand years ago. Essentially this is taking
cold heart technology and making it a little
bit more humane. And these seem to me to be very fundamentally different tasks. I don’t know which of these
that you’re getting at. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: Well, it’s
opening a space in which all can be considered and
to going beyond– it’s not essentially about
serving religion as a user group, and figuring out how
technology can reinvent all the various functions that
happen in religion. But it’s more about trying
to understand what the experiences that have emerged
from spiritual traditions that are relevant to the technology
sector, and how a dialogue, or interface, could be developed
between that realm of expertise and what
the technologists are trying to do. Now out of that could come
concepts like the democratization of
spirituality. What may emerge as
the definition of spirituality could be– meaningful, spiritual inquiry
could be more widespread as network affects take over in
ways that effect religion and as well as secular expression
of spirituality. So effects could be seen in the
spiritual realm, but they also could be seen in the design
processes that affect the next generation of
technologies, even if the effect isn’t deliberately
spiritual. The effect may be simply to
build loyalty among users, or to lead users towards
experiences that they consider to be meaningful, and helping
them manage information overload, for example. Like if you look at the future
of technology, where digital sensor networks will be
distributed everywhere, consumers will have an
incentive to manage information and to address
information overload and to find their own relationship to
this issue of how they can be empowered to shape the way in
which they process information and find meaning from it. So the effects can be felt
on both sides of that conversation in ways that
influence the direction on both sides. But maybe the other answer to
your question is that it is totally an open space, of what
comes out of a way of structuring a dialogue
that brings those two worlds together. AUDIENCE: I would say a couple
of things that I think are going to be going on
[UNINTELLIGIBLE]. And I also think it’s kind of
interesting that when you have intercultural issues that come
up, like you’re doing translation, or maps, and
things like this. These are spaces that
we don’t know how to grapple with so well. It seems to be more spiritually
oriented. But I also want to say about
search, one of the things that’s nice about search is that
it doesn’t make a lot of assumptions about what you want
to know or how you want to know it. I think it’s the lack
of structure that’s [UNINTELLIGIBLE] reach. Otherwise, you would want
to use [UNINTELLIGIBLE] taxonomy. So to the extent that you
already know what you want to see, you go to something that
reinforces [UNINTELLIGIBLE], but when you are searching,
particularly in the GUI of Google, it’s a blank page,
there’s nothing there. And it’s not challenging. That’s kind of the
striking thing. [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. It’s different than the MTV
[UNINTELLIGIBLE], where there’s a lot of stuff
pushed at you. And this, to me, is the big
distinction between what people are looking for. If you want to [UNINTELLIGIBLE],
but don’t know what to think about it,
you go to one kind of site, the push pin site. You go to a search site for
something, even if it’s not like an [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. If there is anything very
unstructured [UNINTELLIGIBLE] trying to escape a lot
of these assumptions that are going on. But that kind of creates a
tension with the spirituality. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: You
don’t think push and pull can come together? AUDIENCE: Oh, I do. But I think that there is an
anarchy of rules more than a spirituality at this point. And it’s kind of [INAUDIBLE]
right? I think it was like when you
were setting up that there is potentially bring technology to
spirituality, I think there is a well deserved contempt for
some of the bad facets of spirituality in the past, which
is the source of a lot of breakaways in technologies. If you look at Galileo, he was
having conversations with the Pope at the time that he
published his writings. He really cared about trying
to keep up with [UNINTELLIGIBLE], but eventually
he was like, screw it, I can’t do it, I need
to say these things. And he got persecuted for it. This is something that, if you
want to bring these things into alignment, you have to
legitimize in a certain way, and say, well, the techno
community is very skeptical of religious and spiritual views,
of this rift that happened. And bringing back together,
I think [INAUDIBLE]. AUDIENCE: I think that
highlights the rift more between religion and
spirituality, rather than between technology
and spirituality. AUDIENCE: But that comment is
a framework for engaging spirituality. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] passed into anarchy. It’s not necessarily
a bad thing. I don’t think that we lose
[UNINTELLIGIBLE], but it’s a hard road– Like in Hinduism, they talk
about yoga, a set of ways of going through life. Because it’s confusing, right? It’s like being a technologist
and not having the right tools. If you don’t have some guidance,
and that’s what they home to give you, then you may
just pause your life and not make these discoveries. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: I think that
partly what’s going on is that we’re speaking as
modernists that very much– each of us have stories
to tell about are dealings with religion. And we’ve also had these sort
of new age versions of spirituality that we have
been affected by. But if we look at, say, what has
emerged out of 5,000 years of spiritual inquiry in India,
this is a rigorous, empirical tradition where there have been
people arising in that that are more iconoclastic and
anarchistic than anything the West has seen. These guys have been
disruptive of what has come before. And the innovation that has
emerged over those 5,000 years has been very radical. So, because it is driven by
this desire to get to what humans want, and to find that
out, without necessarily beginning with a priories
of some kind of ethical framework. But it is an empirical
tradition. So it’s a matter of our learning
what that is, and mixing it up, and challenging
back and forth. AUDIENCE: That’s why I wanted
to bring up the intercultural thing. Because, while I think that
stuff is cool, it doesn’t really solve the western
problem. And the Western problem is
kind of like an in-house problem, where this rift came
up and we need to solve it. And what’s cool about the web
and looking at other cultures is you see positive examples
where stuff didn’t really fall apart quite so badly. [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. Or like in Islam, when people
were studying these things, it was one of those great things
where you have great science [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
great religion. It’s constructive, but I think
in a certain [UNINTELLIGIBLE], there has to be [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
at a certain point to help us deal with our
subjective [INAUDIBLE]. Learning somebody else’s
tradition is not necessarily a replacement for your
own tradition. It can help [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. And that may just be how– it’s an interesting thing–
why does the technology of websites you see in China versus
here [UNINTELLIGIBLE] the business questions are. Do we not treat the process
as a certain right or something like this. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: Leslie. FEMALE SPEAKER: Actually, I just
wanted to point out that it is past 11:30, so we need
to get out of the room. So anyone who would like to
continue this discussion over lunch, we’ve got a table
reserved in Charlie’s. So come on down and
hang out with us. CRAIG WARREN SMITH: Thank you.

5 Replies to “Spiritual Computing”

  1. Zionist and Illuminati are real, as GOD and the devil is. and trust me I'm a total open minded, I pay attention, do my research, and I believe that we all have been taking over by evil and google is a part of this. We all must take this seriously. JOHN 2;15

  2. What a crock of horseshit! god should be kicked in the balls and while he is lying there we can discuss birth defects and cancer in children.

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