Technology and the mind is on my mind.
As an issue, it’s one who’s existence can feel a luxury. It can be easy to throw up one’s hands in mock horror and lament privileged iPad-wielding classes struggling to cope with the stresses of their self-constructed digital trappings and classing it all under the category of #firstworldproblems.
I however caution against such hastiness. We have a pop technology culture built around distraction and as such it is changing our neurology and our behaviour and our lives. That is important. And that is especially important as these technologies continue their one-way race to lower and lower cost and therefore greater and greater global affordability and penetration.
While our technologies have evolved and improved by exponential leaps and bounds, our ability as human beings has not. That is the real issue here and so as individuals and as communities we have to come up with ways for us to deal with this avalanche of available information and stimulation. And from what I see, there are three broad strategies that we can use: Retreat, Remedy or Redesign.
1. Retreat as a tactic towards a healthier relationship to our technology. Many people feel that having an active digital life is not consonant with their values or their lifestyle and choose to avoid engaging with it. This is an important strategy to be respected but this escape route does not solve the problem, it merely avoids contact with the problem. It also ignores the fact that digital technology is not going away and so not learning a functional way of working with it risks it all blowing up at some point. This reminds me of what some meditation practitioners do when they come across difficult memories or mind-states – by placing their attention elsewhere it is possible to block out or repress the difficult but the difficult is going to show it’s face at some point again so escape can only ever be a limited strategy.
2. Remedy as a tactic towards a healthier relationship to our technology. Techniques for managing your inbox, only working online for certain hours, limiting the number of social networks you use – these remedial strategies are where majority of activity is right now. All of them look to see how we can work with the existing technologies we have with in more mind-positive ways. This can be very effective and freeing but does of course require us as individuals to recognise that a) we have a problem and b) we have the power to do something about it.
3. Re-design as a tactic towards a healthier relationship to our technology. This is where I am most interested. And even though it is the least common strategy, it is the only one with the potential for long-term positive change. So many of our popular technologies have been built around maximising advertising revenue – which means that distraction from what we are looking at now into something else is the name of the game… and we wonder why there’s a problem. We need to invest talent and resources in designing technologies which have positive mental qualities such as awareness, concentration and compassion built into them as a design condition. We more that is prioritised, the more we will start to see our digital lives being something we associate with positive wellbeing. That is why I made buddhify classic and the forthcoming buddhify2 – a product which uses simple every day technologies to show that it is possible for your phone to be a wellbeing device, not just one for distraction and anxiety. And once buddhify2 is out in a month or two’s time, I want to take this further – pop technologies with wellbeing designed in from the start, not just an add-on. Get in touch if you want to help.