If you ask Deepak Chopra what the world needs, you might be surprised what he says: “We need technology to rewire the global brain. The internet is the global brain,” he said.
That’s not quite the sentiment one might expect from a renowned spiritual guru. But as he explained in a recent visit to USA TODAY with tech columnist Ed Baig, “If you want to know the human condition, go to the internet – divine and diabolical, sacred and profane, it’s all there.”
But before you go delving too deeply into the internet for more on the human condition, you might want to take a deep breath.
That's something Chopra, who has authored 88 books, can now help you with through your home’s Amazon Echo speaker, with the help of voice assistant Alexa. The goal of his “Daily Reflections,” in partnership with LivePerson Studios, is to help you begin your day relaxed and end it with “peaceful gratefulness.”
The genesis of this Alexa skill came in the aftermath of a conference Chopra attended at the Vatican that was hosted by Pope Francis, on the topic of how technology can create a more compassionate world.
We chatted with Chopra to get his views on technology, screen addiction and artificial intelligence. Here are some of his deep thoughts, edited for brevity.
USA TODAY: How do you square all the noise around tech with your attempts to bring us a sense of calm?
CHOPRA: Technology is part of the evolution of the human species and if you understand evolution either you adapt, or you become irrelevant. We should see how technology can improve the human condition. We’re in the midst of a world right now where there is mechanized debt, climate change, social and economic injustice, war, terrorism, eco-destruction. We need technology to rewire the global brain. The internet is the global brain. If you want to know the human condition, go to the internet: divine and diabolical, sacred and profane. It’s all there. How do we create a critical mass for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthy and joyful world? I think technology is the answer. Technology is neutral. What we do with it depends on us.
USA TODAY: Our kids are addicted to screens and we are too. What is the answer?
CHOPRA: You do it consciously and you do it mindfully. I personally would suggest that you set aside time during the day: whatever it is, and that’s all you do – focused technology time, focused work time, focused relationship time, focused eating time, focused sleep time, focused downtown, recreation time. Create your own schedule. Technology is at your service. It’s not our master, it’s our servant. The real world right now outside is a manifestation of our collective insanity. If we don’t think the world is insane right now, then you are declaring your own insanity.
Just go and look at the news. There’s bipartisan conflict. People are racist, bigoted, there’s so much hatred. We have to use technology right now to create a more peaceful, just, sustainable and healthier world and if we reach critical mass it’ll happen.
USA TODAY: In some cases, we’ve seen technology used for just the opposite?
CHOPRA: We’ve seen that: from hacking to interfering with elections – it’s happening all over the world. It’s bringing out the ugliness in our collective consciousness. We have to face our own diabolical tendencies. It’s there for all to see.
USA TODAY: Do you worry about…
CHOPRA: I don’t worry about anything.
USA TODAY: What is your view on artificial intelligence?
CHOPRA: I’m a big fan. I think artificial intelligence and immersive technologies and VR and augmented reality in the very near future – and I’m working on these areas – will be used to treat phobias, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, anorexia, inflammation in the body. All you have to do is check your smartphone or even passively the smartphone devices can be embedded in the wall of your home, so you can have a smart home that can monitor your sleep, your stress levels, your blood pressure, your emotions. Facial recognition, voice recognition with proper algorithms can give you all the feedback for your own biological sustainability.
USA TODAY: What should we all be doing?
CHOPRA: At the very least people should be a little more conscious in making their choices. Before you make a choice, whatever it is, whether using technology or going on the internet to be a troll, you should stop, take a few deep breaths, observe what’s around you, observe what’s happening in your mind and then proceed with awareness. We need to watch our reaction to react before we react.
I love technology. There’s no experience in the mind, in the brain, in the body that we cannot now have a digital imprint of and use that information to improve our well-being.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow USA TODAY Personal Tech Columnist @edbaig on Twitter