The Art of Cultivating Digital Wisdom

Digital Wisdom as I define it comprises three parts. The first is“know thyself;” the second “know the humans;” and the third is “know the machines.” Individuals, organisations and societies can work at developing these three domains to cultivate Digital Wisdom personally and collectively

Digital Wisdom is an important aspect of one of the five pillars of the Authentic Self: Mastery of the System. We as a species can inculcate a greater capacity to safely navigate the internet while retaining a strong sense of Embodied Presence and connection to our Authentic Self. Yet these things will not likely come naturally to us. Our species has not evolved to deal with the web’s constant influx of dopamine and adrenaline hits: its endless clickbaits, alerts, projections and insults, pervasive sexualisation and pornography, misinformation and disinformation. We have to begin to value Digital Wisdom, commit to it, practice it and embody it

Digital Wisdom indicates the degree to which a person is in conscious relationship with digital environments and technologies. That includes understanding the way that online technologies and environments function, and how best to respond to them. In order to have an advanced degree of Digital Wisdom we need to develop an awareness of both interoceptive and exteroceptive experience, including an essential understanding of biology and human behaviour; and the economic, political structures that constitute our society (online and offline)。

Digital Wisdom as I define it comprises three parts. The first is“know thyself;” the second “know the humans;” and the third is “know the machines.” Individuals, organisations and societies can work at developing these three domains to cultivate Digital Wisdom personally and collectively.[1]

Know Thyself

“Know thyself” is the foundational domain of Digital Wisdom. It entails coming to an experiential, embodied awareness of who you really are, and of what your true needs and values are. In other words, it is being able to embody the Authentic Self. It also necessitates understanding how your mind functions. That includes being conscious of your trigger points, personal issues and the possible trauma that underlies that. And it includes being able to bring yourself to mindful attention at will, which is the foundation which establishes the ability to access the moment of agency and to stand in your power.

        Deep self-awareness is the bedrock of Digital Wisdom, and it is what distinguishes it from many similar concepts like digital intelligence and digital awareness. Such concepts typically fail to encourage introspective wisdom. Yet I believe that without this crucial grounding in self-knowledge, simply teaching people about the functional features of online systems – like algorithms, echo chambers and disinformation – is insufficient.

Mindfulness helps us to return awareness to the body, and grants the ability to pull out of attachment to online spaces, at will. This is important, because without cognitive responsibility and the ability to witness our own thoughts and feelings, we tend to become identified with the mind and its contents. That not only retards our capacity to sense and feel our Authentic Selves, but it also makes us far more susceptible to online manipulation. The moment of agency passes unobserved for those with poor self-awareness.

Know the Humans

In order to foster Digital Wisdom, it is important that we develop an understanding of how we human beings function biologically and culturally. How and why do people behave the way they do online and offline, and how is our personal behavior connected to our common humanness? Armed with such knowledge, we can be better prepared both for our interactions with others online, and for the way online systems and technologies target our human traits and frailties. We have a tendency to judge behaviors in others that are also present in ourselves, so if we are able to recognize those common human imperfections, we can also learn to be more compassionate when we see others embodying such traits. 

Know the Machines

Know the machines” is about developing a competent understanding of how the internet and current information technologies function. I have already covered much about these in earlier parts of this book. In a sense this entire book is about knowing the machines.

Developing a functional understanding of technology is not a static skill set, as the technology is forever changing, along with the human cultures that are in relationship with. For example, at the time of writing, the arrival of Open AI and especially ChatGPT is heralding a seismic shift in the way we humans relate to technology, society and even to our own minds. This will inevitably lead to many great benefits; but as with all technologies, there will be many unanticipated impacts.

Knowing the machines is not about becoming a tech wiz. I am not talking about learning how to code or build a computer from scratch (like the two Steves: Jobs and Wozniak) or launch your own interstellar transport company like Elon Musk. No. I am talking about a practical awareness of how technologies and online spaces impact our bodies, minds and spirits.

This is an extract from Marcus T Anthony’s Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Digitized World.

[1] For more tools and ideas on how to maintain Embodied Presence in both online and offline environments, check out The Power and Presence Workbook.

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