Friday, March 2, 2012

Transcendental Technology

Michael Harboun has made a leap into the future in developing the 'Transcendenz' concept for his thesis project at the Parisian design school Strate College. He envisions special glasses that read your brainwaves and can alter what you see through augmented reality technology. These glasses are transformative on a deep personal level because it can take people deeper into their consciousness, away from the distractions of the everyday world. It can make them explore their own mind, learn from other great minds in human history, as well as share their explorations with other mind-travellers. Then it uses augmented reality to show the applicability of the learned ideas and concepts in real life. As people learn to adopt these new ideas and incorporate them into their own being, they progress through various levels, like in a video game. This way, technology can be an incredibly powerful tool for psycho-spiritual development.

In the visionary designer's own words:

"In a world in which we are constantly bombarded with injunctions to react or to distract ourselves it gets scarcely possible in our everyday life to dwell upon the essential, the existential, the metaphysical. Transcendenz offers to connect our everyday life to an invisible reality, the one of ideas, concepts and philosophical questionings which the world is full of but that our eyes can't see." - Michael Harboun

To see how it works, watch the video:

We can see how advanced this technological proposal is if we link it to humanity's history. People started off on this planet in a great struggle with their environment, with the first technologies serving mainly to gather food and protect the social environment. The ancient Greeks were among the first to employ rational thinking instead of using a belief in something immaterial to get through life. This liberated them more from the personal emotional system, and brought them mentally more in tune with the physical world. In the 17th century, this was more thoroughly established through the invention of the scientific method by Descartes. This made people enter a new world-view, where they started to see that there was not necessarily a God-entity out there. The challenge for people now became to explore and control the world themselves, which was a great empowerment. This control culminated during the 20th century, where technological progress boomed and survival on a material level was not really an issue any longer in modernized societies.

So then technology could develop further to fulfill needs on a higher level. Electronics replaced expensive mechanisms, and where before certain objects would have to crafted by a master and would thus only be available to a select few people, now products became mass-produced and available to anyone with just a little bit of money. On a massive scale people obtained technologies for personal entertainment, learning, professional development, and social networking. This liberated people further, this time from the local social environment, and had them develop into strong individuals. In Maslow's terms, technology was now widely used to fulfill esteem and self-actualization needs.

But we were still mostly tied to the physical world as our conscious plane of existence. Science treated the world as an object that can be understood and controlled like a mechanism, and as a result people worked very hard to sustain all the material flows in order to keep everybody fed and protected. This also created a lot of leisure time, and as Michael Harboun also notes, people just don't have much of an idea how to fill that up meaningfully, and as a result dive into one distraction after the other. Once the objective plane was taken care of, people came consciously more in touch with their own subjectivity, but there was no technological guide yet for this plane of existence.

Often people just remain in a fun state of flow, filling their time with one activity after the other, leaving the subjective plane mostly unexplored. Science has not yet included this plane into its description of the world, although it's getting there slowly, arguably also through quantum physics. Science has ignored the mind as being part of the world, ever since Descartes posed the mind-body duality as the solution. But now it is time to include mind into our techno-scientific body, because the thing about the mind is; you can't locate it anywhere, yet it unmistakably exists. It might even be directly related to the world you perceive 'outside', and these are the kinds of realizations that the Transcendenz system would stimulate.

By making us aware of things like they are and not like they seem, the concept invites us to transcend our world. Transcendenz also enables us to access the knowledge of history's great philosophers, who, since antiquity, try to answer the question: Why is there something, if there could be nothing?" - Michael Harboun

Project link

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