Image shows trees against a white backdrop in Invocation for Hope by Superflux

The merging of technology and spirituality

While big tech has in the past been accused of co-opting spirituality to seduce audiences and staff, emerging tech pioneers are respectfully building positive futures inspired by ancient wisdoms

Today’s tech innovation landscape is a mash-up of emerging and existing technologies, Eastern spirituality and indigenous belief systems. This is most visible when big tech companies co-opt spiritual practices to enhance ­innovation, optimise staff productivity, and boost profitability.

Lesser seen, but perhaps just as impactful, is the work of designers, space explorers, researchers and environmentalists, working at the pioneering edges of technology, where ­ancient wisdoms and non-Western ­traditions shape what looks to be compassionate and harmonious emerging futures.

In the words of the late spiritual teacher Ram Dass, as quoted back to me by Danielle Krettek Cobb, founder of Google Empathy Lab: “The spiritual trip is not necessarily a cave in the Himalayas but it’s in relation to the technology that’s existing.”

Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert, was famously kicked out of teaching at Harvard University for researching psychedelics with colleague Timothy Leary. Today, many credit Ram Dass with helping to popularise Eastern spirituality in the West.

Krettek Cobb calls Ram Dass a “founding force” for Empathy Lab, his teachings often informing Empathy Lab’s guiding principles, which she describes as being “about living life and creating work that dials down the (noisy) rational mind and opens one’s (boundless) human heart”. Launched in 2015, Empathy Lab works on technology projects that blend social science with creative methods, informed by empathy, emotional resilience, and “wisdom of heart”.

Image of Invocation for Hope by Superflux
Top and above: Installation image of Invocation for Hope by Superflux, created for the Vienna Biennale, 2021