• “Today’s information technologies provide instantaneous access to vast amounts of information…. [but] the easy availability of information can turn into information overload; the presence of multiple communication sources and devices may lead to the fragmentation of attention; and the ease of acting and communicating quickly seems to encourage a pace of interaction that is unsustainable and counterproductive. In this course, we will examine the causes and effects of such trends, and will explore possible counter-measures, including contemplative practice. For thousands of years in a wide range of cultures, people have developed techniques (meditation, yoga, contemplative reading) for stilling the mind and cultivating attention. We will study and practice a variety of these techniques, and will apply the understanding gained from them to critique the speedy, fragmented, and inattentive mind states that digital technologies seem to encourage.”
  • The power of the social sciences! Experiment with hitchhiking shows that “If a woman has large breasts, men are more likely to engage in prosocial behavior (in this case offering her a ride).” The details: “Statistically speaking, only men’s behaviors were affected by the hitchhiker’s breast size (p < .03). The frequency of stopping in the cup C condition was marginally greater than that of cup B (p = 0.09) and significantly greater than that of cup A (p < .01). The difference between cups A and B was not significant.”
    (tags: psychology)
  • “I work with my clients to identify the activities that they already engage in that can become occasions for practicing mindfulness. Most people have a number of possibilities. Practically all sports can work: basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball, and so on. What’s it like to stand at the foul line before you try to make a free throw? Other physical activities can be used, too: biking to work in traffic, walking the dog, going for a jog, shoveling the driveway, buying groceries, picking out what to wear, putting on make-up, driving the car. What these activities have in common is the opportunity to pay attention to sense perceptions in the present moment: what one can see, hear, smell, taste or touch.”
  • The Contemplative Studies Initiative is a group of Brown faculty with diverse academic specializations who are united around a common interest in the study of contemplative states of mind, including the underlying philosophy, psychology, and phenomenology of human contemplative experience. We are currently able, as a group, to provide advice on students’ academic and personal study in this area and we are working towards eventually receiving formal recognition as a Program, Concentration, or a Center to study and teach the underlying philosophy, psychology, and phenomenology of human contemplative experience. Our goal is to develop a coordinated program in this rapidly emerging field that focuses on many of the ways that human beings have found, across cultures and across time, to concentrate, broaden and deepen conscious awareness as the gateway to cultivating their full potential and to leading more meaningful and fulfilling lives.
  • Four challenges that will shape the future of Buddhism: the passing of a generation of charismatic figures; political developments in Asia; the rise of global Christianity (in particular its growth in Asia); and the spread of secular materialism.
    (tags: buddhism future)
  • For the Patheos summer series on the future of religion, I’d like to share some insights based on my research into the state of contemplative practices in America, conducted for the Fetzer Institute and the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. I offer them here as Buddhism has informed much of the current popularity of these practices, and the developments described here may have some bearing upon the future of Buddhism. Following a brief introduction to the growth of contemplative practices in America, I’d like to focus on their future.
  • The search engine’s “Jolly Good Fellow” brings the dharma to Silicon Valley
  • “I absolutely think we learn from failure, but getting people to talk about it honestly is not so easy,” said Katrin Verclas, a founder of MobileActive. “So I thought, why not try to start conversations about failure through an evening event with drinks and finger foods in a relaxed, informal atmosphere that would make it seem more like a party than a debriefing.” There is also a prize for the worst failure, a garish green-and-white child’s computer nicknamed the O.L.P.C. — for One Laptop Per Child — a program that MobileActive members regard as the emblem of the failure of technology to achieve change for the better.
  • One futurist’s vision of the coming interface singularity contrasts with the reality of today’s prototypes. Reto Meier, an “Android Developer Advocate for Google” recently laid out a fairly science-fiction account of where computer (or at least mobile) interfaces are headed. In the spirit of the best futurism, all of his predictions – from Augmented Reality eye glasses to advanced batteries – have parallels in the real world. What follows is a walk-through of the future, expressed in terms of the not quite ready for prime time discoveries coming out of labs today.
[To the tune of David Bowie, “Always Crashing In The Same Car,” from the album Bowie at the Beeb: Best Of BBC Radio 68-72 (a 1-star song, imo).]