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Lions Roar : July 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2011 41 F OR SOME PEOPLE, interactive gaming truly mat- ters. FarmVille, for example, matters to a lot of people. With some sixty million users, the farm and economy simulation game—which promotes interactions with other “farmers” through social networking—is Facebook’s most popular application, and is also widely used on the iPhone. But Eric Schiermeyer, one of the founders of Zynga, which devel- oped FarmVille and other popular games, told the audience at Wisdom 2.0 in February, “I realized this morning that for all this time I’ve been involved in this world, I don’t really love technology. I love people.” The comment drew loud laughter, but Chris Sacca, one of the earliest investors in Twitter, immediately countered that the new- er forms of technology “have brought the human back in”—for example, disillusioned Egyptians tweeted their grievances to the world in unison, unmediated. The exchange epitomized the dual nature of the Wisdom 2.0 phenomenon. The lords and leaders of high tech aren’t about to dismiss new technology as the begin- ning of the end of humankind—not only because they don’t want to work against their own economic interests, but because they believe in the innovative, interactive world fostered by new tech- nologies. They believe that it connects people and that people are getting the technologies they are asking for. Yet they also know that technology can be distracting, not only from where we are in any given moment but from where we ought to be going. When I tracked down Schiermeyer later, he made clear that in saying he didn’t love technology he was pointing out that any technology is only as good as what people do with it and what kind of world they make with it. “Technologies are tools, and you can use them to do great things or not,” Schiermeyer said. “We expect a plumber to provide us with good pipes, but we don’t hold him responsible for what goes through the pipeline.” He thinks the most successful and innovative tech companies are those that use “their own version of mindfulness” to listen care- fully to what people want and supply it to them. “What Steve Jobs and Apple have done,” he said, “is hone and refine a product devel- opment process that is so insightful and so carefully constructed that they’ve discovered what it is that human beings really want when it comes to devices.” Schiermeyer agrees with Kevin Rose’s appraisal of the impor- tance of mindfulness, but takes it a step further. “I would like to see a shift in our culture, so that I would find being part of it more enjoyable on a daily basis. I see the cultivation of wis- dom practices as something that could very much help bring out the kinds of shifts I think we need. If you look around, there’s so much going on in everyday American life that’s pathologi- cal, unnecessarily stressful, or just plain illogical.” In the end, he believes mindfulness includes being innovative at every possible level, not just with our high-tech tools, but in how we construct the world we live in. C HANGING THE WORLD is a tall order, so most people start with their immediate surroundings. In the tech world—where work and play and life are so tightly intermingled—the obvious place to start is the workplace. The best-known program in high tech for promoting wisdom practices is Google’s Search Inside Yourself (See “Google Searches,” Shambhala Sun, September 2009), which was spear- headed by Chade-Meng Tan. Meng, as he is known, is already a veteran spokesperson for the Wisdom 2.0 movement. His core belief is that if you can reach people at their workplace, you can change how they are, and ultimately change the world. It’s becom- ing a kind of article of faith for the Wisdom 2.0 crowd. For Kevin Rose, it includes things as simple as providing people at work with high quality loose tea, so they have to “at least interrupt their mo- mentum long enough to properly make a good cup of tea,” which they may then take the time to enjoy rather than simply gulp down. Human resources departments at major technology compa- nies are committed to providing access to practices that not only help their employees deal with stress, but to be more curious and strategic about how they go about their jobs. “We are very inter- ested in the long-term well-being of the people we’ve invested in, particularly the managers,” says Stuart Crabb, head of learning at Facebook. “We want them to be role models for being present. It’s easy to get caught in the speed of life and forget what we’re here for, our true path. How do we create a culture that fosters genuine connection rather than distraction and disconnection? SOREN GORDHAMER, WISDOM 2.0 FOUNDER PHOTOBYVERONICAWILSON