Mindful Technology

How Emotional Technology Can Enhance Your Life in the Future

How Emotional #Technology Can Enhance Your Life in the #Future

Our pace of technological advancement is changing our lives exponentially. It's exciting to think about what is around the corner. We are set to travel vast distances in minutes. Space tourism is becoming a thing. Some scientists believe we may live past 1000 years old. Artificial intelligence is rapidly improving to spot patterns in overwhelming amounts of data. Yet, how technology can enhance our interior and empathic lives is often overlooked. According to Alain de Botton, future emotional technologies will profoundly enhance our lives. 

In this School of Life video, Alain explains three particular technologies he believes will be among the most impactful:

I: The Mood Reader
"One of the major sources of conflict and grief between people, especially in relationships, stems from how bad we are at explaining the contents of our minds to other people... When we are on the receiving end of inaccurately communicated feelings, we tend to make bad guesses about what might be going on in the other person. We get overly alarmed. We come up with jumpy, ungenerous stories... The Mood Reader will be able to give people close to us (whom we elect) beautifully expressed executive summaries of what we’re really feeling at a given point; laid out in ways that are accurate generous and imaginative - like something a great novelist would come up with. Currently, too often, a person in a couple will say in despair, after a long sulk or argument, 'how did you expect me to be a mind reader?' Technology will spare us the cumulative years of sulks and arguments by allowing us to be, for a time, just that."

How Emotional #Technology Can Enhance Your #Life in the #Future

II: The Spouse Finder
"The Spouse Finder of 2050 will be an expert finding you a match. Partly because everyone on the planet will be registered with it, but just as importantly, because it will have such an acute understanding of our deepest needs and emotional vulnerabilities... The spouse finder will have a picture of our long-term development in its memory... The spouse finder will know us and others so well it'll have the authority to convince us when we do hit tricky patches with a partner it's found us, but for all its faults our relationship really is the best available for us. It'll give us the confidence to believe that the trickiness of our couple emerges not so much from the other person as from the inherent difficulty of being with anyone."

How Emotional #Technology Can Enhance Your #Life in the #Future

III: Socrates
"Named after the world's greatest early philosopher, Socrates, who famously said that the first philosophical priority is to know yourself. Socrates will be a piece of wearable emotional technology that will make up for our failures of self-knowledge in real time. We imagine it as a kind of wearable life coach, with the total understanding of our mental health, who we are, and what we need to thrive emotionally. At key moments, Socrates will be on hand to temper our excesses and correct our emotional blind spots. It will know when we're getting to an angry outburst and counselors wisely before it's too late. It will sense mounting panic and be on hand immediately with the most soothing insights humanity has ever had. It will ween us away from unhelpful desires and compulsions towards more fruitful and enriching pursuits. It will know when we need an extra challenge. It will ensure that we can at all times be the best version of ourselves."

How Emotional #Technology Can Enhance Your #Life in the #Future

Alain concludes: 
"The promise of technology has always been that it will make life more convenient and less painful, but to date we haven't managed to focus on technological efforts on the biggest sources of discontent, which aren’t to do with the size of our phones or the speed of our planes, but with our emotional lives and the turmoil caused in them by our self-ignorance, cognitive frailty and in our blindness. That is the astonishing promise of the upcoming age of emotional technology."

The above post was lovingly crafted by Josiah Hultgren. Josiah Hultgren is Founder/CEO of MindFullyAlive, a Senior Lecturer at California Lutheran University, a NeuroCoach, and a practical neuroscience expert. He produces and curates mindfulness content designed to improve structure and functioning of the brain. His mission is to help create a more vibrant world and apply neuroscience in ways that help people reach their highest potential.

Brain Training: An Urban Myth?

Is #Brain training an urban myth? #neuroresearch #braintraining

Article Copyright © 2016 Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.

For centuries people have been trying to improve mental health and cognitive functioning, and tremendous advances have been made. But the question remains: can you train your brain – through technology, games, apps, audio programs, spiritual practices, or other forms of ritualized or systematic mental “gymnastics” – to improve, in a scientifically measurable way, specific cognitive functions that actually enhance mood regulation, work performance, memory, intelligence, and perhaps most important, lower the risk of degenerative diseases that affect the brain? The answer is a CAUTIOUS yes.

Is #Brain training an urban myth? #neuroresearch #braintraining

But there’s a big problem: most of the consumer products that are currently on the market don’t do much of anything. Few have been tested, and those that have rarely show improvements that have real life value. They rarely beat control groups, and the people who sit around on the researcher’s waiting list often show the same improvement as those who are participating in the study. When positive findings are discovered, the percentage of improvement is slight, barely above chance (which is the scientific definition of “statistical significance”). And they are rarely more effective than placebos (inert substances or unrelated activities to what is actually being measured). Something is working – and placebo benefits are, on average, around 30%, and for pain, placebos can be 90% effective – but another principle may be responsible for the change, like the person’s belief that they will experience an improvement. In fact, from the research that I and many others have conducted, positive beliefs appear to be one of the most powerful brain-enhancing strategies we have. The fledgling field of neuromarketing suggests that it is the way a product marketed, coupled with consumer popularity, that makes others believe that brain-training products really work.

Here’s what we currently know. You can’t improve intelligence through any known brain-training exercise. You can improve memory, but only in a very limited way, not enough to have any practical effect beyond giving the person a sense of hope (which, again, has real value, and there are many brain-scan studies showing that hope, optimism, and positivity, when maintained for several months, improve many emotional and cognitive functions).

Is #Brain training an urban myth? #neuroresearch #braintraining

But – and this is very important – you have to continue practicing these mind-altering exercises – like mindfulness, affirmations, and stress-reduction activities – nearly every day or the benefits will be lost. And as far as the research currently shows, only a few different forms of meditation appear to permanently alter brain structure after many years of daily practice. Yes, you can turn on a relaxation or guided imagery tape, or monitor yourself with some of the new neurofeedback head bands, and you’ll temporarily alter brain activity, but the effects for most people– when measured in a laboratory – quickly fade away within minutes. Passive brain training is a great place to begin, but if you want to make significant improvement (and remember, “significant doesn’t mean “a lot”) you’ll have to create an active ritual that you impose on yourself throughout the day, one that you are willing to repeat until a new mental state or behavior is achieved. Then continue to practice for the rest of your life. Why? Because human brains love to regress to old lazy habits. So real brain-training is a two part process: someone, or some machine, teaches you how to experience enhanced states of awareness, but then you must turn the lesson into an active exercise that you apply to yourself on a daily basis.

Yes the brain is malleable (neuroplasticity), but not as much as most people think. In fact, there are only a few areas where functional and structural changes can be made with gentle rituals like exercise, meditation, behavior modification, hypnosis, and mental/cognitive/emotional training. The other parts of the brain change more slowly, which is why physical therapy and rehabilitation training takes so long, and can be excruciatingly painful because the patient has to force new parts of the brain to take over the functions of areas that have been damaged from stroke, trauma, and neurological disease. We, in the science and psychology communities, have great hope because we do see small changes, and that is enough to make us continue to seek new strategies to help others improve their damaged brains. Still, there is not "sufficient" evidence (which is tricky, because there's rarely enough evidence to "prove" much of anything in neuroscience!) to recommend any method of cognitive training for the prevention of age-related brain disorders. One day soon, or so I hope.

Is #Brain training an urban myth? #neuroresearch #braintraining

Brain training has its roots in the neurofeedback/eeg experiments in the 1960s, when researchers first suggested – and then disproved – that a person could put themselves into certain brainwave states (like alpha) to consistently improve mental focus or learning skills. Brainwave entrainment is a real phenomenon but as a tool to improve cognitive functioning, it is now considered pseudoscience (brain-scan technologies are superior to eeg devices that can only read weak signals from the outermost parts of the neocortex). The term “brain training” – and more recently, “brain fitness” – became popular term in the late 1990s when several renowned neuroscientists created the first neurocognitive video training games for students. The research showed statistical significance for improving various cognitive skills, and several multi-million-dollar companies were born, but then the practical side of the research emerged. Yes, children who were scoring 60% on a test improved to 65%, but they were still failing. The $1000-per-student fee to the school turned out to be of very little value. Lumosity – the giant brain-game company that does national media advertising - also has many good studies to support the possibility of cognitive improvement, but the FDA recently fined them $2 million because they couldn’t substantiate their claims for the products they sell.

The same thing is happening for companies advertising brain-enhancing supplements – they are being fined big dollars. It’s true that some of the ingredients have been shown – in clinical tests, with specific amounts of the active substance – to have some potential value (“statistical significance” again) for people experiencing cognitive impairment and specific health problems, but they don’t appear to have any effect on the average healthy brain of people between the ages of 12-70. In other words, with the exception of a few vitamins and minerals, there’s little preventative value in most of the supplements you are probably taking (this is where a blood test and your doctor can really help). That’s why the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization suggest you be cautious; you may be throwing your money away, or worse: taking too much of some supplements that can upset your biological balance. But hey! If, when you swallow that supplement, you believe it will help, the positive belief will likely improve your health. That’s what the placebo research shows.

The best ways to train your #brain

So what are the best evidence-based ways to train your brain and improve cognitive and emotional functioning? Stress-reduction exercises, mindfulness practices (a robust improvement in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression – and you’ll rarely see the word “robust” in a scientific study), a healthy diet (although there’s no agreement of what that may be!), and aerobic exercise (even a minute or two every couple of hours will do great things to most of your body systems, including your brain), intense intellectual stimulation, and an active social engagement with positive-thinking people. Do those six things daily and that’s the best brain-training program you can find. And it’s free!

Oh, and one more thing, don’t ignore the following activities that have historically been associated with spiritual traditions: practice gratitude, forgiveness, self-love, compassion, fairness, and empathy every day, with as many people as possible. Meditations associated with these virtues have some of the most powerful effects on your brain.

So what to do about all of those brain-training and brain-fitness books and products? By all means read as much as you can (that too is great for the brain), but try out the products with an optimistic dose of skepticism – what I call “skoptimism” – and explore them, especially those that give you real-time feedback of changes in your brain. Be creative and invent your own brain-training routine and keep visualizing yourself becoming happier, more peaceful, more confident, and more successful because this too will stimulate your brain in profoundly healthy ways. There is no magic bullet, or pill, in the marketplace, but there may be one inside of your skull: in the optimistic imagination of your left prefrontal cortex, one of the most changeable structures in your brain.

Is #Brain training an urban myth? #neuroresearch #braintraining

At MindFullyAlive, we are dedicated to bringing you the only the best, science-based information, training and products for cultivating enhanced awareness and improving your brain.

Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.

Life-changing "Overview Effect" is Made Accessible with VR

Life-changing "Overview Effect" is Made Accessible with #VR

Virtual reality technology is opening up new ways for us to connect and new worlds for us to explore. Yet, one of its most valuable applications may be enabling us transcend ourselves.

There's a powerful phenomena called the "overview effect." Only a few of us have been fortunate enough to experience it. The term describes the psychological transformation astronauts go through when they gaze back upon the Earth from space. They become overwhelmed with a sudden wave of awe and deep emotion. Yet, the "overview effect" is far from a transitory feeling. It triggers a life-long cognitive shift in awareness.

Those that experience the "overview effect" adopt a new framing of reality and the self. They connect to a profound sense of oneness with the earth and its inhabitants. And from this sense of unity, divisions like national borders seem arbitrary and petty. The focus shifts from one's self as an individual, to one's self as part of the whole. 

The experience is said to be indescribable - like the feeling of falling in love, or seeing one's newborn first child.

Given its significance, it seems cruel that the "overview effect" has been unattainable to the vast majority. Yet those barriers are falling. Soon it will be possible for anyone to immerse one's self into the experience through a VR headset. 

Video via Upworthy

You identify with Houston and then you identify with Los Angeles and Phoenix and New Orleans... and that whole process of what it is you identify with begins to shift when you go around the Earth... you look down and see the surface of that globe you’ve lived on all this time, and you know all those people down there and they are like you, they are you—and somehow you represent them. You are up there as the sensing element, that point out on the end... you recognize that you’re a piece of this total life.
— Rusty Schweikar, NASA Astronaut

SpaceVR is a "virtual space tourism company" that is working to make the "overview effect" available on tap. They're set to launch a high-resolution, 360 camera satellite into space. Through VR tech, its perch will become your vantage point. Your VR view will respond to your full range of head motion so you feel completely immersed in orbit. In theory, this will cause you to experience something practically identical to what astronauts experience looking out the window of the International Space Station.

As of August 8, 2016 SpaceVR signed a launch agreement with NanoRacks LLC to launch their first camera into Low Earth Orbit in June 2017. SpaceVR features broad support for different VR headsets and is currently taking pre-orders for a "virtual trip to space" for $35. 

SpaceVR's Kickstarter Pitch Video

Because the "overview effect" has had such a powerful effect on individuals, it's exciting to imagine how it may inspire masses of people. One may reasonably speculate the result could be nothing short of revolutionary. And given the challenges we face in the world today, the timing is impeccable.

Earthrise  taken on December 24, 1968

Earthrise taken on December 24, 1968

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives... There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
— Carl Sagan

The above article was written by Josiah Hultgren, Founder of MindFullyAlive. 


The Overview Effect: Awe and Self-Transcendent Experience in Space Flight
Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice 3(1):1-11 · March 2016