Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Spiritual Computing

Craig Warren Smith, a Seattle native, is a former Harvard (Kennedy School) professor, a founder of the global movement to close the Digital Divide, and for 30 years a Buddhist teacher. In the mid-1990s as a consultant to Bill Gates, he led a strategic planning process that helped Microsoft and its founder find the distinct role of philanthropy in its corporate culture.



ABSTRACT Can the next generation of technologies advance the spiritual development of individuals and communities? The speaker, director of the Spiritual Computing Research Group (www.spiritualcomputing.com), will argue that several trends – Web 2.0 innovations, neuroscience's interactions with the Dalai Lama, and West's new embrace of premodern wisdom traditions – all combine to bring spiritual principles at the doorstep of the world's technological laboratories. The upshot: today's system architects may be able to measure fuzzy notions like user empowerment. "Tech researchers will get algorithms that show if they are empowering users, addicting them or just delivering ease of use," he says.

Spiritual technologies, he says, could release enormous pent up demand for web services in advanced markets (where 83% of users are "spiritual") and in emerging markets such as India where spirituality is fundamental for survival. Examples: versions of Wikipedia in which wisdom, not mere knowledge, rises to the surface; gaming as spiritual quest; online enhancement of Islamic rituals; locative technologies that use feng shui to create sacred spaces, biofeedback interfaces that bring mindfulness into cancerous organs; technological support for 12 step programs that transform addiction into empowerment.

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