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Singularity University and transformation

July 8, 2009

singularity u imageYou may be aware already about Singularity University (SU), an extraordinarily unique experiment in convergence sciences that is—as far as I know—an unprecedented initiative to seriously engage a community of young thinkers and plug them into the financial power of corporate backing in order to affect change in the world. As a point of reference, here is a link to the official report on the first week of the University:

http://singularityu.org/news/2009/07/singularity-university-successful-first-week/

The crowning focal point for SU is the challenge for the student teams to create a project by the summer’s end which would—if carried through—affect one billion people (10^9) in one decade. The initiative is known as the 10^9+ project (pronounced “ten to the ninth plus.”)

As I have contemplated what it would be like to have the unique challenge and opportunity to participate in a 10^9+ project environment, with seemingly limitless financial backing from corporate arms, I have been trying to think about how to blend the challenge of speaking to core, authentic human societal needs with the presumable interest of financial and business entrepreneurs to pick up a project that will ostensibly turn them a profit in the long run. The challenge in my mind, in short, is how to speak about the transcendent to people who might be fixated upon the sensational. I feel like some of the greatest thinkers relay a common theme about the supremacy and necessity of the moral man as the only one who can sustain a society. I keep reflecting upon this statement by Albert Einstein:

Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical applications of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the inquiring and constructive mind. (Albert Einstein, The Human Side) (Incidentally, this is the quotation Andrew Newberg uses to begin his book How God Changes Your Brain.)

This is the part where I start having blank slates and open-ended pondering rather than concrete formulations and detail-oriented dreams. I’m extremely heartened by the entity of loving-kindness practice in classical Buddhism traditions. In fact, the techniques and the processes that have been developed and preserved with Buddhist traditions are so well-refined and so keyed in to the human mind and affect, that I truly believe that if my life’s career could be spent just on promoting loving-kindness practice in the secular world, that my career will be one which will bring me great pleasure and satisfaction at my life’s end.

But how to bring loving-kindness practice to the ultra high-tech environs? How to persuade, much less convince an exponentially speed-driven society that our world populations need loving-kind regard for their fellow humanity before they will be able to use convergence technologies for the benefit of the human race rather than for the perpetuation of their own selfish ambitions? While many may use new convergence technologies for noble, humanistic goals, the simultaneous hyper-tech pursuit of selfish ambition seems like an inevitable outcome of convergence technological proliferation. Having greater technological horsepower to run the engine of the ego seems like an indisputable gateway toward escalating pride, jealousies, envying, and ultimately violence to boiling points previously unknown on the planet. How might we as a humanity leverage technology in powerful ways and fit the proliferation of goodwill and human loving-kindness into this paradigm of 10^9+ technological intensity? How might we be able to utilize, package, and pitch convergence modalities to leverage corporate backing toward the purposes of global morality and ethics? Am I anti-tech or Luddite? Absolutely not. Quite to the contrary, I’m fixated on how to leverage tech for human moral and ethical transformation and transcendence.

My thoughts return to the newly organized Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT (http://dalailamacenter.org/). While the Center is certainly not the answer to these dilemmas, I’m both intrigued and heartened by the emergence of the Dalai Lama Center at MIT, and I deeply hope that MIT will wield the best in neuroscience and all the physical sciences to creatively and effectively promote human transformation in authentic ways. I don’t exaggerate the point when I say that I feel like my life course and success (in the transcendent sense of “success”) depend upon the sustainable cultivation of a loving demeanor. And I further feel that this is a microcosm of the necessity for the global soul to transform toward unprecedented loving-kindness. As we transcend our natural environments through technological principles, it means that we transcend and leave behind our natural buffers (i.e., those from raw evolutionary heritage) for organizing and sustaining the functional cohesion of positive social order. It seems inevitable that technological proliferation is going to amplify our hearts’ contents, and as such, I feel a veritable race to assist in transforming the collective heart of humanity before the wrong principles and ambitions become amplified to occupy the greater universe.

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