Why A User Interface Is The Key to Flow State (And Our Long Term Success As A Species)
by Devon White
From Consciousness Hacking to Burning Man, Summit Series, the Flow Genome Project, Google, and the mega altered-states economy, many many people are microdosing, trance dancing, group flowing, meditating, skydiving, and biohacking their way into altered states. Not just that — this time we have the science and technology to back it up. It’s not just the brilliant, but scapegoated, Timothy Leary spouting the wisdom of psychedelics and technological consciousness hacking, it’s Steve Jobs and other tech billionaires — and their companies.
And while Burners without Borders brings the beautiful principles of Burning Man to local communities, Summit Series’ magnificent 40-acre mountain community, Eden, creates a new cultural incubator, and the Flow Dojo pioneers have created new ways to access top states, if we want the total transformation of culture and everything in it — we need our technology to hold us the way The Playa does. We need to live in our own personal Eden. We need a Flow dojo as part of our every day lives. And we need a place where improvements to one person’s life and state of awareness is shareable and replicable by all.
This is the Why of a User Interface. It is what we get if we design our UI well.
This post is for the Consciousness Hackers; those of you who want to bring Flow State to the world. It explores some of the fundamental elements needed in our personal User Interfaces in order to successfully direct ourselves and our lives. Specifically, this post explores the pieces we will need if we are going to achieve Flow State as a normal part of our days and part of our long-term success as a species.
So, first things first…
Simplicity is key, especially in design. And especially when designing ourselves, our lives, and our states of consciousness. This means that even though humans are complex, we need to make the high level interface simple. So we have to start by understanding that fundamentally we want a UI that keeps us at our personal best, which means:
- In Flow
- Able to achieve continually higher, deeper, and better experiences and states of consciousness
- Increasingly good at achieving our outcomes and desired lives
- Connected and committed to collective well-being
The Basic Interface
Keeping it simple in this first post, there are a few things we need supported in our most basic UI:
- Mastering States of Consciousness
- A well-defined map of what you want
- A healthy, well-formed Human Operating System
- Gauges for the important stuff
- Action Support
- Connection with the Larger System
Since the second is the easiest to address let’s start there:
Defining Your Desired Life: A well-defined map of what you want
Having a well-defined map is important in getting anything you want (how do you win a race if you don’t know where the finish line is?) However, when it comes to hacking your consciousness and creating your desired life, a map of where you are going is particularly important because it places you in relation to the life you want and gives you a center point for your sense of self and wellness. It also helps you identify what is a fit and match for you out in the world. Such as: What company is a cultural match? What community stimulates you best? What activities make you shine?
Your map immediately provides a concrete external way to measure whether you’re progressing toward your goals or not and becomes a critical measure of your ability to problem solve and learn. The map forces you to prioritize and keep track of what matters and what you are doing to accomplish your outcomes. This is central to any optimal functioning. Further, by measuring whether or not you’re achieving your outcomes you are in a system that is constantly improving your own performance at designing and creating the life you want.
*Having a map of what you want immediately creates the need for further technical support for tracking next actions and outcomes as well as modules for learning necessary skills, but I’ll leave that for another post.
Many Futures, Many Lives
The idea of a desired-life map is important because it keeps you grounded. However, it shouldn’t keep you stuck! You have to remember that the point of the UI is as much to help you experience the perfection of the life you already have as it is to design the perfect life you want. Its entire function is to keep you in a generative state no matter what else is going on.
So keep in mind that there is not One Perfect Life. On the contrary, you have thousands of wonderful lives within you. What you really want is to get creative and chart out multiple lives to keep your mind free and open to possibilities. So, early iterations of our UI’s should have a mapping function, but as quickly as possible we will want to provide ways of opening up multiple maps and timelines all of which hold us as happy, healthy and open to the free flow and constant change of life.
Mastering Your States of Consciousness
Though this might not seem obvious to anyone outside the crew of people already concerned with their “states,” it is a critical piece of tomorrow’s technology and needs to be integrated in everything we are doing today. The states below are fundamental to our well-being and maximum success and need to be an integral part of any UI’s we build.
The UI we are creating will be the hub into which the surging biometrics industry will plug itself. Heart rate, brainwaves, neurochemistry, blood chemistry, galvanic skin response, nutritional deficits, posture, and more will all plug into your personalized UI giving you a powerful sense of how you are doing and what if any problems are on the horizon.
Currently, we are still in the infancy of the wearables market, but rest assured, everything will become more elegant, more powerful and more invisible in the years to come. And…before long the only reason you’ll know you’re connected to biometric tech is because you’ll have their readouts in your UI.
Coming to Rest
The ability to come to rest is absolutely critical to mastering your self, your state of consciousness, and your awareness. It’s like a car idling in neutral. Coming to rest at will is one of the essentials for living a balanced and stable life while pursuing and integrating peak states into the natural course of your days.
Just as critical, anything that inhibits you being at rest is interrupting or preventing you from cultivating deep health and achieving optimal performance. Noticing when, where, and why you can’t come to rest makes you aware of behavioral viruses before they take root.
High Vibration & Flow State
While it may sound to the uninitiated like slang from New Agers or tripping hippies, it turns out that Navy SEALs and skilled Tibetan monks are achieving the highest frequency brain waves we know of (gamma) as part of their top performing feats. The experience of gamma waves (as well as other non-ordinary brainwave patterns) is an essential piece of personal illumination, problem solving, resolving (seeming) paradoxes, connection with the world beyond your skin, and deep learning.
The development and support of these states (At Rest, High Vibration & Flow) is critical to ensure everything in your life, including yourself, is running well.
Your Human Operating System
This is one of the most complicated pieces of what we are building because it represents the entirety of human awareness including all the essential areas of your body-brain and all fundamental habits. It’s everything under the proverbial hood. Due to its complexity I won’t attempt to delve into it in this post other than to say this: If you want long-lasting, stable happiness and high performance you need your entire Human Operating System (H.OS) in good working order. Your Human Operating System is a lot like your computer operating system — if all systems aren’t in good working order, the entire thing won’t work like it should. You want constant and unerring support in maintaining your entire Human Operating System.
Gauges for the important Stuff
What we decide is and is not important to have represented at the top level of our UIs will change with experience and demand. However, simple measures of how we’re feeling, as well as our health, play, work, love, and wakefulness will certainly play an important role in keeping us on point in the moment and aware of what we need to attend to in a given moment.
The more integrated our H.OS and UI becomes into our daily lives (plus the more support we get from AI in taking care of the stuff we don’t like — like bills), the more we’ll be freed up to engage the adventure of our lives. A big part of that adventure relates to what we are doing on any given day. A schedule tracker with various levels of detail (like a 3D calendar that can go from daily view to the yearly view with a click) will help us keep track of what needs doing without forcing us to be constantly tracking our time and schedules. Remember, an important part of good technology is that it allows us to be more engaged in life, not more engaged in technology.
Connectivity with the Larger System
Though I rarely use it, IFTTT is a really neat technology. For those of you who are unfamiliar, If This Then That provides simple rules that help technology streamline your life. For example, if I haven’t met my fitness goals, then I will get a notice reminding me to take a run. If I want to know the weather each day, then it will show up in the morning when I wake up. Simple If-Then equations allow me to set and forget some of the things that would otherwise cost me precious time.
Our UI’s need to do this for us. As AI comes online in greater strength and variety, it needs to be used to automate the stuff that distracts, detracts, or diverts our attention or energy from things that keep us in Flow and living our best lives.
These are the simplest and most obvious ways that technology can serve us. However, it gets much much better. Bureaucracy is almost always a major impediment to progress and problem solving. But when you are able to communicate global initiatives to millions of receptive individuals simultaneously, you instantly have a powerful system for change. In fact, by connecting millions of personal UI’s you naturally create a super-organism of connected humanity. Like this, once decided upon, a quick update in best practice behaviors for sustainable living, for example, can be adopted by millions immediately around the world.
This type of connectivity allows for deep coherence on the personal and global level. Lack of coherence is one of the major stresses in each of our lives. If you want to live sustainably, but you don’t have the time to find out what the best products and companies to support sustainability because you need to make money so your kids can eat, it means you have to ignore one of your values — either your kids or the environment. As the UI becomes more sophisticated it will be able to naturally suggest and integrate purchasing decisions and other behaviors that align with all of your values, creating deeper coherence in your life.
The Beauty of the Consciousness Hacking Renaissance
The Beauty of the Consciousness Hacking Renaissance is that now, not only can we share the How-To pieces of state access, but we can measure and approach them from multiple angles. Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheel’s latest book, Stealing Fire, is a must read to get a sense of the many approaches and players already involved.
As a professional psychonaut, I recently began using the Mark IV Ultracortex and Cyton Board from OpenBCI.com to measure my brainwaves. My initial experiments have simply been documenting the brainwaves of the states I visit regularly, the same states I’ve listed above, so that I can replicate them first for myself and then for others.
Since we are now developing the ability to measure states in terms of brainwaves, neurotransmitters, habits, subjective experiences, body states and more, we should be considering them all as we develop our UI.
A Few Words About Our Sponsors
No opening conversation about personal UI’s would be complete without mentioning two of the technologies that will be fundamental to their success. Virtual / Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence.
Both virtual and augmented reality are ultimately the only sensible medium in which to house our User Interfaces. In the next decade they will transform everything we know about ourselves and our world. Our phones and televisions will no longer be necessary. Our psychology will get an overhaul that makes current day “modern psychology” seem archaic by comparison. And much of this will be done through our UIs.
Though there will be plenty of 2D screen-based interfaces during the upcoming years, it will ultimately be the immersive experience of a Virtual or Augmented interface that will make “interfacing” with yourself and your life a reality. Part of this is because an interface feels more real when it’s part of our 3D environment. Another part is that the more immersively we can communicate with ourselves the faster and better we will be able to exchange information and learn.
As a poignant example, a recent trend in measuring the brain states of expert meditators has lead to a growing library of powerful states. Learning these states ourselves is made easier when there is less room for misunderstanding. So, the ability to replicate the same brainwaves, excite or inhibit targeted neural structures, and provide the right AV stimulation will all go a long way in making this possible. VR and AR help make this a reality. Meditators are using their auditory and visual senses even when their eyes are closed. AR & VR gives us the ability to replicate whatever it is they are experiencing — from amorphous sounds in 3-space to chakras to visions of light expanding out from their heart and into the world, thus creating a near-identical experience to the one they are having.
In the simplest terms, personal and collective success has largely to do with the number of good habits we have and bad habits we don’t have. The more we are dominated by our own good habits, the better we are at everything- including getting better at everything.
Though the number of habits we need to develop (or redevelop) in order to be healthy and optimally functioning is finite, there are enough that it’s hard to manage them all without some support.
Yes, maybe each of us will luck out like Eckhart Tolle and emerge illuminated overnight. I love that path. And him. But if we want to do this collectively, it will be easier if we just identify the critical habits of thought and behavior necessary to experience The Power of Now, and create technology that supports (rather than impedes) those habits.
AI will be necessary to support and track the myriad tasks necessary to make our very simple interface work and to provide the on-going support necessary for the more complex system of us to run efficiently and…beautifully. (More than ever before, our lives will become aesthetically driven.)
Early on this will just be lots of narrow band AI, like IFTTT — simple programs designed for simple tasks. But as these simple tasks and support systems are stitched together, eventually we will have a powerful, natural network that connects and elevates all of humanity.