Mikey Siegel on “Transformative Technology: An Evolution of Contemplative Practice” March 5, 2015
Smith College, Northampton, MA, USA

Lecture on Thursday, March 5 at 5 pm
Seelye Hall 201
Smith College

“Transformative Technology: An Evolution of Contemplative Practice”

Meditation research or Contemplative Science has made extraordinary progress in mapping out the underlying mechanisms of the states and traits associated with various contemplative practices.  Though that map is far from complete, we have enough information to begin navigating the terrain.  In the same way that our understanding of Biological Science led to the eradication of the smallpox virus, why can’t our understanding of Contemplative Science lead to the eradication of the underlying causes of human suffering?  Existing contemplative practices are incredibly powerful, but were designed thousands of years ago for a very different cultural context.  This lecture explores how modern technology, informed by Contemplative Science, can work with, rather than against, the prevailing cultural trends to transform human experience from the inside out.

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This lecture is the second in a series of six hosted this spring by the Smith College Buddhist Studies Concentration and the Department of Religion, “Cyborg Buddha and the New Technologies of Awareness: There’s an App for That!”. 
The Dalai Lama has often been reported to have said that if there were a pill that exactly duplicated Buddha’s awakening, he would take it immediately and prescribe it for all living beings. Really?

This past fall, Smith hosted a series of talks on the Buddhist origins of mindfulness, MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), and some of the new directions that neuroscience is leading those fields. Given all of the attention that the nexus of psychology/neuroscience/Buddhism has drawn (and our central location in much of this here in the Pioneer Valley - the Dalai Lama’s Mind and Life Institute,Contemplative Mind in Society, Jon Kabat-Zin, the Smith College School for Social Work, and the Buddhist Studies programs in the Five Colleges), we wish to push the envelope a bit for the spring semester and ask whether or not there might be emerging technologies that are able to duplicate the contemplative experiences that the Buddhists have been pursuing for millennia - or get close. There are many exciting new technologies out there promising “happiness at the push of a button” as well as complex risks and ethical questions, and this series will examine the theoretical and ethical as well as the world of applied Buddhist tech that is emerging from this conversation. There are also many new directions among Western Buddhists that embrace these new technologies - Buddhist Geeks, Dharma Overground, Consciousness Hacking, and more, and we also look forward to engaging these movements in our series.

Cyborgs to apps to wearable computers to pharmaceuticals to ethics, all in the service of awakening - these are the topics for our spring series of speakers. Neuroscience? Neuro-phrenology? Buddhism? Buddhism lite? Hollywood? Business? Come along and find out.

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The event is free and open to the public. Please feel free to distribute this message and the image to students or groups that you think might be interested.