To break my blogging fast, am posting the article I recently wrote for Yale Divinity School’s Reflections, a magazine of theological and ethical inquiry.

Am especially happy to share this issue with my divinity school colleagues and friends, Rahiel Tesfamariam, the visionary behind Urban Cusp and the Rev. Reggie Bachus.

Also, the futurist is me is smitten with being in the same issue as Soren Gordhamer of Wisdom 2.0 and Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together:  Why We Expect More from Technology and Less of Each Other.

The article is available for download here and my article begins on p.27.  Feedback welcome!

Imagine a sort of social X-ray, a tool that raises your awareness emotions others are feeling when you are with them?

Affectiva (which specializes in affective computing) is now experimenting with glasses that provide you with visual and auditory feedback on the emotional expressions of others, based on facial recognition, galvanic skin response, and more.

In her recent article, Specs that See Right Through You, Sally Adee describes her (mis)-perceptions of a recent interaction with one of the masterminds behind the glasses, MIT Media Lab’s Rosalind Picard:

I became privy to this knowledge because a little voice was whispering in my ear through a headphone attached to the glasses. It told me that Picard was “confused” or “disagreeing”. All the while, a red light built into the specs was blinking above my right eye to warn me to stop talking. It was as though I had developed an extra sense.

The glasses can send me this information thanks to a built-in camera linked to software that analyses Picard’s facial expressions. They’re just one example of a number of “social X-ray specs” that are set to transform how we interact with each other. By sensing emotions that we would otherwise miss, these technologies can thwart disastrous social gaffes and help us understand each other better. Some companies are already wiring up their employees with the technology, to help them improve how they communicate with customers. Our emotional intelligence is about to be boosted, but are we ready to broadcast feelings we might rather keep private?

For more on Rosalind Picard’s Emotion Technologies, see her recent TEDxSF talk:

Today Joshua Foer stopped by Institute for the Future for a lunch talk.

Anyone who would name their book Moonwalking with Einstein:  The Art and Science of Remembering Anything (referencing a mnemonic device) is intriguing, and he also is the 2006 US Memory Champion.  Did I mention I love my job?

The conversation centered around the question:  How is the relationship between ourselves and our memories changing?  

Look back to look forward

Ancient scholars internalized printed texts so that they could share them by memory.  Then the printing press changed the relationship between ourselves and our memories.

More recently, people held memories of moments connecting with loved ones in their mind’s eye only until camera technologies changed all of that.  Today, critics of digital cameras remark how people seem to have a new self-consciousness around the shareability of the moments of their lives, making it more difficult to be fully present to any experience.  The debate continues…

Ourselves & Our Memories:  Emerging Questions for the Next Decade

  • What is human and what is machine? (See Michael Chorost’s Rebuilt:  How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human)
  • How will the very structure & function of the human brain change in response to how we use our memories (a la neuroplasticity)?
  • To what end are we offloading our memories via technology?  In an evolutionary sense, what is it that we’re freeing our minds up to do if we don’t spend as much time remembering content?
  • With whom will we choose to share our offloaded memories?  What might I gain or lose from being able to access your memories?  What new relationship paradigms are likely to form around memory-sharing?  How does our understanding of the human person change?
  • In sharing more of our memories with each other, are we moving toward the global brain (a view of shared consciousness posited by Peter Russell in The Global Brain Awakens:  Our Next Evolutionary Leap)?

Signal:  Gottafeeling

What?:  Gottafeeling is a mobile app that asks you about how you’re feeling, who you’re with and where you’re at intervals during the day.  A la Quantified Self, it then provides a data readout to see what % of time you spend in each emotional mood, with some context provided.  The idea is to provide emotional feedback loops so that you can 1) become more aware of your emotions and 2) make different decisions based on this awareness.

So What?:  This and other emotional mirroring systems (think:  Rationalizer) build from some of the research on social contagion.  Innovations like these nudge people to spend more or less time in certain environments, or connecting with certain people based on the data it gathers.

Impact Areas:  Workplace environments, community organizations & religious groups, Quantified Self lead adopters

July 2-3 people from around the world gathered for the World Culture Festival in Berlin for what seems like a powerful celebration of global diversity.

I was especially intrigued by the video just posted to give a glimpse into the group meditation by 70,000 people, focusing on world peace:

In this January 2011 study led by Sara Lazar of Mass General Hospital, the striking findings were that meditation changes not only your stress response, but also the very underlying structure of your brain–especially areas related to sense of self, stress, and empathy.

I can’t help but wonder what small-scale evolutionary steps we humans are taking when 70,000 of us meditate together.  In the big picture of the human project, what are we about here?

Are we using meditation to program our brains for world peace?

If so, what location should play host to the next gathering of 70,000?

After a woeful absence from blogging, *so many people* sent me the news about how the Pope is tweeting that it begged to be written about.  Here it is folks, from @News_va_en:

Though the Pope did apparently send *a* tweet, it doesn’t appear that he will be tweeting in any personal manner anytime soon.

It’s important to note the very real difference between the Pope tweeting once via News_va_en (an effort by the Vatican to leverage new media for communication, sharing, and outreach) versus frequently tweeting for himself.

The Tradeoffs of Personal Tweeting by Public Figures

When other intensely public figures–take US politicians for example–tweet as individuals, the feeling is different (that is, unless those figures actually have interns or PR people tweet “as them.”)  The candor, spontaneity, and authenticity of the person can shine through and endear them to you.

On the other hand, they also expose themselves in new ways, becoming vulnerable and increasing public scrutiny, as we’ve also seen recently with the @RepWeiner incident and more recently as President Obama has started to tweet occasionally using @barackobama.  His staff do most of the tweeting, but tweets from him will be signed -BO.

I am interested to watch how public figures–including religious leaders–will weigh this balance. How will they strengthen candor to connect with their community in authentic ways versus expose themselves to vulnerability.

nid%3D3882%7Ctitle%3D%7Cdesc%3D%7Clink%3DnoneAuthor & neurologist Robert Burton visited IFTF today and treated us to a conversation building from the principles of his book, On Being Certain:  Believing You’re Right Even When You’re Not.

He’s currently working on a new book:  A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind; What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves.

Together with our staff, Bob talked about the conundrum of how the mind is the tool we use to study the mind, the knowledge of E=MC² versus the feeling of knowing that 2+2 = 4, the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind, and even dipped our toe into the neuroscience of forecasting.

Lots of fodder to consider, but one thing I found particularly interesting was the topic of the self, and how we locate the self in our own understanding.

It made me think about discussions of the global brain in a new light.  I would love to see a mashup of Pierre Teilhard de ChardinPeter Russell, and Bob Burton when it comes to our understandings of the self & the brain, looking ahead to the coming decades.


Do you know of other experts at this nexus with whom it might be interesting to connect?  If so, please be in touch (@Rachelkeas or  Thanks!

PS–Friend of IFTF Mark Schar was also part of the conversation today–he just finished his PhD in an area akin to innovation intelligence at Stanford, so we were all proud to say “Congratulations Dr. Schar!”


Also posted at IFTF’s blog FutureNow