Here is yet another speech I gave at my Toastmaster club on the 26th of June 2013.

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 computer.

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 genius.

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 their computer.

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 it."

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 realize it.

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 them.

- There are special Buddhist practices like one called "Feeding Your Demons":

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 "demon".

- 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 thought process.

- 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 this way.

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 processes.

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.