Rohan Gunatillake gave opening keynote at Future Everything in Manchester. Thought-provoking, intriguing and, to some in the audience a bit baffling. I enjoyed it – here’s the Storify:
How Can Gen Ys Become Gen Wise?
Storified by Brian_Condon · Fri, May 18 2012 01:25:29
Keynote Speaker: Rohan Gunatillake | FutureEverything ConferenceFutureEverything Conference Keynote Speaker Rohan Gunatillake presents one of the most original talks you are likely to see this year – on how people are using technology to reinvent Buddhism. Rohan was recently named in Wired Magazine’s The Smart List 2012: 50 People Who Will Change The World. Conservative, dogmatic and authoritarian…
Hoping Rohan Gunatillake, founder of urban Buddhism app, is going to help soothe my morning stress @FuturEverything #futr
The importance of good beginnings
Rohan says “memorable” can go one of two ways. At the beginning of a conference we have fresh minds and we don’t know where it might go.
Starts in 2007 in a meditation practice and study centre – and he met a young novice and realised that he was also 2nd generation Sri Lanken. They had lots of mutual connections. He was a monk in Thailand and saw something in Rohan and asked “Have you thought about becoming a monk” and I said no.
And we’re off! @rohan_21awake, explaining his experiences in Thailand #futr to begin his Keynote "Generation Wise" pic.twitter.com/btSQzxNRFutureEverything
@rohan_21awake : if you want to stay there for more than 3 nights you have to shave your head, and that includes your eyebrows #futr
Buddhism in the Digital Age
But he also realised that Buddhist practices can work in cities and big organisations. The are lots of people making Buddhist practice work in urban environments and in technology.
@rohan_21awake "Generation Wise wants to make Buddhism part of our lives but our lives are digital, relational, urban" #futr
"it’s not fashionable to talk about religion" and now we delve in to the thick of it, note convoluted subtitle #futr pic.twitter.com/YBzlwQAu
RT @bilalr: Buddhism as an innovation tradition, in inner technologies and design – by @rohan_21awake at #futr pic.twitter.com/OWMkOEHM
@rohan_21awake in full flow at #futr Buddhist practice in the Digital Age twitpic.com/9lysdm
RT @findmandy: Like @Rohan_21awake #futr description of the Buddah as a protoscientist- using inner technologies to gain insights into the human condition
@rohan_21awake "We’re here in a cathedral to external technologies. Meditation is an inner technology of attention and intention" #futr
@rohan_21awake talking about the Buddha and the development of "inner technology" #futr twitpic.com/9lyto6
Moving into the Zen aesthetic and a change in inner technology – about simplicity and Koan practice. The 3 grand traditions of Buddhism innovating and changing but in their own largely geographic areas. Once the hippies came along this changed – as some of them engaged and took the thinking back to the West.
But now it’s not in the Hippies – it’s in the Hipsters! Now you have all the traditions in one place whose teachers are baby boomers and it’s all a bit of a mess.
#futr Buddhism has now moved from the realm of the hippies to the hipsters.
Paraphrasing @rohan_21awake: hipsters are a growth market for Buddhism #futr
Hipster meditators. Ha. #futr
Lots of comment on Twitter about Rohan’s comments about Hippies to Hipsters transition.
Buddhist GeeksDiscover the Emerging Face(s) of Buddhism
Now he’s talking about Buddhist Geeks as “hackers of the mind” – and he made the Buddhify app as an example of meditation design applied to the modern world.
Buddhist geeks are "hackers of the mind" says @rohan_21awake at #futr twitpic.com/9lyy5s
@rohan_21awake #OMCru is a community of people all around the world practising meditation together, mediated by Twitter #futr
Buddhist geeks as mind hackers, online meditation communities, urban meditation, buddhify. Real food for thought #futr, and I’m an atheist!
Corporate buddhism – scary. Buddhist geeks – intriguing. Hacking operations of the mind – ?! @rohan_21awake at #futr
#omcru buddhify as learning mediation walking around the city #futr #wellbeing
RT @futrConf: @rohan_21awake : Buddhist geeks are working on hacking the operating system of the mind. They take it seriously. #futr
BrainBotBrainBot began as a trip to the Himalayan mountains to measure the brainwaves of meditating monks. In the summer of 2011, we won a grant from the non-profit healthcare incubator to help people be more mindful through technology.
His hypothesis is that using your phone will aid mental health – and eventually we will start to integrate technology into ourselves.
There seems to be hi-minded a Buddhist "inner technology" meme at #FUTR. I was going to talk about Data Wombles #pullmysocksup
@rohan_21awake : I get a lot of flak…someone’s writing a masters thesis on the spiritual disaster of [my app] @buddhify #futr
I like the sound of “algorithmic meditation”, I’d be so much more inclined to meditate if I had a robot teacher #futr
Now he’s looking at attention and activism and how we can soften the minds of activists as well – as a way to avoiding ‘burn out’ and the feeling of being overwhelmed. He sees this happening in the next 5 years – where inner technologies can play a bigger part. Mentions Steve Jobs (influenced by Zen aethetics) and Eric Ries and the Lean Startup movement.
Attention economy, why don’t we design with the mind in mind? Is silence actually silent from an attention point of view? Interesting #futr
QuestionsRe use of term Buddhism – does it become obsolete?It’s why we called it meditation by design – not Buddhism by design. Not necessarily using the transformative power.
great opening keynote by @rohan_21awake at @futureverything: meditation as internal technology of attention and intention #futr
@rohan_21awake interesting! Something to munch on this morning……. @VincentHorn
@rohan_21awake great talk Rohan! Really enjoyed it.
Can we ‘hack’ our way to Environment 2.0 or are we too Human 1.0 to cope?
Adam Greenfield’s talk at Futuresonic last week was insightful; how cities will look and how we will use them once networked sensors are embedded in pretty much everything, pretty much everywhere. I liveblogged it using scribblelive here. You can see the way he developed the argument and the way some of the tweeters to #futr09 reacted.
But what really galvanised the audience and set the tweets flying was an apparently casual remark right at the end of his session in response to questions. What most of us thought he said was along the lines that sustainability wasn’t possible and we should all just do our best to make whatever time we have left valuable.
This rather punctured the somewhat gung-ho ‘tech can solve it’ bubble blown by Jamais Cascio in his heckled-by-a-drunk-person and subsequently much-blogged opening keynote. You can see a liveblog by Martin Bryant here which gives you a ‘feel’ for the gala event. The idea that we can ‘Hack the Earth’ in some massive geo-engineering intervention is a big, scary idea and was presented in a deliberately provocative way. It seems to me that we’ve already hacked the poor old Earth about rather a lot. Tech-driven re-hacking of what is a deeply non-linear system where we’re not too certain we can model next week’s weather carries perhaps a few additional risks. But rather than get dragged into that, what I really want to focus on was both the reaction to Cascio’s thinking and the much more stunned interpretation of Greenfield’s remarks as being ‘we’re all doomed and there’s no point trying’.
The false poles of optimism and pessimism
We got back to Greenfield’s remarks at the end of Roland Harwood’s session on Deciphering Trust in Networked Innovation where there was some discussion and I raised the issue of ‘the guy from Nokia’ when Adam’s name went right out of my head at the crucial moment (sorry Adam!). The following extract from the indefatigable Martin Bryant’s liveblog illustrates the point:
And from then on, we ended up labelling those who believe that we can ‘fix it’ with the support of wizzy technology, like Cascio, ‘the optimists’ and anyone holding a negative view, like Greenfield, ‘the pessimists’. It wasn’t really possible to develop the arguments from then on – the labels stuck and the polarity increased. Which was inevitable, I suppose, but a shame.
Deal with it ‘in the now’
Greenfield was trying, I think, to make a much more subtle and nuanced point – that feeling we ‘might not make it’ shouldn’t stop us doing the right thing. That the future vision of the City with its open sensor-based networks and connected people could flip into dystopia. That ‘optimisim’ could actually be myopia and unwillingness to confront the reality of our situation. There is much more to this than ‘hacking’ our way into the Earth’s geocode; Cascio points out the risk of hubris in that. The idea that we have enough control of ourselves, let alone sufficient understanding of the potential system impacts of what we do, to be effective may be an illusion. So perhaps, the best we can do, is deal with what we can deal with and make sure we keep our values in mind.
How do currents develop? How do we not lose stuff?
Where does everything go?
Artist Lanfranco Asceti gave a charming presentation on how, when we are creating a record in the flow of information through digital behaviour, we create the potential for conflicts with ‘real life’.
Lanfranco uses a transmedia artistic approach to investigate the intersections (or not) between the digital world and the real world.
His presentation began with a video made as part of his artistic process in seeing how messages are transmitted. “How can we understand the flows of messages?”. He has thrown a message in a bottle to his friend Henry Jenkins, a Professor at MIT, into the sea in Istanbul.
The question is?
Will Henry Jenkins hear about it?
The most compelling image for me is of the bottle being thrown into the harbour and then ‘bouncing’ back out and into the thrower’s hand. Made me think of e-mail bouncing or of servers being repeatedly ‘pinged’.
We are throwing bottles in the sea with a message to Henry Jenkins as well as throwing a message in the sea of the information of social networks on Facebook to see if Henry Jenkins will stumble upon the event online first or will receive the message in a bottle. The object of the game is to see if and how he will find out about the project.
I’ve also been thinking for a while now about ‘where do all the tweets go?’ and what ephemera now means in the Digital Age. And as the ‘digital noise’ in our social media environment increases how do we deal with what is likely to become a decreasing ‘signal to noise’ ratio. I see the development of new kinds of social media tools – ‘inference engines’ that help us to locate what they think we might be interested in. Prioritising our attention will become a key skill in digital engagement. Lanfranco suggests that the issue of voice and the need for a very varied network is important in ensuring that no one voice can speak with unquestioned authority. This will be an interesting and innovative driver of behaviours across the world.
Digital squatting the Googleplex –
artists occupying digital space
Lanfranco is also a ‘Digital Squatter’, running exhibitions on ‘Google’s territory’ in virtual space. Who owns the virtual space? Layering information over Googleplex. He also squatted at Tate Modern and a few others. Just to see what happened. You can find out about it here.
He argues that the ownership of digital space needs thinking about – and talked about how there are dangers in the alerting and reporting of activity in digital sapace, he says
“reporting” over the internet is the moral equivalent of the Stasi
And that we will all be turned into ‘digital informers’ as we monitor our digital ‘neighbours’ through our Net curtains. One to think about that.
We piled into the mini-bus after the opening event at www.futuresonic.com in Manchester. About 15 of us and the artists behind the project. The idea is to experience the same temperature change caused by 100 years of climate change (about 2 degrees) by walking through a Manchester microclimate.
We arrive in a street in Trafford and are given mp3 players which will guide us through the experience. We walk and the somewhat hypnotic voice guides us. Also does good jokes! It’s light-hearted but striking. You can hear a bit of a recording I made using Audioboo here as we went on the event. And my thoughts this morning here.
Thanks and congratulations to Yara El-Sherbini, Drew Hamment, Carlo Buontempo and Alfie Dennan.