As I write this, I am still buzzing from the incredible experience that was the Wisdom 2.0 Conference 2023 in San Francisco. As a mindfulness teacher and author, I was thrilled to be able to physically attend this annual gathering of thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and practitioners exploring the intersection of wisdom and technology for the first time since the pandemic.
As always, the conference featured an impressive line-up of speakers, including Chris Plowman, CEO of Insight Timer, who delivered an inspiring talk on the role of technology in promoting meditation and the challenges that his company has faced on the path to profitability with integrity – they are almost there! He also offered a timely and passionate critique of the big tech players, whose growing control of the algorithms that shape human behaviour are folding in more and more powerful AI capabilities, without sufficient due diligence to keep us protected from unintended harms.
Byron Katie, author of ‘Loving What Is’ and one of my all-time favourite teachers shared her transformative technique of inquiry and self-reflection. If you haven’t discovered her work before – find a few of her YouTube videos and see her in action. The process appears simple but has multiple layers and much to offer in the way of freedom from suffering. I was lucky enough to speak with her one-to-one – thanking her for her work – and then experience a Byron Katie hug! Imagine the Universe seeing itself in the mirror – time and form dissolving into pure love. It was an exquisite gift that has stayed with me.
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and creator of ChatGPT, spoke about the ethical implications of artificial intelligence whilst being interviewed by the renowned Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield (author of ‘After The Ecstasy, The Laundry’). Having recently watched the AI Dilemma presented by the Center For Humane Technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoVJKj8lcNQ I was ready to see something of a showdown. This wasn’t what happened, but the impact of the talk was reassuring overall.
Jack has been mentoring Sam for a few years helping him as he questioned the nature of consciousness in relation to the emergent AI capabilities. Sam decided to release ChatGPT publicly to create a public discourse around AI and educate people about its capabilities. (I agree that this was the right step rather than continuing to develop it in secret). And yet we must be very clear that this is a watershed moment for humanity and our next steps will define our future.
As the world grasps the nature of AI and starts to see how it changes everything, we must quickly evolve the laws, regulatory frameworks, and higher ethics that give us the best chance of co-creating the future. We must remember that the core value of our civilisation is love and human connection and the one thing that AI cannot replace. Corporations must temper their greed thrust and come together with the wider world to transition mindfully. I believe this is possible – but the difficult conversations must happen now.
Beyond the AI conversation and keynote teachers, I was particularly delighted by the presence of indigenous speakers such as Dr. Lyla June Johnston and Dr. Yuria Celidwen who brought the deep wisdom of land and spirit to the conversation. They reminded us of the interconnectedness of all beings and the need to honour and protect our planet and its biodiversity. They spoke of Indigenous Science in a way that was absolutely fascinating and made me rethink the whole premise of science and civilisation as I know it. My conclusion – humanity has so much to learn about stewardship from those that have lived for so long in harmony with the environment. Their voices must be amplified at this time as our environment continues to be degraded by our collectively unconscious behaviours.
Beyond all of the wisdom sharing, perhaps most of all, what keeps drawing me back across the Atlantic to dip into this community of conscious leaders is the sense of the collective intention that drives all those that come to grow in self-awareness and to share their learnings with their network, their clients, their families. It is rare for me to find a community that feels so coherent in its goals and ambitious in its efforts. It is a joy to be amongst them.
Overall, I left the Wisdom 2.0 Conference 2023 feeling energised and grateful for the opportunity to connect with so many of my fellow conscious professionals – new friends and old. The conference reinforced my belief in the power of wisdom and technology to create a more balanced, mindful, and compassionate world. I look forward to attending next year’s event and continuing to contribute to this important conversation. I hear it will be back in the Bay Area next year.
Perhaps see you there?
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Mindfulness Expert and Conscious Life Coach, Neil Seligman is dedicated to delivering inspiring learning experiences and catalysing conscious creativity in all aspects of life and business.