Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates both recommend reading the same book about meditation for handling stress and uncertainty: “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by historian and philosopher, Yuval Noah Harari.
The book contains essays about the “future of humankind,” and how society is challenged and impacted by technology and information. Harari’s suggestion is to use meditation to address the many worries or anxieties that we may have about the future, including topics like climate change, terrorism, artificial intelligence and privacy.
“The trick for putting an end to our anxieties, [Harari] suggests, is not to stop worrying,” Gates wrote in a 2018 blog post. “It’s to know which things to worry about, and how much to worry about them.” For example, you should focus on the day’s challenges and think about what problems truly require our attention.
“Of course, he isn’t suggesting that the world’s problems will vanish if enough of us start sitting in the lotus position and chanting om,” Gates, who meditates two or three times a week for about 10 minutes each session, wrote in the blog. “But he does insist that life in the 21st century demands mindfulness—getting to know ourselves better and seeing how we contribute to suffering in our own lives.”
To people who’ve never meditated before, this strategy might sound a little far-fetched.
In a recent episode of “The Artificial Intelligence Podcast with Lex Fridman,” which aired on April 26, Dorsey explained how this philosophy can be applied to some of the issues that people encounter with using technology in daily life.
For example, Harari posits that young kids who grow up using Google might be learning to “off-load self-awareness” to computer programs and algorithms that can do the thinking and decision-making for them, Dorsey said on the podcast.
“His concern is that we lose that self-awareness because the self-awareness is now outside of us and it’s doing such a better job at helping us direct our decisions,” Dorsey said about Harari.
So how does meditation fit in here?
“He sees meditation as a tool to build the self-awareness and to bring the focus back on, ‘Why do I make these decisions? Why do I react in this way? Why did I have this thought? Where did that come from?'” Dorsey said.
Both Harari and Dorsey practice vipassana meditation, or “insight meditation,” a technique that focuses on observing and understanding thought patterns.
“I do two hours every day of meditation,” Harari told GQ in 2018. “I go to a lot of retreats, up to 60 days every year, and it works for me. I won’t say that it will work the same for everybody. Different techniques work for different for people.”
Dorsey also meditates for two hours daily, and has been on 10-day silent meditation retreats.
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