Speaking at – The Society for Existential Analysis conference on permeation of technology in everyday life






I am speaking at the annual event for the The Society for Existential Analysis conference on permeation of technology in everyday life on Meditation - 

I am speaking on - Meditation: A transhumanist technology for social evolution? A transhumanist technology for social evolution

In the last fifty years, we have seen many technological innovations such as the rise of computers and mobile devices. However, in the next fifty years, we could see three key trends:

-          Existing technologies will become the fundamental building blocks accelerating the next generation of innovations (ex – faster microprocessors means quicker identification of gene sequences etc).

-          New innovations will arise from the interconnections and interplay of currently discrete domains. Often, this will give rise to entirely new domains and/or transform existing domains.

-          Technologies will have a social component and social factors will lead to emergent (i.e. unpredictable ) evolution of technology

One such domain is the ancient practise of meditation.

Most people accept that meditation can bring about a lasting change in their life. At the simplest level, meditation can help you relax. But meditation could be a lot more. Social technologies can augment meditation. Connectivity could be a catalyst both at a neural and at a social level through brain wave meditation potentially interconnected to  achieve biofeedback at a social level.

This talk explores the following:

-          Could meditation be seen as a mechanism that could augment the human mind through technology (neural and social networks)?

-          What would a ‘tipping point’ look like for society when a critical mass of people use these techniques and connect through social networks?

-          How could these ideas be used in personal development?

The talk includes a live demonstration of brain wave meditation including social meditation using brain wave technologies (perhaps with willing audience participation!)

Existential Analysis is known for its developments in the field of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Existential approach has a  diverse philosophical history – with practitioners’ therapeutic perspectives often being as varied as individual practitioners are themselves.

Existential Analysis covers issues such as:

What does it mean to be alive?
What are the possibilities that my life presents me with?
What is my relationship to myself, to other people and the world in general?
What are my responsibilities to myself and to other people?
What do I value and cherish dearly?
What is the nature of the anxiety that I experience in my life?
What are the assumptions and attributions that underpin my thoughts and actions?
What are the contradictions, discrepancies and paradoxes that occur in my everyday life?
What is my worldview – the way that I have constructed the story of my life?
What is my true potential?
What would it be like to choose my own way of living?

See the speakers and their topics for The Society for Existential Analysis – conference on permeation of technology in everyday life

I am increasingly interested in the wider application of technology to humanity which is reflected in my latest book – (official launch in Jan 2012) - Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter : Personal development through social meditation – from shamanism to transhumanism

I am looking fwd to speaking here and the audience is certainly very interesting and refined.

The conference link is: The Society for Existential Analysis 


The spirit of London will prevail ..

There is an enchanting exhibit at Madame Taussads in London called ‘The Spirit of London’.

The spirit of London is a ride in a ‘black cab’ that takes you on a journey back in time through the history of London from Sir Francis Drake, Shakespeare, wars, famines, the blitz, the swinging sixties etc.

The point of that brief but magical ride is: The spirit of London prevails despite all that it encounters ...

Since the first time I saw it, many years ago, it has remained unchanged and I have seen it many times when I take visitors to Madame Taussads

Ironically, over the last three months, I happened to see the same ride thrice.

Once with my son, then with my sister when she was here from India and finally with my godson, when he was here from Germany.

After seeing it three times in as many months, I was getting a bit bored of it ..

But today, that ‘spirit of London’ has taken on a new meaning ..

The last week has witnessed unprecedented scenes of riots in London

The riot, as the great Dr Martin Luther King said, is the voice of the unheard ..

But the revered Dr King was referring to human rights and not the ‘right’ of the rioters to help themselves to designer shoes and HD TVs

Being born in India, and having seen real poverty, there is something strange about watching these rioters helping themselves to designer branded goods i.e. they are not helping themselves to ‘food’. (And in a curious twist, the homeless who probably do really lack food, are not rioting!)

In most parts of the world, poverty means ‘no food’.

These riots was not poverty driven

Strangely, in a span of a few weeks, we have gone from Royal weddings to riots.

But the spirit of London is strong in my view

As someone who runs a niche business in London, I am happy to call myselves a ‘capitalist’.

By that I mean, a capitalist is a ‘cathedral builder’ – someone who looks at a block of stone and adds value to it to build a cathedral.

And the strength of London, and its spirit, rests in that basic ‘creator’ ethos over the millennia

By capitalists, I mean the businesses like 150 year old House of Reeves, which was burnt down, but I am sure will rise from its ashes stronger with the support of the community and the small Turklish shopkeepers who defended their businesses

While even the likes of Robert Mugabe has taken it upon themselves to remind us that there are ‘no fires in Zimbabwe’ (but we should remind him that there are no free elections in Zimbabwe either!), this is a time to remind us of the spirit of London.

Finally, I cannot ignore the role of ‘mobile’ and ‘ad hoc networks’ in this riot.

What to make of the malevolent ‘flashmob’ driven by Blackberry messengers?

Mobile devices and technology are tools but they lead to fundamental changes in society (and I have been saying this in my books and blogs for a while – Would you hire a woman who maintained a f**k book in college and The girl named Facebook: The Russians (and the Egyptians and the Libyans and the Tunisians and ..) love their children too ).

Specifically, Internet related technologies are breaking down hierarchies and creating fluid, often ad-hoc networks, for better or for worse.

While our prime minister calls for a ‘fightback’ (and people in the UK will support any such efforts), the reality is: We are living in a new era where politicians are demonstrably less empowered.

What is the solution?

Maybe a decentralization of power and a reduction of hierarchy (aka – a more network oriented governance) – and there is already talk of that idea –  In this crisis, our cities need local leaders with real power and even ultimately to a more Swiss canton like system of government ?

This debate will continue but I believe that the spirit of London will prevail and will see us to a great Olympics in a year’s time

Image – Madame Taussads

A row of electric buttons – Google is not making us stupid it is making us like Henry Ford ..

My latest book is about the mind, meditation and its implications for human evolution..  Hence the findings that Google Is Ruining Your Memory to be interesting ..

A recent study suggests that even if you may have a little deficit in your memory with age, the internet is speeding up the process. Not because it’s damaging your memory, but because you’re simply using the internet as a crutch. The information is at your fingertips, so you don’t have to remember.

In my view, this ‘study’ follows a long line of similar work that states the obvious.

Others who have engaged in this scaremongering include the likes of  Nicolas Carr ( who seems to have made a career out of Internet bashing and Google bashing ..)  and the  neuroscientist Susan Greenfield who claims that social sites such as Facebook are causing alarming changes in the brains of little children.

But I believe that instead of making us less intelligent, the Internet is making us more intelligent by being selective .. and the model for that type of intelligence is Henry Ford

The findings of this study made me remember a section in Napolean Hill’s classic – Think and Grow Rich in which he describes how lawyers for a Chicago newspaper attempted to prove that Henry Ford was ‘ignorant’.

The attorneys asked Mr. Ford a great variety of questions, all of them intended to prove, by his own evidence, that, while, he might possess considerable specialized knowledge pertaining to the manufacture of automobiles, he was, in the main, ignorant.

Mr. Ford was plied with such questions as the following: “Who was Benedict Arnold?” and “How many soldiers did the British send over to America to put down the Rebellion of 1776?” In answer to the last question, Mr. Ford replied, “I do not know the exact number of the soldiers the British sent over, but I have heard that it was a considerably larger number than ever went back.”

Finally, Mr. Ford became tired of this line of questioning, and in reply to a particularly offensive question, he leaned over, pointed his finger at the lawyer who had asked the question, and said, “If I should really want to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer any question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts.

… Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action.

There is a lot to be said for this response from Henry Ford and it indicates an optimistic evolution path for humanity!

That row of buttons is now Google and you don’t to be as rich as Henry Ford to have access to them at your fingertips. Thanks to the Web and the Internet, Information is now democratised ..

The launch event of my next book – Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter : Personal development through social meditation – from shamanism to transhumanism

Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter: Personal development through social meditation – from shamanism to transhumanism is a book about the evolution of meditation. The title, Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter, is limiting and perhaps even a little misleading, because I hope the ideas I discuss in this book will outlive websites like Facebook and Twitter.

The book was announced on June 6, 2011 at the B B King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square, New York as part of The Realtime Report’s Realtime NY 11 conference and the official launch date is Jan 20 2011

The Realtime Report conference is an appropriate place to launch the book! We live in a ‘realtime’, ‘always-on’ world and these networks and connections impact our minds and, as I propose, the very nature of human evolution.

Most people accept that Meditation can bring about a lasting change in your life. At the simplest level, it can help you relax. But meditation, as we describe in this book, could be a lot more i.e. a technology that could lead to an exponential uptake in human intelligence and evolution.

The book draws on both the ancient and the modern taking a secular perspective

A friend who read an early draft of this book called it a ‘platypus of a meditation book’ in reference to the Duck Billed Platypus . The Duck Billed Platypus is an evolutionary ‘missing link’, an interim stage. Like the Platypus, this book is evolutionary bridge between meditation as it is understood today and the evolution of meditation as spirituality, technology and an understanding of our minds converge.

Meditation conjures up images of a monk-like existence divorced from everyday life. In contrast, I propose a different image, that of an air traffic controller, where your mind receives many inputs, the stakes are high and split second decisions and intuition are a part of the job.

While the stakes are less serious for us, we all relate to this situation and if meditation can help us solve the problem, it can have practical use in our increasingly complex lives

In this book, I propose that we are now entering the fourth age of meditation (following the previous ages of Shamanic meditation, Religious meditation and ‘Leaderful/Guru Led’ meditation). In the fourth age of meditation, meditation becomes a technology that will cause an exponential uptake in human intelligence and evolution. The starting point for this exponential uptake of human intelligence is our brain and our mind. More specifically, the exponential uptake of intelligence could be brought about by a connectivity and enhancement of minds through networks and technology. In that sense, meditation is a ‘transhumanist’ technology and networks are the underlying paradigm of the fourth age of meditation.

All networks, including neural networks and social networks, have a common theme. In the fourth age of meditation, we take a network based ‘two-sided view’ of meditation. On one hand, meditation is a disconnection from the emotional attachment to the flow of messages. This is the historical/ conventional understanding of meditation. But we also explore the other side of meditation i.e. the ‘connectivity’ aspect of meditation, with it’s fascinating possibilities.

The book shows you meditative techniques using brainwave technology.

It addresses questions like:

• How will our brain evolve through transhumanist meditation?

• How can we use technology to enhance our meditative state?

• What are the future implications for society, culture and spirituality?

• If we take the approach of ‘gedankenexperiment’(thought experiment), how would the world look like as we evolve?

• How would our Identity and relationship with the world change as we continue to change, evolve and enhance our minds through a fusion of meditation, networks and technology?

The book also studies social meditation augmented by technology as an on going exploration. Working with Neurosky headsets (see the cool technology behind this at Neurosky brainwave technology) we are creating a collaborative, technology based meditation concept using the Neurosky APIs. Think of it as a ‘game’ where you can synchronize with each other in a group

If you want to stay in touch and also receive the first chapter after the launch event, please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com . The book will be launched in August in Europe and October in North America

The decline and fall of traditional media and its grassroots impact on politics

The first time I came to live in England a few years ago, it was a cultural shock.

Not for the people but for the newspapers. Let me explain ..

If you were born outside England(as I was in India), you often have a quaint notion of England. In my case, it was based largely on reading Enid Blyton as a child and watching programs like To the manor born , Yes Minister and others. So, the impression of England is often polite, kind, cultured, dignified and with a sense of fairplay and a sense of humour.

However, when I first came here, I was shocked by the coverage in the tabloids especially the right leaning conservative press such as the Daily express , Daily mail and the Sun .

Hence, a few months later, when my landlord asked me ‘How do I like it here?’ – I said – it is different from what I expected. When I read the newspapers, the coverage seems so vicious and acrimonious. Not what I had expected.

He then smiled and gave me a piece of advice which I have followed ever since.

- Ignore the right leaning newspapers(The daily mail and daily express).

- Treat the left leaning newspapers with some skepticism(since they have an agenda)

- Read the Sun only till page 3 :)

- And read ALL your news from the Financial times or the Economist

Years later, now that I am a British citizen (and proud to be one!) as I reflect on that advice, it was an accurate portrayal of the many positive experiences I have had here.

In other words, the people are a lot better than their newspapers.

But why so?

Since my talk at the European Union on Web 2.0 , I have been following the impact of grassroots campaigning especially with the use of the Web so effectively by Barrack Obama in the forthcoming American elections.

There is a shift away from the power of big media – towards the people.

This can be only a good thing.

When Tony Blair stepped down as the British prime minister, he called the media feral

More recently, two major British newspapers apologized to the parents of Madeline Mc Cann for the outright lies they had published.

Indeed the traditional media is growing more rabid and vicious because they have to compete to gain a share of the attention in an era increasingly dominated by the Web.

I think this is a reflection of the shift of power away from the newspapers to the Web.

Apparently, (I can’t confirm this), the daily telegraph is the only newspaper in the UK which is profitable. The telegraph has an elderly audience – which probably explains its profitability.

This article from the Guardian paints a more accurate picture where it indicates that a majority of the young people no longer rely on the newspapers to get their information.

This can only be a good thing. It is a little unsettling to see media barons like Rupert Murdoch direct their newspapers to ‘support’ a political party .

The decline of traditional media and consequently in the death of the symbiotic relationship between media and the politicians can only benefit people and lead to the emergence of grassroots leaders who don’t need the backing of big media or big business.

This may not happen immediately but may well happen sooner than we think.

As a libertarian, I find this very appealing.

Totalitarian governments enter the digital age .. but how can they ban SMS?

The Pakistan government now tries to ban ‘IPTV, Mobile TV’ (video content on the internet and TV on mobile phones) in addition to ‘direct to home’ television services quoting that ‘circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action’ translation : a movement for democracy!

Question is: How exactly are they going to ban SMS?

That’s why P2P is so disruptive ..

They will learn from the fate of other regimes that times have changed and there is no going back to state control of information ..

Iraq: Disturbing picture ..


Sometimes you see a picture in a news bulletin .. and it sticks with you for the rest of the day(and probably will for a lot longer). Inspite of all the horrors we see in the news today, this was one such picture I saw today – no child should have to go through this! Very disturbing!

Inspite of being in Iraq, this girl looks almost ‘Indian’ to me from a typical Indian school – except for the surrounding settings.

I guess it shows that as human beings, we will empathise will people all over the world – inspite of the divisive forces of evil.

The logic of bombing a girl’s school escapes me!

Source: Pupils killed as Iraq schools hit