Spiritual Technology

May 27th, 2011

I love the scene in the TV show The Office when the incredibly un-self aware Michael Scott speaks at Business School. The class is already prepped that he runs a paper business that is likely to be obsolete within 5 years. He is of course in denial about this reality. When one of the students asks him how he operates in an increasingly paperless world, he replies,

“You can’t overestimate the value of computers. Sure, they’re great for playing games and sending around funny emails but real business is done on paper. Write that down.”

You then hear the frantic tapping of 50 students typing on their laptops. 🙂

Fortunately Michael Scott doesn’t represent middle age people in the real world, who are enamored with technology and social media in particular. 64% of Twitter users are over 35, 61% of Facebook’s users are over 35 and the average age for Linkedin’s users is 44. The median age of a text message user in America is 38 yrs old.

Appreciation of technology across generations is universal, but the way technology is used is different. You only have to look at texting language across generations to see the difference. Elderly text codes include BYOT, or “bring your own teeth” and ROFLACGU, or “rolling on floor laughing and can’t get up.” The fact is that many elderly people are texting and using their kindles and utilizing the latest technology in effective ways.

One of the differences across the generations is the level of personal detail. Think about the recent rhyming twitter break up of Slaughterhouse’s Joe Budden (not to be confused with Joe Biden) and Esther Baxter. They paraded their dirty laundry for all the twittersphere to see. Not everyone appreciates their transparency, but you can be sure that Budden’s feelings will be played out in multiple songs ad nauseam for years to come.

In 2001 I launched a service through Vodafone New Zealand called PRYRS4U. We texted prayers to subscribers each day. It was innovative at the time. Now I have Apps with Affs on them, (cell phone applications that deliver affirmations). It’s the motto of spiritual technology- theres an AFF for that! Apps offer huge advantages over text messages, with much greater control for the user.

My main interest is how technology can improve lives, even if it does it in different ways for different demographics. Technology has proven that it can make life easier but it also needs to be measured by whether it can give people greater ease in life. Technology has shown that it can make people richer, but it needs to also be measured on whether it can make life richer….for all.

I’m interested in technology that increases empathy, inner character, and generosity. I want to know how technology can accelerate personal development. I don’t just mean tools that can analyze different parts of the brain. I mean technology that actually complements traditional tools such as meditation. Ultimately, I want to see technology support holistic, global transformation. Spiritual guru, Alan Watts, pointed to the challenge 50 years ago-

Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.


In other words, once the user is disconnected from the technology which is disconnected with nature, it will likely be used with poor intent and create more harm than good. In that case technology can make a dangerous situation explosive. But if technology is used with worthy intent, with an understanding that the user, the technology and the environment are all intimately related, then it can do enormous good in the world. Spiritual technology helps to develop the very character that is needed to use technology with good intent.

Developing inner character and personal responsibility? There’s an APP for that.

More specifically, spiritual technology……….

–          Helps to connect the parts with the whole.

–          Celebrates unity in diversity.

–          Is inclusive of all ages and uses.

–          Encourages the discovery of wisdom through the wisdom of discovery.

These are all future topics. How do you define spiritual technology? What do you see as the potential and liability of technology?

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  1. Hi Ian,
    Thanks so much for the excellent and thought provoking post. Your timing was especially prescient as I spent part of my day writing a review for an application that encourages mindfulness.
    Actually, I think just about any technology can have spiritual aspects. Email can be an opportunity to practice compassion. Facebook and Twitter present opportunities for prayer. By making choices to follow people who are on the spiritual path, social media can be a virtual “sangha” of sorts–a community that encourages a spiritual perspective on the world around us.
    The spiritual potential of technology is vast indeed, as is the liability. Much of digital stream encourages a sort of rushing and mindlessness that the very opposite of prayer, a faceless sort of cynicism that is the opposite of compassion.
    Thanks again for the great post. May peace be with you!

  2. ian says:

    Well said Tara- I totally agree. Peace

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