Transformative Technologies and Their Impact on Well-Being

  • 5 March 2016
  • sjanicke

“Transformative technologies” is a broad term to describe any form of technology that can somehow enrich our lives. Among those certainly fall all forms of fitness trackers and devices, including the FitBit or smart watches. But the specific transformative technologies I am interested in are those that specifically enhance our mental well-being (which of course goes along with our physical well-being) and potentially provide us access towards a deeper inner knowing or consciousness. One of the current technologies in this subfield of transformative technologies are those that support a mindfulness  or meditation practice (click here for a list of useful meditation apps). 

Being fascinated by all sorts of human interaction technologies that are developed at the speed of light –even though I am far away from being an innovator that always has the newest gadgets—I knew about the meditation supporting headset “Muse” before going to the Wisdom 2.0 conference, but never had the chance to test it out.

At last, at the conference, I was able to do so and now I am torn between investing the $299 for the meditation headset that also goes a long with a couple of other neurofeedback apps, such as the neuromore, or mindsong, for example, or wait a little bit more until the technology  is even further developed.

The “Muse” is a neuro-feedback device that is non-invasive, meaning nothing is put into your body. You just put it on like a headset, or better yet, like a fancy sweat band (like they used to wear in the 70’s) on your forehead, and it measures your brain waves (EEG) from your pre-frontal and parietal cortex, an area we know from neuroscience research has decreased activation (reduced activation of the Default Mode Network) after meditation. It comes with an app which gives you feedback in real-time about how activated and all over your mind is, or how much you can focus your attention on one thing. It does this by feeding you back nature sounds such as rainfalls, winds in the forest, or ocean waves. The calmer you mind is the calmer the sound.

I chose the beach and ocean sound and boy was my mind in big wave mode. However, after a while of just focusing on my breath, I heard just the calm ripple of small waves smoothly coming on shore. However, I did not make it to the point where I heard birds chirping, which is the ultimate “reward” the app provides once you have been able to sustain your attention without interruption for a longer period of time.

An article in the Wall Street Journal about the Muse  provides a little bit more detail about it’s potential as well as its’ fallbacks. Scientific studies are still underway to validate the measurement accuracy of the device, but it seems to measure at least something that is associated with at least something close to a meditative state (that is, a focused attention one).

The Muse is obviously not the only transformative technology within the mental well-being area out there. Other technologies, measure your heart rate instead of brain waves, for example, as a way to hack your body and mental state. For example, there is Heart Math an application for your computer and your mobile device that measures your heart rate with a clip on your ear, and provides feedback in real time visually to you as you relax. There is also GPS for the Soul, created by the Huffington Post, which uses your phone’s camera to assess your heart rate and provides you with a library of tools to calm down such as poetry, music, guided meditation or pictures of your loved ones. Or the Nome (picture above), invented by Mikey Siegel (an entrepreneur who is taking the lead in creating a community around transformative technologies/consciousness hacking) which is another visual and auditive neuro-feedback device that is supporting a practice meditation.

The field of transformative technologies in the mental well-being sector is booming. In October last year, Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA, hosted the first Transformative Technology conference introducing all sorts of science based hard-and software aimed towards the development of our mental and emotional well-being. 

The development of technologies, just like the development in psychology is changing it’s course from focusing on eliminating disease to fostering people’s potential, health and well-being (aka positive psychology). Transformative technologies are more than “prevention” technologies, so we don’t get sick physically or emotionally. They are about bringing the best in us out. They are not reinventing the wheel or eliciting something that wasn’t there before. We, the human species, are born with an incredible potential. A potential to transform ways of existence, just as we have been doing over the course of the 2000 years we are living in this (more or less) civilized world.

We, the human species, are born with an incredible potential. A potential to transform ways of existence.

Over the course of history our tools with which we access, manage and try to understand the world have been developing in congruence with our collective psyche. The ancient Egyptians had something figured out then, that now we cannot wrap our heads around (how did they build those pyramids again?), which speaks to our current state of consciousness. Tools, and I see our modern technologies as such, however, can have an incredible potential to assist us in understanding our minds, bodies and the more intangible parts of our consciousness, if we let them and are open to explore the indescribable or non symbolic.

Transformative technologies may enable us to have experiences that are beyond words, which may get us much closer to the ultimate truth and reality of life, which is something some of us are actually are seeking.  I am curious to see where the future of these transformative technologies is going and eager to be entranced by my phone rather than distracted by it.

 

Check out this video of Mikey Siegel on the future of Transformative Technologies: