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Posted at 09:32 AM ET, 04/18/2012

Inner peace in the palm of your hand


Can we program serenity into a cellphone? (Dan Kitwood - GETTY IMAGES)

The Internet has given us a variety of ways to share nearly every aspect of our lives in real-time, and yet it sometimes feels as if we are living in an era of hyper-alienation. The more we expand our digital social networks — and, by extension, our access to information — the more desperate we seem to become as we search for meaning in our real-world lives. It’s perhaps no surprise then that a growing number of companies are striving to offer a version of digital “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”

Take, for example, The Huffington Post’s new project, “GPS for the Soul,” which the company is developing in partnership with mobile developer bLife and others. Huffington Post founder, Arianna Huffington announced the project in a blog post on Monday. If all goes according to plan, “GPS for the Soul” will result in a mobile application to help you align three different aspects of your life: mind, body and spirit. Huffington called the app a "great course-correcting mechanism” that would subtly enable you to make better decisions. Just as GPS guides you to a final destination with gentle, soothing instructions, Huffington and Co.’s GPS for the Soul app would show calming images for your mind, play snippets of your favorite music or perhaps display the appropriate breathing exercises to guide you toward your spiritual goal.

As mobile devices become an entrenched part of our digital lives, it’s no wonder that companies are exploring innovative new uses for them, leveraging built-in sensors, such the accelerometer, to augment our existing senses. The “GPS for the Soul” app, for example, would measure heart rate and heart rate variability through sensors in the phone, determining your mood and psychological state. By digitizing the intangible, these types of apps aim to help you program your own life for the better.

It used to be that our souls and our dreams were ephemeral and inscrutable. People could claim to know the inner workings of your soul or take an educated guess at interpreting your dreams, but it was much harder to induce specific thoughts. It seems that may no longer be the case. The new Dream:ON app, billed as a mass participation study, would like to help you program your dreams and desires. Once you tell the app about your sleeping and waking cycle, it may be possible to use the app to create the perfect dream. Imagine waking up every day filled with positive thoughts and a desire to tackle the day — all thanks to an app.

As with any proposed solution to understanding the mysterious inner workings of the human brain, there are caveats. The idea of digitizing the intangible is an interesting trend, but the technology could also turn out to be invasive if not flat-out dangerous when placed in the wrong hands. We are talking about nothing less than using our digital devices to program our very nature. Apps capable of programming our moods, emotions and dreams can be viewed as an exciting way to tap the innate power of the human brain, or as A Dangerous Method for modern day Freuds and Jungs, armed with their iPhones and a smattering of knowledge picked up in Psych 101.

Despite these concerns, there is something fascinating about using our digital devices to program our identities. As humans, we are constantly striving to reach the next level on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, to move away from our concerns of daily survival to satisfying our need for self-actualization.

Dominic Basulto is a digital thinker at Bond Strategy and Influence (formerly called Electric Artists) in New York. Prior to Bond Strategy and Influence, he was the editor of Fortune’s Business Innovation Insider and a founding member of Corante.com, one of the Web's first blog media companies. He also shares his thoughts on innovation on the Big Think Endless Innovation blog and is working on a new book on innovation called "Endless Innovation, Most Beautiful and Most Wonderful."

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By  |  09:32 AM ET, 04/18/2012

Categories:  Dominic Basulto, Morning Read, Technology, Video

 
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