The Conscious Classroom

Tech + Teens: Part 2 in dialogue with XPrize semifinalist Anthony Holland

November 30, 2021 Episode 48
The Conscious Classroom
Tech + Teens: Part 2 in dialogue with XPrize semifinalist Anthony Holland
Show Notes Transcript

Can technology empower rather than divide? Can we train robots to exhibit the empathy of their operators in humanitarian situations? How is Inner Strength looking ahead and the possibilities for supporting youth wellness through technology? Join Amy Edelstein in dialogue with XPrize semi-finalist and Inner Strength Board Member Anthony Holland.

In this second part of the dialogue, Tony and Amy go more deeply into issues facing students and how Inner Strength is working to empower and heal. 

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So, where do we go from here? Where do we go from here? Well that might be a question I want to turn around to you. What's what can we do with technology? Like how far can we go and what what's like, we have the beta versions.


What does scale look like in this very personal world of mental wellbeing and human potential? Well, I guess one way for me to answer that is that, you know, the, the potential is almost endless. When I think of the app in its current version, it's an app that you're downloading to your phone from the store, and it's still a client app.


Right. But now. With the cloud and with more social type of features, you are often disenfranchised in their communities. Yeah. And then, you know, they can feel like they have little voice, but this can make you feel connected. It can offer us a sense of community and care that the world in some respects is longing for certainly, in urban communities it's even more challenging.


So it's been exasperated or highlighted by the pandemic, which in the census forced people to have. Stay at home, but other circumstances already existed like violence in a community that, leads to isolation. And this app not only can have the potential to create a new type of community, a mindfulness community, a caring community that didn't exist before, and it can empower you.


And certainly, you know, technology in and of itself can create, good jobs.  Right. So,  just the fact that, you know, if you think of young. Generations they're growing up. As you describe with the phone as an extension to everything they do. So they they're learning technology at a pace that is, uh mind-boggling so they can learn practices empowered by technology that lead to moods of love and care and connectedness.


Well, imagine the possibilities here to be able to communicate with mentors and as well as just by default, a way of being that creates job skills that the world's yearning for while you're empowering yourself with just the skills to be able to navigate the future. Through new sensibilities so that the possibilities are there and technologies sorta applied in the right way can create a whole new environment.


I think at you, Amy, and the experiences that you've had learning about mindfulness by traveling all over the world, not every kid and Philadelphia is going to have that opportunity, but the more they can be explored those sort of pluralistic experiences, the more they're open to possibilities and can begin to consider all kinds of different ways of thinking and not be limited to, you know, being privileged enough to be able to have the opportunity.


Travel abroad. They can do it right now and it can stimulate their imagination. Hope in the midst of whatever's happening in their backyard, right? No, absolutely. I love what you're bringing together. You know, about the use of technology, the jobs that come out of technology. We had 17 beta testers from the high schools and they were really good.


They were incredibly thorough. Yeah. They need, teens or teens. They need a lot of guidance. But you could see that they were being exposed to, oh, I could go into QA. I could go into testing. I could go into coding if I wanted, I could go into. User interface. So I could, you know, I, those are big words or big skills, but I'm doing it.


I already do this in a way when I'm complaining about an app that I don't like, and that it doesn't work and why don't they have, you know, nightmare mode and why did they put that button there? That's so stupid. You can't find it. And, but these are actual jobs. So it opens up a world of possibility and, you know, and, and with the kind of online contract market students in the inner city can work anywhere and they have access to jobs in a way they didn't use to have access to.


And I want to, it, you know, Career development. Isn't part of what we do, but I see it as a logical extension, you open your mind up to all these opportunities and then you realize, oh, it's, it's just people doing these things. They weren't special people inherently. They just started doing these things and I could maybe do them to, and, and that's not, you know, the schools that I see are almost not all of them, but most of them are so sadly under resourced, only 6% of the schools in Philadelphia have a working library.


Wow. I read that recently, it's a recent stat it's from the last month. And I, the first, the first year I, the second year I was doing the program, I was in a high school in north Philly, which was a magnet high school which focused on peace and social justice. And we met in the library. There were no books in the library.


There were some empty shelves with a couple of like books kind of. And when I grew up, that was my home. You know, when I was, you know, having teenage angst and Haiti, the world around me and wanting to be old enough, so I could go off somewhere. I went to the library, that's where I went and, and that's where I got exposed, where I could just, and th the internet, isn't the same thing.


As a working library, you know, and it just was a sign of neglect and lack of opportunity, you know, Lord knows, you know, we could easily source the books for the library. It's, you know, they cut the positions for a librarian in the schools that have libraries and reading hours. You feel that sense of openness and creativity.


So when you were connecting the app to jobs, to possibility, to other ways of being, you know, I feel like that is an indirect mission of inner strength, you know? Cause when you're, when you're letting go of fixed ways of seeing and you're exploring systems where you're looking at large scale.


Evolutionary development of the brain or cultural change and the leavers of culture and how they change our personal experience. When you start looking at the world in that way, you start realizing that there are different possibilities. So that openness of thinking is, is a big part of what we're trying to teach.


And maybe as we expand, we can add more components that either relate to the job world or relate to travel or, or relate to creating bridges. Because when you grow up in under-resourced communities, you're just not exposed to the options. You don't know they exist. Yeah. You know what you're provoking and me and Amy is that, that old African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child.


And, you know, I think of that, that means that the entire community of people interact with the children, for those children to grow in a safe and healthy environment and technology, it's sort of like the plumbing that can enable that village again in a new way, in a more expansive way, because  there's a lack of resources sometimes, but then there's Google there's information and there's a global community that we all need mentors.


We all need connection. And if we can create that connection and I think technology makes that possible and we can engage. Care into that conversation, then the possibilities are just endless if we're mindful. Right. So how do you, how do you curate deep conversation and technology? Because technology can facilitate that, but it tends to facilitate very superficial and acrimonious interaction, how you build in deep con cause I know you're you love deep conversation.


Well, you know, when I think about any conversation of there's levels of trust and you know, there's a mood behind that and, you know, we can have. Mood where there's fear and the hiding, we can be polite and conflict avoidance and, and that's all really an indication of a low level of trust, but you see that in social media technology, but then they can move from that mood of fear if you cultivate it, if we're self-aware, which is sort of what the practices of mindfulness are cultivating, it's an awareness of what is this mood that we're in and is this serving me well?


And we can start building trust and moving from avoiding to maybe the next level of. Which might still not be where we need to be, because we might be in a mood of certainty now where you're right, I'm wrong, it's win, lose. I attack you defend. But if I'm aware of that, I can cultivate more trust and move from that debating to openness, exploring curiosity, share concerns, discovery.


And that happens when you foster the right type of community and ultimately partnering and belonging, share commitments and care and technology can be applied. With that self-awareness that, that's where we want to be at a level of trust of belonging, of shared care, your care. So my care win-win friendships, compassion, and that partnering has to get cultivated though.


And I think it starts really with the practices of mindfulness, because, because you're practicing that self-awareness on yourself of what, what is the mood then on that? And is this mood restrictive? Is this serving me well? And are there practices just breathing that could get me to reflect on those assessments that I'm holding, that I'm finding myself in these restrictive modes to embrace expanse.


Moves with assessments where there's hope and possibilities. And as I began to practice that myself and then engage in a community, a practice of mindfulness, then I can begin to become aware that trust is something that I can be purposeful about, cultivating and aware that, you know, we don't have trust.


That's why we're debating. We don't have trust. You're just being polite and we can begin to be purposeful about moving towards openness, exploring and partnering. So it's not just words. It requires an embodiment. And that's what I think you're teaching and helping us all to learn. I'm very interested in.


The intersection of technology with this, because my process was very labor intensive. So, you know, my experience of cultivating those sensitivities came from many, 10,000 hours of silent practice, dialogue, practice, reflection, you know, creating community. Then when I think about being able to do this online, and I'm only just beginning to get exposed to the streaming world and all of its downfalls, but also some potential possibility is can we, and I think about the teens.


Because if we could find a way to use technology, that would learn also how to keep those norms, obviously it has to do with self-reflection. So technology, you know, you have to go, you have to inquire and engage with yourself and question your thinking and your responses and, and be able to look at the interaction.


All of that is what helps us deepen and, and particularly, you know, cultivating the ability to be still and let things be as they are and let go and allow oneself to rest so that one can see clearly, you know, let all the dust settle and then you can see clearly without moving and be able to sit through the storms of emotions and the mind.


And that takes practice, but if we're building community, cause one of the big things you mentioned earlier was social media bullying, bullying online is it's catastrophic for youth, you know, cause you know how you are when you're a pre-teen or early teens. And somebody says just that one insult and you can never get it out of your mind again.


And you know it. So if we can build online communities in the way you're describing where the technology also learns to monitor, you know, to question like not, not to control, but to see inquiry, that would be, you know, a big evolution beyond where our app is. You know, our app is basically. In, in person learning, you know, did, you know, made into audios and text-based stuff with photos and activities and leaderboards and games, but it really is not that much different than our traditional teaching, but if we could, you know, so if a conversation is stuck or a stream is stuck, then there are the app learns how to seed questions into it that, that, provoke deeper, more compassionate self inquiry group inquiry helps people back off.


That would be really outrageous. I mean, that would be phenomenal if we can figure out how to do that. Do you think that's possible? It's more than. But a journey of a thousand steps begins with one small step. And I think you've made the first step because there is an app. Now you can begin to take baby steps along that journey.


And if I go back to the X prize and I use that as sort of, as Steven Coby is to say, begin with the end in mind that the possibilities are there with them. I can begin to work one step at a time down that path, but the path is one where we can begin to have role models. You can have avatars for people in that community that are learning.


The all the pieces exist, like artificial intelligence, it's already there and you've played with that in your car, right? It's like, there's a better path available, you know, or use technology today when you go to Amazon and the systems like, you know, I see you're buying this well, well, those same learning processes can be applied to help you to learn and facilitate learning behaviors that serve you well.


And I think a missing conversation in education sometimes can be our Cartesian way of thinking about education and we forget play.


If I can make this fun and we could play and learn how to be a community, how to learn, how to work effectively as teams and how to deal with expected things, contingencies that may emerge in positive ways so that I'm navigating uncertainty with wisdom with serenity, but I'm embracing that there's things that may happen and the system can facilitate that and learn with me.


And that's all there already. It's just adding those little pieces walking down that path and you're already on the journey, but if the X prize shows you anything, it's not a movie in. Hmm, this is really exciting. I am, I actually hadn't thought about this before, but this is really exciting because just building now, the kind of does what other apps do.


It's good. You know, we need to do this and the students need to benefit from it and we need to get it everywhere because there are too many mental health issues that, that just need a little addressing. I, I don't want to leave those, those teens alone at night with nothing to do, but you know, play violent video games or when they are alone and confused, but the idea of creating a more intelligent.


Community through the technology where the, the values of depth, awareness, profound, sensitivity, self inquiry questioning, fixed ideas, supporting each other's higher potentials, being able to Intuit when somebody is about to break through and help them grow rather than shut them down. You know, all of those things that come, you know, when you're, when you're in group inquiry, that's very advanced, you know, that with a group of people who are very sensitive, extraordinary things can happen.


I mean, you can facilitate somebody's transformation and just really profound ways. By asking a question at the right moment, or it's staying silent at the right moment. And those breakthroughs become collective knowing. So you start becoming sensitive to the knowest sphere, sensitive to the container of consciousness, to that wisdom that wants to emerge.


And when you're looking at teens who are looking for their self identity in a world, that looks very hostile because I don't, you know, the middle ages weren't any great shakes either. I, it was a rough times them, but we're being presented with a lot of images of hostility. If you just turn on the news, it's so unpleasant, you're not really getting news.


You're just getting unpleasantness. You could, you could be learning in a different way. So if we can, you know, it's hard for teens, but if we can create a community that is really about fostering, you know, our wisdom. And, you know, unlimited potential for growth and, and care and use technology to see the questions, to, to help, you know, move to the side, move out of the way, the aggression, the mistrust, the bullying, the harshness, you know, just the ways that people have been socialized.


If we can. I mean, that would be really quite a breakthrough because teens, teens are wired to connect. The teen brain is wired to bond with their peers. It's an evolutionary necessity. When our early, you know, human, you know, evolution, our parents' generation was going to die out. When we were teenagers, they weren't going to live that much longer.


We had, we needed our associates. Peer group to survive. So their bond they're wired to do that. Technology can connect. And then if we could start envisioning a learning community around these values that arise with systems thinking and, and meditation, and then you feel like, oh, we could be doing something really powerful.


Amy that's, that's why I'm excited about being a part of this inner strength community. And if there's one thing I've learned from this X prize avatar contest, was that what Peter Diamandis his vision was, was not for a bunch of teams to get together, to compete so that one could emerge. Is creating a community the whole time we were down there.


Yeah. 30 teams were there from around the world and they were encouraging us to partner up with each other, get together with each other, learn from this team in Germany and this team in Russia and this team in Japan and stay at community because it's the best ideas all coming together that are going to bring this future, not a winner.


So if I apply that to creating a learning community right here in Philadelphia, it's the greatest minds all over the world are thinking about pieces of this. I'm currently in this learning process of how to work effectively as a team. A shared friend of ours. Fernando Flores is a mentor of mine. Well, we're learning how the work is teams by emerging ourselves in world of Warcraft.


Now, I don't know anything about that game is probably some teams in the high school. It could teach me a little bit about how to navigate that, but the fact that I don't know how to play the game is part of the learning process because I'm dependent on other people in the game that I'm just meeting for the first time, somewhere in another part of the world.


But maybe that person's a little more game aware. And so they're helping me to learn, but we're all going on these quests and we don't know what to expect, but we're learning how to trust each other. Have a leverage. Each other's strengths have come together as a team. And of course, if we don't have these conversations, bad things happen during the game, but my body doesn't know that this is a game, right?


And we're learning how to have effective conversations. We're learning how to work as a team. We're wearing learning how to conquer challenges that as an individual we could never do, but we're better together. And all of this is because we're playing a game, but it's a serious conversation about how do we really work in the real world to be well, that applies right here with the industry and community we can build on what it is that you've begun and invite like-minded people from all over the world to be a part of this thinking, whether that's SAP.


Google or other people who are practicing other forms of learning, Buddhist community that may have values that are not just, how do I win that is that we can learn from, and all of that gets simulated in the game. I'm excited about this, actually. I, I has some, yes, we, it's going to be interesting things to pursue.