Mindful Cyborgs Interviews Douglas Rushkoff on Presentism

We’ve used the phrase “Present Shock” to describe what Mindful Cyborgs is about since the beginning. So obviously it was great to talk with Douglas Rushkoff, who coined the term in his book of the same title last year.

During the interview, we talked about presentism, e-cigarettes and the “male period” dictated by the lunar calendar.

Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Present Shock, Corporitism, and Life in the Digital Media Enviroment

Mindful Cyborgs: This Time Let’s Just Sit Quietly and Breathe

This week Chris Dancy, Alex Williams and I talk about the mindfulness racket, cyborg bank robbers, wearable computing going mainstream and more.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: This Time Let’s Just Sit Quietly and Breathe

Mindful Cyborgs: Perverse Intimacy with Our Machines

This week on Mindful Cyborgs, Alex Williams, Chris Dancy and I talked about Hollywood’s obsession with “freakish AI killing off humanity or making love to it”:

We’re just becoming more and more intimate with our machines all the time and I think that’s where that fear of AI’s and that – that’s where those plots are coming from.

On the other hand, a lot of this stuff has been – a lot of these ideas have been around for a long time. I’ve just been reading some of Isaac Asimov’s old stories. I just read his first robot story, Robbie, and it’s all about a parent being afraid that her daughter is spending too much time with a robot companion, which you could totally transfer that to modern days; worried that my kid is spending too much time with her cell phone.

CD: Or on her Xbox, yeah. Insert Gadget X.

KF: Yeah. He also wrote a story – so Robbie was his first robot story. I think it was 1939. He also wrote a story in, I think, 1956 called The Last Question that was essentially a story about the singularity; about the hive mind, artificial intelligence thing that just lives in the – an alternative dimension of the galaxy after humans have become extinct, after humans have become immortal and then left their bodies and essentially just become some sort of thing. This is long before the word ‘singularity’ was on anyone’s lips. These fears and ideas and dreams have been with us for a long time.

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Automation for the Entitled and the Impending Data Revolution

Mindful Cyborgs: Defrag Wrap-Up

Here’s the wrap-up from Defrag, with our new co-host Alex Williams. Lorenda Brandon is our guest. Here’s an excerpt where we talk about whether people can or want to customize their own technology processes:

KF: There’s like a whole school of tech that thinks the opposite is the best way to go. There are opinionated infrastructure is better . . .

CD: I love the name.

KF: Because people don’t want to come up with their own process. They don’t want to decide how to do something. They just want to be able to go to something and do a thing and not have to . . .

LB: I think there’s room for both. To be honest, we in this industry can get a little insular. We sort of have a level of acceptance about technology and about infrastructure that 90% of the population doesn’t have. They don’t have the understanding of how do I design my own process.

CD: I want to interject. I have a neighbor who’s diabetic. She’s 65, African American. Very, very heavy I mean, probably 400, 500 pounds and she needed help a month or so ago and I went over and her internet, her router or something had got jacked up and I just reset it and I was talking to her for a minute and she was telling she didn’t get to Spotify for like 2 hours and her Netflix thing was down and she was describing all these things that she needed the router for and it dawned on me that my 500 pound diabetic neighbor who’s 65 manages more cloud services effectively than most of the organizations I meet.

AW: She’s networked.

CD: Someone said to chief integration officer – We don’t have WAN. They’re everywhere and I think that’s a skill, right? I just said to you earlier, Klint, you’re in IT system, right?

KF: IT department, yeah.

CD: You’re an IT department of Klint. So, the whole IT department there and how do you deal with that but we should put my neighbor in charge of Healthcare.gov.

LB: We should.

AW: She would probably improve it.

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Episode 17 – Spirit Animals and Defrag Wrap-up Part 1 and Part 2

Mindful Cyborgs: Cyborg Anthropology 101 with Amber Case

Mindful Cyborg

This week Alex Williams filled in for my usual co-host Chris Dancy. We talked with cyborg anthropologist Amber Case. Here’s a taste:

I sat down with a kid who wasn’t really doing well in school. He wasn’t talking to his dad and I asked his dad I was like “Well, how do you hang out with your kid?” and he says “Well, I don’t really know.” So, I saw the kid on a laptop and I said, “Hey, what are you doing?” and he said, “Well, I’m playing a game” and I said “What game?” and he said, “Club Penguin”. So, I logged on to Club Penguin on my laptop, got myself an account and I said “What’s your username?” and I literally just went in and joined the game with him. And of course I couldn’t show that I never played the game before so I had to catch on really quick. So, initially, what the kid did was, he didn’t really necessarily want to show me around. He just wanted to show me that he was really fast in it and kind of leave me in the dust, so I had to catch up.

And so I caught up and I got control of my virtual self so to speak and then I was comfortable and then at that point I had proven myself and then he started showing me around. He said hey, let’s go over here and let’s do this and then we started doing all these activities together like sliding down a mountain or mining for gold, for instance. We could get upgrades which was difficult for me to watch and also participating.

All these different things we ended up doing and then after a while he started telling me about school that day and how frustrated he was with students and just started spilling everything, just everything came out. It was the equivalent of me in the past being his dad and throwing a softball, a baseball to him. Doing something where you’re walking with somebody. You’re doing something tangential and suddenly all the information comes out.

I later sat down and told his dad. I was like, he’s having trouble in school. Here’s why. If you want to hang out with him . . . you’re in computer software you should be able to figure out how to play Club Penguin.

Full Episode, Notes and Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs Episode 13: Always/Already, and Becoming More Still – Cyborg Anthro 101

See also:

My interview with Amber from 2010

Our dossier on Amber

KZSU Interview with Klintron, Recording and Transcript

If you missed me on 90.1 KZSU Stanford ThermoNuclear Bar last week you can now check it out on SoundCloud, or read the transcript below. We talked about the occult, conspiracy theory, EsoZone, Portland, Psychetect, Mindful Cyborgs, the Indie Web.

Here’s a sample:

S1: Where do you see then your variety of your projects going? I mean we have talked about this earlier. I had said that Technoccult was one sphere, and Psychetect was another, Mindful Cyborgs was another. If you saw any relation between the three other than just you happen to be in the middle or do you see any sort of end-goal coming up for you?

KF: In terms of an end-goal, I think the purpose of all of these has always been to find some way to engage with other people in a way that’s meaningful for both of us. I guess, it’s kind of an abstract way of talking about it, but something like Psychetect is just a different way of expressing myself and hopefully of communicating with people. Things like Technoccult and Mindful Cyborgs are more directly communicative projects. I think the only thing that they all have in common is a general interest in thoughts and thinking and consciousness. I guess, the overriding idea of Psychetect is to kind of create audio representations of thoughts or of sort of mental spaces that I don’t feel like I can describe with words. There’s I guess an overlap with something like Mindful Cyborgs where a big part of what we’re talking about is what it feels like to think in a world where you’re always connected to the rest of the world via the Internet and everything you do is being measured by somebody.

Full transcript

(Previously: G-Spot interview with me about Psychetect)

I should also mention that PDX Occulture is still sort of around, and that though EsoZone is gone, Weird Shift Con has emerged to fill that void (though I don’t have anything to do with organizing it).

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Mindful Cyborgs and Contemplative Computing, Part 2


The second part of the Mindful Cyborgs interview with Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul is up.

Here’s a taste:

CD: One more question on this concept: you speak of a digital Sabbath which I don’t know if you listen to the show of Nathan Jurgenson. Today, August 9th Nathan Jurgenson’s basically on Twitter having a minor meltdown listening to people struggle with what he calls digital dualism, so this pathologizing of an online versus offline reality. I don’t know because I’ve never asked Nathan how he feels about a digital Sabbath but I would think he would say is probably the most dualistic thing you could do.

To that point I personally tweeted out recently celebrating your ability to unplug is the fastest way to declare a pathological relationship between yourself and your data. Are you pro-digital Sabbath because your mind just needs a break or I mean, do you literally think that we need it because this is so unhealthy we need to detach from it and make it something separate?

ASP: First of, I think Nathan’s meltdown is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t go to academic conferences because there’s this sociological association like now. It’s a toxic environment so stay away.

There has in the last few months been this kind of fetishization of digital detoxes. That’s an idea that the cool kids are putting their things down and they are going off to the woods and playing Shuffleboard.

CD: It helps when you’re making $300,000 or $400,000 a year that you can put your phone away a lot easier by the way.

ASP: Exactly. Yes. And the fact that there are a couple of Caribbean islands and some resorts in Tahiti and Thailand who are starting to advertise themselves as digital detox centers only adds to this, but this is to say that any beneficial activity can be turned into a status symbol. We’ve seen this with yoga, with organic food or sending your kid to a progressive school anything like this can be turned into a status symbol and I think that shouldn’t detract from recognizing a couple of things and one of them is that it’s totally reasonable to want to take a break from things that you love.

I love my kids but they’re at camp right now and when I get up in the morning I was thank God, they’re at camp. I’ll have them be on 50 weeks of the year. It’s cool to have a little break.

You can find the episode on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher, or download it directly.

Oh, and see also my article on Pang’s book.

Transcript and show notes

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Mindful Cyborgs Interviews Alex Soojung-Kim Pang on Contemplative Computing and the Distraction Addiction

The Distraction Addiction

This week Chris Dancy and I interview Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul. We talked about contemplative computing, the history of meditation and more. Here’s a taste:

KF: One other thing I wanted to ask you about, Alex, it was one of the more surprising things in the book to me was that you pointed out that contemplative practices seem to have started somewhere between 800 and 200 BC as a response to colonialism, global trade and urbanization. That actually does kind of bring us back to that idea of the technologies that causes this sort of problem aren’t hammers and bows and arrows but they’re network technologies like social media comes back to that comparison of urbanization and economics and so forth. I would have thought those practices would still have developed much, much earlier in history so I was wondering if you’d talk a little bit about the research you did in that area of the history of contemplation.

ASP: There’s not a huge literature on this yet, I mean people definitely are working on it but I think that what’s distinctive about that period which historians of religion refer to as the Axial Age is that it’s the first time that contemplative practices stopped being a secret. They stopped doing things that are for initiates that are part of … It’s the first time that we begin to see people like Buddha arguing that these are and should be accessible to everyone. That they’re open, they’re public sort of in a sense that they go from or they continue to the network metaphor they go from being proprietary to being open source. Anyone can do them. Anyone can improve upon and add to them.

You can find the episode on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher, or download it directly.

Transcript and show notes

Oh, and see also my article on Pang’s book.

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Mindful Cyborgs Meets Buddhist Geeks: The Vincent Horn Interview

This week on Mindful Cyborgs Chris Dancy and interview Vincent Horn co-founder the Buddhist Geeks community and co-host of the podcast of the same name. Here’s an excerpt:

KF:       Cool. So let me ask you again on the topic of what Buddhist Geeks is. What’s the difference between a Buddhist Geek and a normal Buddhist or a Buddhist Geek and a normal geek?

VH:      Yes, it’s a good question. Well, let’s see. I’d say one difference is that most people that consider themselves Buddhist Geeks are not so sure that they are actually in fact Buddhist. That’s one interesting characteristic of a Buddhist Geek that I’ve noticed.

CD:      Like me.

VH:      Yes. Which is why we’ll see if you’re still in the closet by the end of this conversation. Yes, that’s one characteristic that’s very interesting. The folks that consider themselves Buddhist Geeks often are very skeptical, I don’t know if that’s the right word, or they actively question the validity of any particular model, especially one that originated 2500 years ago in terms of its absolute ability to explain things. I’d say that’s one characteristic of a Buddhist Geek that’s sometimes different than your average Buddhist practitioner. Some Buddhists are like that and others aren’t. Other people treat it much more like a religion in which they’re looking for all the ultimate answers to life and think that religion or the people who started it do have all those answers. Buddhist Geeks tend to question that assumption, and I think that’s a fairly healthy thing to do.

In terms of on the geek side I’d say one of the big differences between a geek and a Buddhist Geek I think … I’m sure you guys in Mindful Cyborgs know this. Most geeks tend to lean in the direction of becoming completely absorbed in their technologies without asking questions about why they’re using them or how they actually support or serve the deeper purposes or aims in life. Certainly there may be a lack of awareness in most of the geek culture about how these technologies actually impact our consciousness or direct first person subjective experience as we move about our day. I think the Buddhist Geek, not by any means rejecting technology, in fact we’re geeks so there’s a lot to be praised and loved about technology, I think Buddhist Geeks tend to ask questions about how that use of technology affects them in terms of their first person experience in terms of their ability to show up in life and participate in a meaningful way.

I think that’s one of the things that Buddhism really has to offer the geek culture is more of the sense of awareness of how our merging with these technologies is changing who we are and how we are and not to do that in some sort of deterministic way where we think oh, we have to, we’re going up in light in a singularity therefore we have to just surrender to what’s evolving. I think, no we actually have to look at these technologies and make determinations about what we’re going to use and what we’re not going to use. Are we fetishizing the technology or are we using it for deeper aims? I think those are questions that we’ve been asking with the Buddhist Geeks project. I think people who identify as Buddhist Geeks, although that’s a weird identity, would probably say they care about those kinds of questions.

You can find it on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher, or download it directly.

Also: listen or read on for the chance to win a fabulous prize!

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Mindful Cyborgs: Robotic Emoting Baristas from Enterprise Precariat

Mindful Cyborg

This week on Mindful Cyborgs Chris Dancy and I discuss the rise of the “precariat” and what it means for the future of work:

One thing that’s really been on my mind with regards the Marketplace story about the BART transit strike and the tech industries’ response to that. There was a quote from the CEO of UserVoice, Richard White, and he said, “One of the guys in our team said he’d be putting in his two weeks’ notice once he found out what he could make working for BART.” White said jokingly. His solution to address those disgruntled BART workers, get them back to work, pay them whatever they want and then figure out how to automate their jobs so that this doesn’t happen again.

People have been talking about the automation of work and how technology is potentially displacing workers and there’s a good book on this called Race Against the Machine by some MIT academics. But you don’t really see a lot of tech CEOs who are openly calling for blue-collar workers, or any workers, to be replaced by technology. Forrester even did a report a couple years ago suggesting that tech company’s downplay the potential of technologies to replace workers. So, it’s really unusual to see the CEO of a tech company just openly saying, “I want these meddling workers to be replaced by machines. So the inconvenience that it causes me has diminished.”

It was a pretty surprising thing to see somebody really just come right out and say and there’s this subtext to it that really bothers me as well, the bit about, “Oh, you know, one of my workers was going to quit and go work for BART,” just suggesting that they already get paid too much even though as noted in the article they’re not actually making what their family needs to get by in the area. The BART workers aren’t. There is this sort of subtext like anybody who’s not part of the tech industry doesn’t deserve to get paid a living wage. That was really disturbing to me.

You can download the episode on Soundcloud, from iTunes or download the MP3 directly.

More notes, plus the full transcript inside.

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