This past weekend I went to Disneyland. Not the actual Disneyland, but my version of Disneyland. It was a conference called "Wisdom, 2.0" designed to address "the great challenge of our age: to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world."
Like a kid at "The Happiest Place on Earth," I wanted to go on every ride, eat every snack, go to every session and talk to every other speaker and everyone attending. And like many a Disneyfied kid, I was primed for a bad case of overstimulation leading to an eventual meltdown. Fortunately, given the nature of the conference, there were ample breaks for things like meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and healthy snacks. Which, of course, just left me that much more energized. I was in a mindfulness spiral!
The conference is in its third year, and its founder and host is Soren Gordhamer, who has dedicated himself to helping us find ways to tap into our inner wisdom even as we integrate more and more technology into our lives. This is also the topic of his book, "Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected." He also founded "The Lineage Project," a nonprofit to help incarcerated and at-risk teens. (I love the organization's slogan "We go inside to keep them out.")
We all know that technology is taking over practically every aspect of our lives - mostly for the better. But there is also a growing awareness that our increasing dependence on technology puts us at risk of becoming disconnected from ourselves.
Many of the "Wisdom 2.0" attendees and speakers were young enough to be digital natives, having been immersed in omnipresent technology for their entire lives. Most of them had already launched successful careers, and were at the stage where they're charging ahead and hitting their strides. Having spent a large part of their lives getting acquainted with the benefits of technology, they are now increasingly realizing the costs.
They're part of the growing awareness about the need for, well, growing awareness. Nobody is talking about going back to a pre-technology past, but there is plenty of talk about how many different ways there are to go forward. "We're done with this honeymoon phase and now we're in this phase that says, 'Wow, what have we done?'" said Gordhamer. "It doesn't mean what we've done is bad. There's no blame. But there is a turning of the page."
"It's this basic cultural recognition that people have a pathological relationship with their devices," said Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist who studies the science of self-control at Stanford's School of Medicine. "People feel not just addicted, but trapped."
At the same time, there is growing skepticism about the ability of Big Data -- the increasing use of heretofore unimaginable amounts of data -- to solve problems.
As Nassim Taleb writes, in a piece adapted from his new book, "Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder," "Big Data may mean more information, but it also means more false information."
And even when the information is not false, the problem, as Taleb puts it, "is that the needle comes in an increasingly larger haystack."
In addition, as David Brooks writes, "there are many things big data does poorly." Like, for instance, helping guide social interaction and decisionmaking about social relationships. These are core human functions, things we're driven to do and, in fact, things our brains are very good at -- when we allow them to be. For social decisions, Brooks writes, "it's foolish to swap the amazing machine in your skull for the crude machine on your desk."
For some things Big Data is great. But as it creates more and more noise, for our inner voice to be heard, what we need to go along with Big Data is Big Wisdom. Because while there are many areas in which more data will be useful, at the core of the really big problems we're facing, as we go from crisis to crisis -- many of them self-inflicted or manufactured -- (hello, sequestration!), isn't lack of data. It's lack of wisdom.
At the end of my talk at "Wisdom 2.0," Soren Gordhamer came on stage to interview me. Before we started, he said, "We're just gonna pause for a minute and let the audience digest some of what you just said . . . One of the things we try to do -- which isn't so easy at conferences -- is allow there to be some awesome content, but then allow there to be occasional pauses so that it can be digested." We're all programmed to be constantly on the lookout for ways to become more productive and more efficient that we forget that none of this is very useful of we don't pause to digest it.
Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is email@example.com.(c) 2013 Arianna Huffington. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.