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First published in The Times of India

The irony of our age is that we’re working towards machines becoming human, and humans becoming machines!

Recently, I was exercising with a friend. Let’s call him Mr. Spaceship-Shoes for today. Why? He was outfitted with swank gadgets all over. Polaroid heart-rate monitor strapped around his wrist- which also tracked sleep-patterns and stored music; temperature-control sportswear; even his shoes were synced with his iPhone and could track steps and calories! Not to mention that these shoes (costing a fortune) were fitted with air-pumps and hydraulic-pumps and literally half a fire-engine built into it!

It was quite entertaining, really! Mr. Spaceship-Shoes insisted on following an app-based workout, which requires one to perform preset exercises at a specific heart-rate. All very scientific and futuristic. It was fun, until disaster hit.

All of a sudden, Mr.Spaceship-Shoes turned beetroot shade, gasping and clutching his abdomen. He had developed a crippling cramp, dizziness, breathing trouble and exhaustion. He crumpled into a heap. I recognized this could be a reaction to common issues such as dehydration and heat-stroke, heart trouble, blood sugar crash etc.

Two doctors were at hand, and soon ascertained this to be a case of dehydration. My friend hadn’t paid attention to his water intake during exercise. What’s more troubling, dehydration symptoms don’t lightning-strike you. It has a slow onset. If you pay attention to your body, it continuously gives you signals – excess heat and burning sensation on your skin, parched throat, fatigue, increasing headache and dizziness etc.

But my friend was too dependant on his gadgets to instruct him during his workout, too distracted to tune into his own body for guidance and feedback.

In THIS particular case, Mr.Spaceship-Shoes had allowed Machine Intelligence to distract him from Self-Intelligence – a worrying phenomenon that is increasing day after day.

We workout, meditate etc. to RECONNECT with our body, mind and spirit– for well-being. Not to DISCONNECT with ourselves. Our body is a better guide to our health than any tracker, and it SO important to pay attention to our natural body intelligence, hunches and feelings to heal and strengthen ourselves.

Technology doesn’t have the answer to everything. Our lives are a negotiation between mind, body and spirit. Technology CAN NEVER replace self-knowledge and self-intimacy, a lack of which is the root of chronic physical illness as well as emotional trauma.

I am not against the progress of technology for better health programming, let me emphasize this. In fact, I believe it is necessary and inevitable. However, my belief is that these technologies should COMPLEMENT and not REPLACE our personhood, our natural biological response system, our abilities to tune into our body & spirit for HOLISTIC well-being. Ancient intelligence is still stored in our DNA, and we carry a vital piece of the cosmos within. It becomes dangerous when metrics and technological identities are imposed on humans.

Throughout history, humans have had the experience of knowing more than what’s perceived by their five senses – an implicit knowledge, energy sensitivities, intuition. We have been losing touch with the crucial information that mind-body-spirit is constantly trying to convey, and this wreaks havoc in our lives.

Desire, ambition, art, creativity, gut instincts, love, empathy, ability to create beauty, to rise from the ashes of our losses – are just some of the tools in our arsenal which are unmatched.

Have you heard of intuitive eating? Not mindless temptation where you grab at everything... but a deeper, more soulful sense of knowing what clean-energy foods to eat to nourish yourself. What if you tuned in to your body-clock and bio-rhythms so intimately that waking at sunrise becomes natural and resting at sunset does too, with no need for a gadget to tell you that you haven’t slept enough? What if you worked out like UFC Fighters – the world’s FITTEST athletes, who PREDOMINANTLY train barefoot and gadget-free in martial art style, to find innate strength and functionality? Or like a yogi who depends on breath, muscle reaction and gut-instinct to tell her how to flow! Back when fad diets didn’t even exist, you knew when you were hungry, when to gulp water, and when to rest as your body was tired. Get schooled by your mind-body-spirit and let your wellness and happiness soar.

Take a moment to close your eyes NOW, take a deep breath... how does it feel to embody your divine humanity?

Again, I’m not against gadgets. In medical diagnostics, medical engineering etc., kudos to the technology saving lives. My thoughts here are more oriented towards commercial consumer gadgets. Is it wise to blindly begin a quest for optimum health powered by data, sensors & algorithms, prodding us all night and day, until we achieve the perfect health-score? What about the importance self-reflection, self-awareness, compassion, conversation and connecting with nature for deep healing? We need to stay awake to the subtle changes in our own bodies.

Recognize that most consumer technologies are secondary tools, and YOU come first. Don’t let the noise of gadgets drown YOU out. Gadgets are fun. They even motivate people to get started on healthcare routines. But it is also scientifically proven that such consumer products alone provide only short-term motivation and eventually, if you haven’t found intrinsic connection to wellness, you will fall back to old tracks. In other words, gadgets only work if YOU do. Use machine intelligence MINDFULLY – to enhance your life and goals – not to wipe out your self-intelligence. And we can never overrule errors in gadget readings as well, at times. When we remember all of this, technology can certainly assist us in better designing our routines.

Our bodies are living vehicles for our spirits, and science is only just unravelling it’s mysteries. We can improve health and mind-body performance, prevent chronic illness, and heal injuries by working with our mental and spiritual energies alongside medical/alternative treatments – for holistic healing.

Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Albert Einstein- all geniuses– consciously leveraged soulfulness and body-intelligence. Steve Jobs repeatedly said that intuition wasn’t just potent, it was “more powerful than intellect.” Most men shy away from allowing any feelings or intuition to influence business dealings, while the topmost achievers clearly chose to operate from a different manual. They were also kings of technology - highly practical people who employed rigorous analysis and science. But in the end, they acted on their hunches, and relied on feelings to indicate the best choice.

There will always be sceptics to such ideas. But several researches in USA and UK has revealed that 90% of people believe in a higher form of intelligence that humanity has access to. And Indian numbers would be higher, considering that 81% believe in religion (TOI).

Mental health is degrading these days mainly due to loss of connection with oneself and with other people. Social awkwardness is rampant, as people spend more time with machines than with other humans. Medical communities have been wanting to reframe ‘loneliness’ as a psychological disorder. This is the pinnacle we have reached, growing up untrained to show compassion towards each other, and we now need doctors to treat ‘loneliness’.

It is time that more people stepped up to research, study and advocate Self-Intelligence, as much as Machine Intelligence.


- By Sindhujaa Kumar, MD (A.M)

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