The Zen of Innovation: Spiritualizing bits

With computing power, high definition visual displays and input devices pushing the limits of physical human perception, it appears that the battlefield of future tech is in the spiritual domain. A key innovation in this area is the Zenetic Computer, showcased in the Emerging Technologies section. A truly multicultural affair, the Zenetic Computer is a result of collaboration between research institutions in the US, Japan and France.

As Dr. Ryohei Nakatsu, Professor, School of Science and Technology at the Kwansei Gakuin University (Japan) explains it, the Zenetic Computer is aimed at showcasing the possibilities of “inter-cultural computing”. Zen, the mystic Japanese philosophy has always been held in awe by the western world. Numerous “Zen Philosophy for Dummies” books notwithstanding, it is very difficult to digest the spirit behind it by plain reading. The Zenetic Computer hopes to convey the spirit behind the philosophy by walking the subject through a series of exercises.

To quote Prof. Nakatsu, the logical western world does not equip you to answer the question: “What is the sound of one hand clapping”. In fact, there can be no logical answer to the question. The purpose of the Zenetic Computer, is to broaden your thinking so that you can find out for yourself the answer to the question. In order to do so, the computer employs the state-of-the-art in game design, computer graphics and interactive displays. The subject communicates with the computer through a screen fixed to a table top. Answers are communicated to the Zenetic Computer by drawing on the display.

Preliminary research suggests that 90% of the people who used the Zenetic Computer came out with a cool, quiet mind. The researchers have showcased the technology in exhibitions hosted by MIT and France Telecom. They have received favorable feedback from monks in the Kodaiji Zen Temple in Kyoto who used it for over a month.

The hope is that the approach can be applied to broader areas like education, preserving the essence of artwork and enabling broader cultural exchanges. After all, to be Mozart, you have to think like Mozart.





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Last updated 8/10/04.

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