If you have visited this page before, you might have noticed that the page sports a new look. Instead of the picture of the “horse nebula” that appeared on the previous design, now you are seeing a picture of a desert. This is no ordinary desert, but it’s from Mars. What looks like a mountain on your left is something that is similar to a glacier on earth. I think on Mars it’s made up of solid carbon dioxide. Well, I have to check up on that, but I think there’s not enough water ice on Mars to form an ice glacier.
The picture is taken from the National Geographic, and I hope that they don’t sue me when I took their picture and posted it here. At least I am acknowledging the source 🙂 I will post more thoughts and diversions here regularly, so please come back often.
I have changed the design of the blog again. This time it should be easier on the eyes. This kind of shows how computer has evolved during these years. Perhaps some of us still remember the time when all texts on the screen are white or green under the black background of the screen itself. Yes, I am talking about the old DOS era when all that the screen could show was the text based letters.
So this will perhaps be the template for the blog for a while. Unless, of course newer designs come along…
Last Thursday my colleague and friend Craig Smith gave a talk on “Spiritual Computing” at Chulalongkorn University. The talk was quite well attended considering the sheer number of talks and meetings that are always going on at the university. Anyway the content of the talk was really interesting, something that we should be reflecting upon.
Basically the theme of the talk concerned how spirituality and technology could go together. This might sound at first odd, but that is where Craig’s original idea came in. His focus was on technology design. How the new breed of technology, especially information and communication technology, could be designed in such a way that is informed by spirituality principles? Craig’s example was on how computer games could be designed so that, instead of promoting violence and anger, they could promote compassion and loving kindness instead? Thus there has been a game developed so that in order to pass to another level, you have to get control of your breathing. (This might raise an issue whether this is actually in line with Buddhist meditation, for example. In practicing Buddhist meditation you should not explicitly aim at any goal. To do that would subvert the meditation process and ironically you won’t go anywhere. So in order to achieve the goal you must not set any goal — but perhaps this is also the intent of the design of the game.)
Craig mentioned that technology has been used to promote spiritual purposes for a long time. The prayer wheel has been around for centuries to turn the mantra up in the air, and it uses some technology to produce it. So why shouldn’t we in the twenty-first century develop our own technology for the same purpose? In what way could technology and spirituality be integrated with each other?
Usually this is done in the context of spiritual principles informing the direction of the technology, a sort of regulatory framework, we might say. But Craig went further than that. The idea is not only that spiritual principles providing a guiding light, but spirituality itself should be infused with the technology from the design stage up. It is going to be a kind of technology that is totally informed by spirituality since the inception stage. It could be designed to serve spiritual purposes, the same way as the prayer wheel is, or it could be designed so that it brings spirituality back to our contemporary lives.
It would be good, I think, to enlist technology to help us with spiritual purposes. One thing that has already been developed in Thailand is a wristwatch that beeps at a regular interval, say one minute or five minutes, to remind the wearer to be mindful. So instead of reminding oneself every now and then to be mindful and not to lose track of the act of watching the mind, the beeps kind of helps with this activity. But there is the possibility that the wearer will be so engrossed with his activities that he completely forgets about the beeps. And I would imagine that in meditation practice or in daily life the beep could become rather annoying. That is one way technology has actually been developed to serve spiritual purposes. As for computer games, perhaps a game might be developed so that it blends with meditation. So instead of sitting alone in a room or outdoor for meditation, one could actually do the meditation in front of the computer. That would be really interesting.
If you happen to be a regular visitor to this blog, you’d find that the templates of the blog change quite often. This is because I am not quite satisfied with the templates given by WordPress. Some templates, such as Sapphire, which I used previously before this one, does not allow for pages, and the comment box is too small. So this is the most recent incarnation of this blog. Some, such as Cutline, are too white. So this present template looks like a solution. But that of course does not mean it’s going to be permanent. After all, this is a “mostly Buddhism” blog, so expect impermanence.