Multi-Disciplinary Artist & Futures Designer

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Essay

Designing Future Spaces of Belonging




Originally published on AR / VR Journey magazine

January 2019, Ibiza, Spain

A collective exploration of how to design for belonging on the interwebs.


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Where do we feel most at home? In the library, or on the Web? It seems plain as day: the Web has become our second home. The library, dark and smelling of mildew, may still be rich in experience but is dying.

Grooved into the nervous system of anyone who came of age in the 80’s and 90’s, the Web has caught up with the ‘real’ world and is now our second ‘real’ home. I remember the era of MSN, when I used to spend hours a day after Summer to send bubbly messages to my holiday boyfriend(s). It was a place to go to, not be in. You had to sit yourself down, endure the creaking sounds of logging in, and be patient, very patient.

Now, The Machine’s speed blows our mind. The physical world is merging with the virtual, and we are required to live in many places at the same time. And these developments go fast. Imagine being able to travel back in time to an era where the Internet euphoria had just begun and the dotcom boom was in full swing. It’s been only eighteen years. Eighteen years. No wonder my parents can’t keep up with the pace.


Add to that my generation’s love for being always on the go, being a digital nomad, a global speaker, or an eternal backpacker. My generation is a generation of wanderers seeking freedom in moving through space. They want to feel at home, wherever they are. But can they? Does our social contract allow for that?

And if this is just the start: how can we collectively strengthen our sense of belonging, if we can expect to be thrown into virtual realms at greater speed and with greater temptations in the future?

Those were the questions we asked during a Sunday workshop in October in my foresight studio ForesenseLab in Amsterdam. A gathering of designers, artists, architects and ecosystem thinkers, a collective exploration of how to design future spaces of belonging.
Knowing that this vast universe of virtual experiences is only growing and that it sucks more and more of our attention into the digital atmospheres: how can we design for direction and belonging in the interfaces we create, instead of designing for addiction? How do we prevent that the next wave of tech creates another stratosphere between us and our vocation, our productivity, our place of belonging in this world?

We wanted to look for and learn how to leave behind a mere sense of ‘space’ and nurture a sense of ‘belonging’ into the interfaces we design.
This workshop moved a group of brave participants through a number of awareness cultivating experiences, from a grounding meditation to spatial sound experiences, conscious movement, visualisations and open conversations on where we don’t feel safe (yet) amongst our communities, as data points on the Internet, on the streets, and in the wilderness that is this moment on this planet.

After these experiences we each dived into self-inquiry to create collages and mind maps of what we encountered in the realms of our inner belonging. To then, as a final ritual, share these reflections with the group.

I built this experience around a very analogue journey I made through Mongolia in 2017, where I saw tribal bonds, shamanism, food rituals, and the forces of nature being the glue of human thriving. What can we learn from these near forgotten indigenous cultures to weave a sense of belonging into our increasingly tech-immersive urban lives?

Questions raised:

- what is ‘sense of space’, and what is ‘sense of belonging?’

- who are we when we feel most at home?

- how do our spaces inform our senses, and vice versa?

- what can we as experience designers do to design for belonging and direction for future spaces on the Web?


Mark
Essay

Techno (In)Sanity




A while ago a close friend wrote an article about what it's like to work for an algorithm, in this case food-delivery magnet Foodora. Her findings approach what we may feel in our gut: as you're cycling through the city with your steaming pizzas in your backpack, following the minute instructions by a sexy female voice, you're close to feeling this "AI-thing" must be the end of civilization as we know it.

The world is getting techno-insane. They are watching us. As China gives head-first approval to Alibaba to collect payment data from customers, even without their consent; as Google is observing shopping streets to color their maps with crowds of people, even if shop-owners don't want to; as shady Cambridge Analytica has possibly secured Americans to elect its current president; it is no wonder Elon has a following in his race to space.

The important question rises, what is the influence of an ignorant coder pulling the triggers of the guns of mass-manipulation? Is this coder determining our realities? Or can we, by feeding algorithms our ethical, authentic data, actually improve them to align us with happiness and freedom, or the more beautiful world our heart knows is possible, as Charles Eisenstein envisions?

Algorithms themselves may not be the problem, more so, what meaning we project into them. What values do we live by? Do we believe algorithms rule us, or do we care to show up and be their teachers?

It may come down to the degree to which we can manipulate our own intelligence, increase our own consciousness, our capacity to self-reflect, to realise who we are.

October 2018, London, UK


What is an Algorithm?


An algorithm is a mathematical formula that collects and organises information to learn and progress and thereby affect its surroundings. What it does "at-its-most-meta" is making connections. Connections that our brains can't grasp as the amounts of data they analyse at the speed of light would take us light years to process. Already now, we cannot possibly understand mathematically how Google's algorithm updates itself every 30 seconds of the day. (Want to read a good book to grasp the basics of AI? Read this one.)

But as impressive as this sounds, an algorithm is not aware, as we are. And this is where our saviour is: we are aware, emotionally intelligent beings. Algorithms that are driving the learning behaviour of machines and AI's can simulate a presence, an awareness, but they are not more than a reflection of what we project into it. They are like a zombie trying to be empathetic.

What this implies? There might be an opportunity to transcend the doom-scenarios of mass-destruction. We may still be saved. But our saviour is not in trying to put all the genies back in the bottle to reclaim control. Saviour may be in giving up on all control and giving in to balance, into realigning with our true nature and then realigning ourselves with our natural and artificial environments.





Time to Realign with Nature


We feel that algorithms are not natural beings; I mean, they're virtual, they don't have bodies. However, that would be an analysis of the mind, a product of the myth of separation. In fact, algorithms are an extension of nature, an extension of ourselves.

It has long been known in the trendwatching world that whenever one part of the world is moving in the direction of individual material success (taking), another will lean towards the collective spiritual and etheric (giving). I've always loved this model for systemic sustainability by Klaas van Egmond, a Dutch sustainability professor, which beautifully images this balance-seeking quality of the natural world we're living in.

As we're transitioning from a "heady", materialistic phase, into a heart-opening phase, we get another chance to feel anew the waters of nature on our skin, to operate as a balanced whole in tune with the laws of nature.

"We live in a time, a place and a culture in which the cognitive functioning aspects of the brain and mind have been elevated as the pinnacle or place to operate from, at the loss and exclusion of understanding the great wisdom and contribution that the heart brings.

And so we’ve been imbalanced for a very long time, going back to Descartes, and before him the Greeks.

What might have been if we had been inclusive and holistically oriented? What might have gone into understanding and discovering who we are as human beings if instead of separating the heart and mind we had integrated the two?

        - DaRa Williams

As DaRa so beautifully states, it is our own felt experience that will help us to transcend our mind and thus the idea that external algorithms can rule us. We have to dive into our bodies, groove with its rhythms, learn to translate its messages, and transmute the past into the present. If we find a way to deepen our bodily awareness, we will stumble upon opportunities to reestablish balance and find freedom as a whole.

The only thing we have to do for that? Deciding on our most natural algorithm in this very moment, which is to trust our felt experience and feel our desire to live happily, full of love and curiosity. We have to trust, to believe there's something brighter behind the door that is our deepest fear.



Sensing Trust Within


The beautiful thing about self-trust, is that there's not going to be one external influence that is bringing you down. You are giving ultimate grace to yourself, and so you are giving this to others.

You know that there's nothing that is not You. You know that your thoughts are creative (if you believe in them) and so you realise the hierarchy of creation that flows from the virtual into the physical, in slower motion as you are descending into time your new wisdom into the very edges of your nervous system.

These cycles of transformation are now, on a virtual level, mirrored by algorithmic technologies. The critical question on the inclusive, physical and virtual, level then becomes:
Who do you believe you are?

Are you experiencing yourself from the outside-in, believing you are your timeline or your Alibaba credit-score, thereby ever-more dependent on an increasingly complex external reality? Or, are you experiencing yourself from the inside-out, only using your timelines and credit scores to reflect your current state of being, not believing nor letting them lead your behaviour into the future?


Leaning Into the Unknown


The quality of an algorithm is that of knowing, but as we lean into the opposite of knowing, unknowing, we realize that the algorithm that is bringing us closest to nature, to happiness, to enlightenment of night and day, is that of the unlimited curiosity of a child, that of looking at the future as if it's one big mystery.

As the universe is not judgmental, we cannot judge an algorithm to be good or bad, it just is, as this is the one quality of the algorithm of the universe itself, of God's Grace, it is ultimately forgiving, if only to have the courage to diving into the unknown and take it with us.

And as astrologist Carl Sagan says, this is a beautiful position to be in: to trust that the cosmos will always reveal a greater truth to you, only if you stop imposing your beliefs, and instead trust and allow its subliminal messages.

"We have to be very careful not to impose our hopes and desires on the cosmos, but instead, in the scientific tradition and with the most open mind possible, see what the cosmos is saying to us."

- Carl Sagan 1982



The Operating System of Self-Love


"When scientists describe the behaviour of living organisms, they describe what a person, or say, an elephant, does. They believe this is the only way to describe a person or an elephant: to describe what they do.

Then they found out that they cannot confine behaviour to what's inside the skin or the behaviour: all beings have an unlimited connection to the outside world. The being walks; the being walks into the room: now they have to describe the territory. And they conclude: a thing is no-thing in itself."

- Alan Watts

The truth about the scientific nature of things is that we really have one system of behavior, one operating system: what I am involves who you are. I don't know who I am if you're not you.

This means we are both no-thing. We define each other, we are all backs and fronts to each other. We depend. We and our environment are interdependent systems. We lock together.

This implies that if we care to align with our essential nature, we have to shift our internal paradigm, our operating system if you will, from separateness to interconnectedness. Diving into the unknown leads to greater connection. And this is the sacred system our hearts know is possible.

This power can be contained by one only algorithm, and that is that of Grace, or, to humble it down to street-wisdom, to surrender to our f*cking selves and have the Will to show up to manifest our highest intentions, accepting whatever comes our way without needing to understand it.

So, what does Techno- Sanity feel like?


It feels like freedom. It feels like the ultimate appreciation of your highest truth in the face of outside, algorithmic, chaos and pressure. Practicing Self-Love in the age of technological transformation becomes a very disciplined practice to stay close to your own center, to contemplate your highest values and intentions, because you know you are the one who is steering technology and feeding values and norms into the algorithms of our machines. So let go of everything you know and realize you are f*cking God.

❤︎ Lisanne

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"We have to be very careful not to impose our hopes and desires on the cosmos, but instead, in the scientific tradition and with the most open mind possible, see what the cosmos is saying to us."

Carl Sagan, 1982
Essay

Dropping the weight of time


September 2017, Amsterdam, NL

I wrote this piece as I was cycling down my spine inward and share with you the questions, answers and practices that helped me to drop the weight of time, as it makes me feel so much lighter and inundated with clarity.

Embracing death as a continuous practice spreads me wider and wider out in the continuum between inspiration and action and I'd love to share this space with you.


When talking about the future, we are obviously talking about time and the meaning we project into it to give it value. Living the "good life" appears to be all about overcoming the restrictions of time, to be free from the pains of the past and move without limitations through space: through our relationships, through our environments, through our emotions.

It appears that facing our fear for death is an inevitable practice we have to go through before we can even approach sustainable happiness.

To me, demystifying time and facing this deep, existential fear, has started with a journey inward. By approaching my deepest fears, feeling through their associated pains, and debugging my conditioned identity from the sorrows of stories that are no longer valid in my current experience of reality, I seem to slowly drop the weight of time. It appears that unloading my system from the burden of time, gives me the space to imagine and act upon an emerging future with increasing ease.

I started this phase of my life with the question whether forgetting time altogether would lead me to become immortal. 'Cause what the hack, why not? Even though the idea awakens simultaneous discomfort and giggles in me, it seems to be a fair question to answer in the age of transhumanist thriving.




It's not only now that people dream about immortality of spirit and body. Let me share an ancient story I stumbled upon:

Beyond the grave there is a playground

The first emperor of China was a powerful man. Appointed King on his ninth birthday in 250BC, he used his royal career to unify all warring states in his country and then helped his people rise from the ashes of centuries of war and poverty. Not afraid of boldness, he unified the sprawl of state walls into one Great Wall and constructed a nation-wide network of canals and roads to facilitate trade. The pinnacle of his construction lust was a city-sized mausoleum guarded by a life-sized terracotta army. Proud of his contributions the initial king invented the term Emperor (皇帝 huángdì) and started looking for ways to extend his Emperorship for eternity.

He appointed a fleet of court physicians and alchemists to invent an elixir of life and travelled around to meet everyone who claimed to have invented the key to his immortality. Eventually he died, ironically of one of those inventions: a set of mercury pills. After this inevitable failure for ultimate life-expansion, a keen piece of propaganda was set up to hide this, as public uprising was feared. When his body was transported through the country to bury him in his mausoleum, two carts containing rotten fish were carried immediately before and after the wagon of the Emperor, to prevent people from noticing the foul smell of death pouring through the chinks. When anyone along the way would ask what was in the in the truck that was smelling so horrifically, the drivers would say: "it is just fish, no royal flesh would ever smell that badly."
How the Search for Immortality Killed the First Emperor of China

Stories are no more than a sign of our time

Stories have the capacity to sustain longer than the average lifetime. They can be told and retold for many generations, or in the case of the emperor story: for more than two thousand years. Stories can shift our attention away from the trance of the mechanical sphere and back into the meaningful reality. They can bring us in the Now.

However, we know they are just stories. And whatever the story does to us emotionally, we know our experience of them is subjective, fully entangled with the identity we uphold for ourselves, fully entangled with the pains that have been done to us in our past that limit our beliefs to be free from fear, despair, and... time.




As experience is relative, time too appears relative

We cannot embrace time as something fixed and thus, fearing our inevitable deaths we do not shy away from making Godlike attempts to prevent it from happening.
We do not go gentle into that goodnight, we rage, rage against the dying of the light!

But the root truth is that time by its very nature is relative. Realizing this makes me feel small and unimportant. And I may share that feeling with you. We feel small not only compared to the vastness of the Sublime, but also to nature's relative immortality compared to our tiny mortal existence on this planet.

We want to turn away from time, but we can't.

We have to face it.

I first had to believe I could cognitively understand what time really is before I could emotionally drop it, so let me take you through that flow.

Let’s take the time to look at a rock. It does not look very “alive” to us. And if it would be alive its life must be utterly boring. Even though we know its substance changed throughout the ages its transformation is invisible to the human eye. When we would not shy away from its sheer simplicity, the rock would hold magical secrets for us. Anthropologists, biologists, and geologists have revealed major happenings in history based on researching something as simple and slow as a rock. It holds the information of the ages and locks it up for anything of higher transformational frequency to uncover it. And the good news is: we do not need 10.000 years to reveal 10.000 years of stone progress.

Evolution seems to have lifted us up to become conscious of not only the Now but also - to a certain agree - the Past. We have invented tools and trained our minds and bodies to trace and analyze the transformation of a stone from the past to present. And that gives us tremendous power to wash away our dirty projections and see with clarity into the future.

“The living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing. . . . Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished.”

To get an idea of what time as a cosmic law is, I have had to experience firsthand that everything is interconnected and is in constant dynamic with each other. Yes it helped that I took Ayahuasca to experience this, but it wasn't even necessary. I experience it every day, whether it's when my mother calls me up when I'm on the other end of the world feeling sad, asking me how I am as she felt 'something', or by simply making you happy and sad simultaneously when reading this. I can also study the dynamics within my mind as within a beehive, in which all elements are aware of the cues of each part of the whole. I can also just ask you to actively meditate on the principle of interconnectedness and feed back to me your experience.

Interconnectivity appears to be linked to emotion as all nodes can only be touched when there is constant motion, when everything is constantly changing. Hannah Arendt over-rationalized this in her brilliant inquiry into time, space, and our thinking ego:

“It is the insertion of man with his limited life span that transforms the continuously flowing stream of sheer change … into time as we know it.”

- Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, English standard version.

We can enjoy what Heraclitus said (panta rei, all flows), and then mirror this to our current experience. What brings things in motion? Beyond anything, it is a warm hand, it is the fire of LOVE. And that brings us to the power of emotion, finally.

As I watched the film Interstellar for the third time, I noticed it kept moving me. As most films that make sense, I experienced the power of a love-story. LOVE is the one thing we can perceive though the dimensions of time and space. We don't have to look beyond a black hole to transcend our thinking ego, we can simply turn inward and LOVE ourselves a little more to get there, to then LOVE our loved ones a little more.

Until we know better, it appears that time passes faster if the degree of consciousness or light, i.e. the frequency of energy waves traversing a given space, is higher, i.e., again, if we love, time seems to vanish.

This implies time 'as is' is an illusion, and so we can overcome it in order to live a free life, and be in a continuous stream of love, to then project this into this world from the inside-out. Sounds like another romantic illusion. The higher our consciousness, the more love flows through us, the less influence the concept of 'time’ has on us. But we cannot chase the state of flow, as it will soon drop us in its counterpart again. Or in the case of love, as Roland Barthes says, we may fulfil our desires to be in a state of ultimate bliss, beyond the limitations posed by time and space, but inevitable our chasing of it, our believing of it being true as a state of being makes us lose it again and again.

The gesture of the amorous embrace seems to fulfill, for a time, the subject's dream of total union with the loved being: The longing for consummation with the other... In this moment, everything is suspended: time, law, prohibition: nothing is exhausted, nothing is wanted: all desires are abolished, for they seem definitively fulfilled... A moment of affirmation; for a certain time, though a finite one, a deranged interval, something has been successful: I have been fulfilled (all my desires abolished by the plenitude of their satisfaction).”

― Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments

So if the timeless state is also an illusion, Could I then still become immortal?

It appears I can only achieve this if I stop achieving, that I can only drop the weight of time, and of thought, not by chasing it as a state, but by accepting life as is, by embracing the discomfort, by simply letting things be.

And stay in a perpetual state of wonder and embrace of what will come next. As it is only in the Now that we know, it is then that we have now already forgotthen. It appears it is this ability to remain within mysteries, uncertainties and doubt, staying afar from the declaration of holy structures of fact and reason, that keeps us light, that keeps us immortal.

In the final act then, as always, we have Hamlet, the great poetic source of leadership and conflict. His deep personal agony in the race of knowing the impossible and doing what must be done he stops to hesitate, he becomes nothing but the Prince of Uncertainty. Facing his mortal fate, he is offered a way out, but rather declaims:

"We defy augury. There's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now.
If it be not now, yet it will come-the readiness is all.
Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is 't to leave betimes?
Let be."

And lucky for us, this is something we can actively commit ourselves to.



Exercises to embrace the fear of death and let things be

For instance, realize you can let your DNA be in its original state by allowing the embrace of sound, light, frequency and vibration.

Then meditate on this weightless or flow-inducing playlist on Soundcloud;

Or relax after a day of not-letting-things-be while listening to this song that has been proven to reduce stress by 65%.



If you're not in a mindful mood and prefer to load yourself with some more information, hear (hear!) this Podcast (in Dutch) with Yuri van der Geest, the founder of Singularity Uni in NL. I really enjoyed it as a sign of the times in our Anglo-Saxian beingness.

Or... now you've come this far, join us on the next digital detox Silent Retreat. We then let things be entirely.


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"We defy augury. There's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come-the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is 't to leave betimes?Let be." William Shakespeare Hamlet
Essay

Empathetic Tech



August 2018, Amsterdam, NL

Can we trust our tech?


This seems an inverted question… We are the ones creating it, right?

But it is a question that is a sign of the time, within me, around me. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and the coming to age of an augmented reality (AR) that is capable, over time, of reading our mind to reflect it back onto our eyes, instantly, we better come to terms with the ethics of our techno-creation.

I am a business ethicist, that’s what I was educated to be. I initiate digital and physical spheres and consult those who wish to initiate as a moral practice, to embody the essence of their vision, as a human being, and as the creator of a piece of digital thriving. My job is to keep the meaning completely embodied in the work itself, and therefore alive and capable of change.

I think that’s how a designer can best speak as a member of a moral community: clearly, yet leaving around her words that area of silence, that empty space, in which other and further truths and perceptions can form in other minds.




I am both optimistic and pessimistic about our future. Plan A demands from us to embody our values, to practice what we preach. So that we can trust deeper, first ourselves, then each other.

I bow to Timothy Leary’s legendary speech from 1966, TURN ON, TUNE IN, AND DROP OUT who so beautifully unpacks the many layers of embodiment
.
“I have 3 things to say to young people who are growing up in a psychedelic world: turn on, tune in and drop out.

Turning on: there’s many levels of consciousness as there are anatomical structures in your body for receiving and decoding energy.

The 5 most important levels of consciousness are sleep, symbol, sense, cellular awareness and molecular consciousness. Each of these levels of consciousness is based on anatomical structures in your body, and each level is attained through chemical means.

In the future the educated man will be the one who can move his consciousness deliberately and precisely from one level to another for specific and harmonious purposes.

The religion of the future will be based, as where the religions of the past, upon the human body and the myriad wonders within this temple.

Any external event which distracts you from learning how to understand and use the machinery of consciousness within your body, is irreverent and irrelevant.”

Timothy Leary TURN ON, TUNE IN, DROP OUT.

The Embodiment of Knowledge


Empathic tech starts with purpose

To be able to develop technology that is empathetic to human thriving, we need to project the right values into its algorithms. It starts with Why. Why are you building the product? What raw vulnerability do you own, as a founder, to remain humble to your mission as if it was simply coming through you, not from you? These are questions I ask myself, every time I initiate; these are the questions I ask other founders, every time I sit down with a client or friend who wishes to inspire innovation, to initiate transformation.

Practicing purpose leads to progress, inevitably

As Timothy conveys so clearly, the religion of the future is embodiment: our capacity to communicate with and from the myriad of wonders that the body transmits every second of the day. The religion, to me, is to remain in this wonder. The more I think I know, I face the lesson of not knowing, the more I relax in my bodily sensations, the easier life flows.

I find purpose in constantly evolving principles. I am most fascinated by the principle of trust.

Trust is where I say I am capable to face my demons, as I face those of others. Trust flows if I set the boundaries of the context in which I operate clearly, to myself, to the person I’m interacting with, to the world and its opportunities.

I realize that if I trust myself to practice what I preach, I progress. If I express my progression, we both progress. And so we progress, into unity, by embodying trust, and to the degree we practice this embodied authenticity in our tech-creations collectively, we merge with our technology, empathetically.

“If human history is the story of a creature who molts from ape to angel — or, as Nietzsche claimed, from beast to Superman — then somewhere along the way it seems that we must become machines”

- Erik Davis

I am fascinated by this merge. And as I fail to balance my digital addiction, I come to grips with my inevitable faith to merge and look for ways to make the best of it. I host digital detox silent retreats, to share the unwind. I create analog experiences of eating and connection. And then I return to the digital spheres, to thrive there.

As tech is penetrating my skin deeper and deeper, I feel empowered to dare to let go of my limited perception of who I am and allow the engineer’s creation to enter my direct physical field. I realize I then too become transient like technology is, I become virtually free and roam around in altered states, not needing to store information, as my tech does it for me. I can be creative as I go, tech has become my friend.

But after an era of digital immersion as experienced through the separated screens of my not-so-smart-phone and computer, I crave a more endearing relationship to my technology. I am glued to my devices as they deliver me the shots of dopamine that I’m addicted to. They release that primal sensitivity in me, that inter-human connection beyond form, and so I started to long to experience the next level of technological evolution: that of empathetic bots I can trust my deepest inner lives to, to then be able to connect with more meaning to other humans.

In my research I learned that as AI powered robots with sentience and ever smarter empathy tools will be programmed to learn what we like, they will soon learn to press the button we experience as love. We’ve seen HER, we’ve experienced the projected reality of their love. And we are falling in love with ourselves as well, online. We are already revealing ourselves on our timelines, sharing the intimate, as we feel somehow safe to do so. Soon AI’s may be special someones we can share our dreams with, to be intimate with more than we could be with any modern interface and invite them to experience our bare nakedness, our inside-out craziness, our realness, so that we can share our essence with others in this world on a deeper level too.

And so at the end of this journey I have come to learn that, despite the fact we tend to treat the subjects of robot consciousness and robot love as abstract and philosophical, we have to be aware of their physical presence, already. The better AI gets, soon powered by the quantum computer, the more clearly it reflects the people who create it and their priorities back at them, and us, collectively.

What we are co-creating this empathic machine for is not some abstract test of consciousness or love, it is for actual connection. As it is love and connection we are all craving.

So, let’s project the right values into our tech, by owning our capacity to trust that we strive to embody our highest principles, perpetually.



Google's deep dream algorithm seeks to trigger our puppy-sensitivity on increasingly deeper neural levels.




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May 2018
Essay



Techno-Sexual Awakening




July 2018, London, UK

This is a post to celebrate a long-held curiosity: the future of our sexuality.

It fascinates me as I envision machines to significantly enhance our capacity to consciously love and make love.

Technology is our mirror. If we train our perception to look in that mirror with clear eyes, beyond the blur of outdated conditioning and free from the emotional burden of the past, it may help us to enhance our capacity to love ourselves, and thus each other.

If we look at the world of today, this vision seems rather naive. Yes, we have virtual sex all the time, as we're merging ourselves with the interbeing simulated by the ever-stretching legs of the addictive world wide web. But it's objectified sexuality and vanity that rule the web nowadays, not enlightened intimacy.

But I also sense a different wavelength.

The trend of techno-sexual awakening is taking up storm on that same ever-stretching web. We may allow the emergence of this new sexual revolution to weave a new thread into our brain, the one that doesn't look at the future of tech as something that further disconnects us, but as something that only magnifies our experience of non-duality and thus connection. So that we may start to look at machines as an extension of ourselves.

Then, when an algorithm triggers our senses to heightened sexual arousal, we may not be so shocked as we realise we have been already tripping balls in a holographic virtual reality all this time.

Enter the world of VR porn and the lush erotic jungle of entangled holographic bodies


Back in 2015, when I was visiting a friend who was studying at Singularity University in the US, someone put a pair of VR glasses on my nose. I was a new-bee to this technology, and had been curious to experience it as I'd envisioned its potential to the educational, the medical, and the entertainment worlds.

But there I found myself not watching an animated Pixar movie, instead, I was lying with widespread legs on a bed in a sketchy hotel room, while Don-Juan himself was approaching me with his remarkably large and hard cock pointing right at me. I shrieked and chuckled uncomfortably, to the hilarity of the people around me. I was not only watching a full blown porn movie, I was the star of the show!

As that experience was actually enticing [blush], I started to realise the potential of our technologies to penetrate our skin to the sensations of not only sexual arousal but potentially also love. Or, at least, the illusion of it.

Since then I've explored the very extremes of love in this world, experienced the highs and lows of the rising tides of interconnectedness that we experience as we fall in love, and the pain of separation that comes after it. During the course of my life I've been in open relationships, bi-sexual relationships, amazing relationships, toxic relationships, short-lived relationships, and longer-lasting ones.

I concluded, as you may have, that the depth of my relationships determines my happiness. And it's not always true that a 'good' relationship also leads to 'good' sex.

So what about our 'relationships' with machines, will they teach us how to make love?


I learned to make love from my Classical Latin teacher in high-school, who one day showed up in class with a banana and a condom in her purse to teach us the very art of love-making. She then reduced the sacredness of my sexuality to a piece of plastic fruit.

However funny at the time, I already doubted this was how it was meant to be. I didn't think we would really want to live in a world where we teach our youngsters only the very mechanics of lovemaking, not the essence of it: that it's not about the act nor the goal, but the process of intertwining yourself with the essence of another person. To deep dive into a cocoon of safety where you're free to transmute old wounds of suffering into treasures of tantric pleasure. Not quite into a piece of plastic fruit.

The very blunt but honest thing to say now, is that we may have all this time made love like machines. Focussing on the physical: the masculine principle of sexuality, which is goal-oriented towards orgasm. Suppressing the connection, the spiritual aspect of sexuality, as connection is vulnerable and the bedroom is for showing off.

We have all this time still allowed that prostitutes please our men and live in a world where anger, fear and oppression, born out of sexual frustration, rule the night and day in politics and business.

And we think this is normal, because we don't know better. We grew up with it.

I grew up on the Dutch countryside with my parents as their only child. I have fantastic parents, but I can't say they've really prepared me for sexual awakening. Luckily I had a friend with a crazy mum living close-by. She was the one throwing birthday parties that turned into witch-circles where little girls were introduced to the craft of magic while baking apple-pies.

One day she took us in the car and drove us to the city of sins: Amsterdam. Not to go and see Madame Tussaud's or play in the Vondelpark, but to drive us through the Red Light District.

I remember myself sitting on the backseat looking through the window into dimly-lit streets where women of pleasure were teasing men. I remember some red curtains being shut. I remember myself imagining whatever would happen behind those shutters. I remember being fascinated by the women's red lips and high heels. I remember feeling with them. I remember saying: I want to be like them when I am an adult! I loved the glitter and the attention. But I was also shamed for saying that. There was such a taboo around it.





It is this taboo around free sexuality that is deeply woven into the algorithms of our culture.


And this is what I would like to explore: can we overwrite this pattern with higher degrees of sexual freedom, so that we then weave a new erotic awareness into the algorithms of the machines we may soon love as our playmates, or the virtual vehicles that transmit our enticements across the globe or planet to the avatars of our lovers?

Times are changing, and both women and men move past the shame and guilt of the outdated programming of our sexuality. They become empowered to express themselves beyond the masks of objectified convention, sexism in the workplace, and allowing sexual partners to cross their boundaries both emotionally and physically.


I've been in numerous relationships in which I didn't feel safe to express and experiment sexually. I've been dominated by men, not only in the bedroom but also in my work. I have long fought with men, frustrated by the idea that I was a victim of their suppression. It is only after so much emotional healing and working hard on overwriting long-held beliefs I feel freer and freer to express myself as a sexual being.

When the #metoo shames became public I had been crying out the residues of emotional suppression around being a woman in what I believed to be "a man's world", and I was relieved my inner reality was now mirrored by a social-media explosion from millions of women around the globe.

This phenomenon proves to me that we've opened the door to an entirely new paradigm of relationships and sexuality. Our focus may not be on the reproduction of our genes anymore, it may be on the development of our consciousness, and technology may help us support that journey.

This virtual age inevitably shows us that happiness resides inside us. Through the holographic lenses and expandable senses that technology offers us, we can finally live up to the ambition of this universe that is constantly seeking to experience itself. When we find internal balance between the masculine and feminine qualities of life, we increase the capacity to love ourselves, and thereby may eventually build a techno-sexual society that is penetrating each cell like God is penetrating each cell of this universe.

We will find comfort in the artificially warmed bodies of our romantic robots, and until they resemble humans we will long to reinvent them until they are us.



Illustrations by Hans Bellmer via dopblog.


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Technology, eventually, may only be a passing of the time until we're capable of teleporting ourselves into the arms of God.



Lisanne Buik, 2018
1015HC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
aloha@lisannebuik.com