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The Far Realms of Computers and Self Improvement

By Bruce Ehrlich

Imagine a future in which your personal computer becomes a doorway into a world of enhanced intelligence and creativity, emotional stability and previously unrealized personal success. In this world, the computer has become more than just a word processor or a web browser; it has become both an instantaneous communication tool for contacting seminar leaders or personal therapists and an interactive councilor that uses artificial intelligence to provide personal coaching and wise guidance. Or even further in the future, computer aided methods of transformation of human consciousness. Could that colorful screen upon which you may be reading this become that door? This is a question that has intrigued those who have studies the potential of the PC, and the answer may be that this reality is closer than we realize.

In 1990, Simon and Shuster published Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman? by Judith Hooper and Dick Terisi, both editors at Omni magazine at the time and co-authors of the best selling book, The Three-Pound Universe.

In the chapter, "Using Your Computer to Expand Your Mind", they say: The computer is more than a number crunching word processing, artificial brain. In the right hands it's also a mind-expanding, creativity-boosting, even mind-altering tool. We have already accepted the microcomputer as a machine that can assume some of our tedious menial chores. But it has a potential as a mind-enhancing device as well. And the key is the software. Here is an excerpt:

"We have divided the field into five categories: smartware (which makes you smarter, more organized, a better writer, a better negotiator), psychological software (such as Eliza), stressware (aimed at reducing anxiety), games/head trips (trips into alternative realities) and spiritual software (intended to make you deeper). Thus far we have looked at some of the kinds of software programs the authors predicted. But as the technology of the compute leaps forward and our understanding of the mind become increasingly better, some of these other more far-out mind/computer software programs will become possible."

In this chapter, they spotlight the founder of Mindware and Mind Media in Bruce Ehrlich and Digital Psychology." How does he see the future of computers, psychology and self-improvement?

Ehrlich predicts that such software [mind software] will eventually transform computer-human interactions. "The computer," he says," will become a friend." He foresees a dramatic growth in future years in what he calls "electronic Buddhas." This is a program designed to enhance the users spirituality. Another growth area is "psychoactive software How can a computer become a wise Buddha or guide? Or become psychoactive. Here are some of more wild-eyed guesses

One of the most important theoretical areas in computer science concerns artificial intelligence. One area of AI is expert systems. For example, a computer is trained to emulate a medical doctor in diagnosing a disease. These programs already exist, and have shown to be superior to human doctors in many cases in pinpointing illnesses.

Imagine then the computer developing an expert system model of a Zen master or psychotherapist. Expert systems that go far beyond Eliza's simple trickery to programs that teach real wisdom.

Now combine this with biofeedback, the technology we have talked about below. The most recent biofeedback breakthroughs have involved the recording and training of actual altered states of consciousness experiences. There actually has been recording flesh-and-blood Zen Masters as they enter Samadhi, the highest state of being in the Zen school.

Already, computers are giving us multimedia biofeedback rather than the primitive tones of three decades ago. Certainly at the current rate of technological progress, virtual reality will becomes available as an interface on the home PC. Already there is a graphical VRML (virtual reality markup language). Soon, goggles and gloves will supplement screen and mouse.

Consider the power of a virtual reality computerized biofeedback system. A system augmented by an artificially intelligent computer coach. Or perhaps a real human guiding a group of people over the Web. Still another possibility, a group of humans supporting each other in their exploration consciousness linked up through a computer network. Shades of virtual group therapy!

Looking to the future of software for enlarging the capacity of the human mind and consciousness, turning computers into true self improvement machines, capable of helping us achieve self-actualization. We may see:

* The power of computers doubling every two years,

* The creation of a global community"-linking everyone's ?homes by PC through interactive video and the World Wide Web

* New technologies such as biofeedback and virtually-reality are ready for prime time.

* The rapid and dramatic breakthroughs in our understanding of the brain, consciousness and behavior.

Computers and software as an expander of human intellect, creativity and consciousness has a glorious future that we only begin to imagine.

About The Author
Biography of Bruce Eisner

Continuing Editor, Omni Magazine,1977-1982.B.A.,Psychology,1979,UCSC,M.A.Psychology,1981,UCSB. Lead writer on The Mindware Catalog, 1988-1995, Current President, Island Foundation Home, Las Vegas, He publishes a blog, the Mindware Forum at http://www.bruceeisner.com/mindware/ and edits the Mind Media Guide to the Web at http://www.mindmedia.com/links.

bruce@mindmedia.com


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