How spiritual principles are being integrated into the design of next-generation technologies…and what does this mean for Thailand?
By Craig Warren Smith, PhD
Senior Advisor, Human Interactive Technology Laboratory, University of Washington
Room 708, Boromratchakumari Bldg., Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Thursday, September 4, 2008, 2 - 4 pm (*please note the new time*)
Organized by the Center for Ethics of Science and Technology, Chulalongkorn University
What is Spiritual Computing?
Spiritual computing refers to technologies that further the spiritual experiences of users. In this case, “spirituality” refers to cultivation of compassion, wisdom, openness and other ethical qualities cultivated for thousands of years by spiritual disciplines, which are both religious and secular, theistic and non-theistic. Still an embryonic notion, Prof Smith predicts that spiritual computing will emerge as a key design principle in software fields such as computer search, home technologies, health care,. education, computer games and in “social marketing” campaigns such as efforts to stop cigarette smoking.
He claims that Spiritual Computing will also become a factor in religions, as religious reformers use next-generation technologies to enhance ritual observances and spiritual realizations of their members. “Spiritual computing will have a disrupting effect on some organized religions, just technology has revealed and disrupted corrupt practices in government,” he says.
Who is Craig Warren Smith?
Professor Smith, one of the founders of the worldwide movement to close the Digital Divide, also is a longtime teacher of meditation in the Buddhist tradition. In his role as Senior Advisor to the University of Washington’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory, he is exploring a new paradigm in which spirituality and technology could converge to produce innovative new technologies that convey ethical principles. In Thailand, he is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Ethics of Science and Technology at Chulalongkorn University where he has collaborated with its director, Prof. Soraj Hongladarom, on a lecture series regarding “Happiness, Public Policy and Technology.”
What will the lecture consist of?
In the Bangkok lecture, he will report on his 2007 Spiritual Computing world lecture tour of research labs of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM, Electronic Arts and various universities such as Stanford and MIT. (See SpiritualComputing.com) In these lectures he conveyed operational definitions for spiritual experience and opened discussions on how spiritual realization could add value to Microsoft’s concept of the “digital home of the future,” Google Earth’s home page, and Electronic Arts’ genres of computer games.
He will also introduce the idea that, as the digital economy spreads in Asia, spiritual themes that are imbedded in Asia’s cultures will be expressed in technology design – causing Asian cultures to turn away from fantasies of Western materialistic lifestyles. He will suggest a theoretic framework, measurement concepts, and criteria that technologies designers can use to support the spread of ethical behavior in the general populous.
How can Spiritual Principles be Integrated into Next-Generation Technologies?
According to Prof. Smith, in the Spiritual Computing framework, technology designers must fit the following criteria:
- Satisfy the ethical concerns of governments and dominant religions, whether these are expressed explicitly (as in telecommunications regulation regarding children’s access to video games) or implicitly as in Syariah.
- Draw insights from the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) which looks beyond “use of use” to more fundamental and ethical ways of affecting the behavior of users.
- Gain measurement tools from neuroscience fields such as “neuroengineering,” and other cognitive sciences.
- Become adaptable to the practical needs and economic realities faced by low income users.
- Draw insight from the most robust spiritual and mindfulness traditions imbedded in Asian cultures,
- Lessen the “carbon footprint” of current technologies, so that they are environmentally appropriate.
- Engender participatory engagement by users.
What could Spiritual Computing Mean for Thailand?
Following the presentation, participants will respond offering commentary on the possible application of spiritual computing to Thailand, to Buddhist practice, and other themes.