Here is yet another speech I gave at my Toastmaster club on the 26th of
As you know there are more and more computers doing more and more complex
tasks. Many people are wondering if computers will completely replace human
beings in the next decades.
There are some analogies between minds and computers, because software that
runs on a computer is in some ways like thought processes that run inside the
mind. There are even common words, like "process", "routine" or "demon", that
are used to describe both activities.
So I think it's interesting to compare how computers and the mind work, and
you will see that this leads to discussing spirituality.
In this talk I will try to answer the following questions:
Firstly, how do minds and computers compare in their working?
Secondly, why do we need spirituality?
Thirdly, how can different kinds of spirituality be useful?
Computers and minds are similar in that they both have "demons". In computer
science a demon is a software process that is running all the time in the
background. But, in human psychology, it is a bad thought process that is
always tempting us to behave poorly.
In ancient Greece "demons" were entities coming from distant sources that
helped people when they worked. They were considered good things because they
were creative spirits. In ancient Rome they called such a spirit a "genius".
Someone who could do wonderful work was not considered to be especially great,
he was just considered lucky to have a "genius" helping him.
If many people could have wonderful thought processes, so much so that they
could be considered geniuses. They would be so creative that their work would
certainly be very valuable and it would not be easy to replace them with a
So people have sets of thought processes of various quality and they choose
which one they are running according to circumstances. In this way people are
very much like computers, except that computers choose the software they are
running according to instructions given to them.
And this is where there is a big difference. It is quite easy to download a
new software, install and run it on a computer. But it is very hard for many
people to really choose how they will behave, and moreover to become a
For example, we would all probably want to behave most of the time as if we
were very happy. But our mood unfortunately doesn't often let us do that.
Another example is that if I could have installed a competent communicator
software in my brain, well, I wouldn't be here in front of you tonight.
It is much more difficult for most people to significantly change their own
thought processes even if they want to, than to change the software running on
Now that we have seen how minds and computers compare, an interesting
question is what can we do to improve our thought processes? And, in this
second part of my speech, we are going to see that spirituality can help.
Consider the following famous quote from Einstein:
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created
This means that we have to find things that can put us at a higher
consciousness level to be able to solve our thought process problems.
This is why we need spirituality. Because the goal of spiritual books and
practices is exactly that: to raise our consciousness level.
When we cannot get to a higher consciousness level, it is very difficult to
improve our thought processes because we are trapped by them. And we don't even
For example people who suffer from depression sometimes have a very hard
time recovering. Because some bad thought processes keep pulling them down.
Another example is when routine takes all of our time.
In this third part, I am now going to talk about some spiritual practices
that I have tried and how they can help:
- There is meditation. It is a pratice that trains the mind to control the
thoughts it is running.
Obviously learning to control the thought processes can only help improve
- There are special Buddhist practices like one called "Feeding Your
The idea is that there are reasons why we are haunted by demons, and if we
can find the reasons and fix them, then we can transform the thought processes
so that they can help us again. They now become demons in the Greek sense of
- There are interesting new age books, texts and practices, like "The Power
of Now" by Eckhart Tolle.
They can help because if you can live "in the moment" you are more
conscious, simply because you are not trapped by any routine thought.
- There are spiritual courses like "A Course in Miracles".
Using Christian words, it's goal is to change the students' thought process
and to help them acquire a better one, based on forgiveness.
- By the way, there are many religions and practices that put a strong
emphasis on forgiveness.
Often the reason one thought process is bad is because it is based on a bad
experience. In this cases forgiveness helps fix the root cause of the bad
- Helping others: there are of course many ways to do that, and yes I think
they can sometimes be considered spiritual practices.
By focusing on helping others, we forget about ourselves and our problems,
which raises our consciousness level.
For example a few years ago I developed an open source software in my free
time with other developers on the Internet. And yes for me it was some kind of
spiritual experience to develop it, because I knew that it would be very
useful. I have felt very very grateful to have the chance to help many people
To conclude, these days many people need to improve their thought processes
simply because otherwise they would be trapped. They could be trapped either by
problems like anxiety, depression, obesity, or in a situation like unemployment
or an unfullfiling job.
In many cases, spirituality can probably help raise us to a more conscious
level from where it will be easier to make changes to our thought
My opinion is that in the coming decades, with more and more computers and
robots doing more and more things, questions, like "What are human beings
supposed to do?" will be more and more acute. And I think spirituality might
help us find answers.