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Swords to Ploughshares, Capacitors to Compassion: Harnessing the Power of Technology

December 4, 2008

WLBIB_monk_fMRI08_2684So, aside from being the longest post title in history, this post reflects one of the transcendent themes of Love-Revolution that sets it apart, perhaps, from traditional philosophical or humanitarian ideology. Namely, the keenly optimistic view that our technology and our science specifically may be employed not just to mobilize our human love, but indeed, as powerful tools for the real cultivation of compassionate demeanor. Never in history have the technological breakthroughs or the scientific understandings been so potent or—arguably—so profound as right now…this instant. Consequently, never before have we had the same tools at our disposal for the promotion and cultivation of loving dispositions in our human nature, and for the sharpening and deployment of skills necessary to bring real relief and life-improvement to our fellow human comrades.

Two examples may illustrate this paradigm.

Scientifically, our understanding of how the brain functions to create compassionate responses is just WLBIB_monk_EEG08_2838beginning to significantly unfold. Of the several researchers working to understanding the phenomenon of compassionate love from a neuroscientific paradigm, Richard Davidson has gained particular attention for his collaboration with Buddhist monks. The techniques of fMRI and EEG investigation can quantify specific brain activity. By exploring the mental states of monks engaging in meditative compassion practice, there is exciting possibility within view: the cultivation of individualized brain-specific feedback for the development of mental compassion exercises. Just like athletes are systematically examined for physiological responses to workout routines in order to optimize their physical training, imagine a core of exercises individually tailored for people to become Olympians of compassionate love. The potential for creating individual compassion “workout routines” optimally designed for your cultivation of a compassionate nature may not be relegated to the stuff of science-fiction for long, but may soon become the stuff of real-life science.

The question may then arise—what do we do once we have a society of ultra-loving individuals? How can we amplify the power of the compassionate minds among us and transform good intent to the good of society? In this regard, technology is providing exciting glimpses of possible practical training.

Virtual Peace, a simulator for humanitarian skill training, is a thrilling preview into the cutting edge of relief-work education. The website for Virtual Peace describes it as an immersive, multi-sensory game-based environment that simulates real disaster relief and conflict resolution conditions in order to learn first-hand the necessary tools for sensitive and timely crisis response.”

Short of becoming a Virtual Peace infomercial, Virtual Peace is a symbol of a movement for potent technological advancement in the field of humanitarian training. Imagine, these two pieces of compassionate training coming together in synergy: the optimization of personal compassion-disposition exercise, along with the enhanced training for relief skill deployment. The formula for enabling people to develop both the heart and the skill for alleviating world suffering is a very bright glimpse of a hopeful future for a more compassionate earth and a more humanitarian-empowered society.


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