As our devices merge with our bodies and minds, technology is becoming an extension of ourselves. Artificial intelligence has started to think and see for us, cyberspace is turning into our preferred habitation, and the virtual and the real are trading places. We are increasingly living together with artificial intelligence, as the techno-human world becomes ever more hybrid. No longer is creativity a purely human faculty – it is now partially animated by technology as a live medium. Human and AI are dreaming together and the resulting world is unpredictable because it has never before existed. While naming the realities of technologically-produced climate change on the horizon, we are also poised to consciously explore the edge of something entirely new as we stand at the threshold of the unimaginable.
What do our psychologies have to say about this? How is the cultural imagination digesting these radical changes? How do we live in a world with a virtual twin? Where do technologists see the need for caution? How can an understanding of the psyche play a part in designing the future? This conference will explore these questions. From the current impact of digital living, to pending innovations, to the prospect of a post-human world, psychologists, mythologists, and technologists will come together to discuss ways the human-machine relationship can proceed with mindful integrity and soulful concern. While we are still at the beginnings of this new development, that does not stop us from peering into the adjacent possibilities of what is to come and to discern vague contours. Together, let us dive head first into the future.
Featured Conference Presenters
Robert Bosnak Cyberspace Has Started Dreaming
Erik Davis A Brief History of Imaginal Machines
Adrienne Mayor Gods and Robots: Myths and Ancient Dreams of Technology
Jonnie Penn Artificial Intelligence: A Branch of Computer Science or Political Science?
Glen Slater Archetypes, Algorithms and Evolutionary Choices
Alia Aizenstat Screen Time and Adolescent Brain Development: Research and Therapeutic Tools
Michael Elliot, David Savlowitz, and Ryan Crowley A Technologist, Psychologist, and Philosopher discuss Techne, Soul, and Love in Actual and Virtual Culture
Elizabeth Nelson I Love my iPhone: The Extended Body in Cyberspace
Diana Pasulka Prometheus: From Myth to Reality?
Conference Learning Objectives
As a result of attending this program, participants will:
Critique supportive perspectives on technology which lack discernment about its human costs
Critique dismissive perspectives on technology which reject any inherent value
Identify parallels between virtual experience and dreaming
Identify the role of place in the efficacy of virtual experience
Conceptualize the role of the human body in the phenomenological experience of technology
A Brief History of Imaginal Machines Erik Davis, PhD
Even the most cursory look at the history of modern visual and electronic media (printed broadsheets, camera obscura, phantasmagoria, magic lantern, radio) makes it clear that media technologies have always been bound up with the imagination in its archetypal as well as cognitive senses. Media technologies not only mimic and extend the capacities of creative fantasy, but stir up the mythic figures and deep visionary aspirations of the mind. How should we conceive this relationship, and how is it changing today? While many have argued for the corrosive and parasitic effects of modern media on the soul, we may have no choice but to engage today’s imaginal machinescape directly in terms of archetypal and particularly shadow work.
Screen Time and Adolescent Brain Development: Research and Therapeutic Tools Alia Aizenstat, MA
This generation of digital natives, deemed “i-Gen,” spends little time facing boredom or engaging in imaginative play. Instead, the i-Gen is immersed in a digital world, bombarded by media and advertisements. Newer research demonstrates changes in brain development in young people that appear to be a result of this remarkable surge in time spent on screens each day. In this session, we will explore current research on screens and brain development and offer tools from the Virtual Identities Integration Treatment (VIIT) model to empower youth and families to make choices about their digital use. The aim is to utilize technology as a tool over which they have control; to reduce time spent immersed in the digital world and to spend more time imagining, experiencing, exploring, and dreaming the world forward.
Cyberspace has Started Dreaming Robert Bosnak, PhD
As in the Australian Aboriginal Dream Time, Cyberspace too dreams itself. Cyberspace-dreaming-itself is becoming a mixed reality with virtual presences as the new Ancestors creating its features, presenting a sense of place provisionally called the Mirrorworld – true creative imagination consisting of mirror images without a mirror. Wrapped within the physical realm it consists of visual and auditory virtual elements through lenses, earphones, and tactile interface. Because Mirrorworld has a sense of place, it will make virtual healing sanctuaries possible. How do we build them and what are their essential components? What have we learned from in-depth study of night time dreaming? Here, Robert Bosnak explores this Mirrorworld as a Fourth Reality: the animation of physicality and creativity, mind and spirit, imagination and cyber-dreaming.
I Love my iPhone: The Extended Body in Cyberspace Elizabeth Èowyn Nelson, PhD
Augmented intelligence, a symbiosis of human and machine cognition, decisively shapes our self-concept and well-being, for better and for worse. Consider, for instance, the number of people who report “phantom limb syndrome” when they are deprived of their smartphone or who are incapable of navigating city streets unless Siri coaches them step-by-step. Since digital tools can literally accompany us everywhere, many people spend more time with their tech than they do with loved ones, and signify this intimacy through personalizing as well as personifying their devices. The psychological implications are profound, particularly if we agree with Marshal McLuhan who, in 1964, warned us to regard any technology as an active shaping process, affecting our lives not through the content it delivers but in how it influences daily habits, practices, desires, and patterns of thought. Is it even possible to imagine the power of a technology that is like another limb?
Gods and Robots: Myths and Ancient Dreams of Technology Adrienne Mayor, PhD
Who first imagined robots, animated statues, automatons, and Artificial Intelligence? The surprising answer is that long before technology made self-moving devices possible, concepts of artificial life and qualms about replicating nature were explored in ancient mythology. Beings that were “made, not born” feature in myths about Jason and the Argonauts, the bronze robot Talos, the sorceress Medea, the genius craftsman Daedalus, the fire-bringer Prometheus, and Pandora, the artificial woman created by Hephaestus, the god of technology. As the earliest expressions of the timeless impulse to create artificial life, these mythologies reveal imagination as the spirit uniting myth and science.
Artificial Intelligence: A Branch of Computer Science or Political Science? Jonnie Penn
Since the days of ancient Greece, the definition of intelligence has been used to justify the natural domination of one group over another, most often by men of ‘noble’ birth over women, slaves, and animals. In this talk, I explore that phenomenon in relation to the intellectual network that established the field of artificial intelligence in the United States in the mid-twentieth century. I situate the origins of AI, the academic discipline, in broader histories of statistical and informational technologies used to control and encode human behavior from the eighteenth century through to today.
Prometheus: From Myth to Reality? Diana Pasulka
In Greek myth, Prometheus was a Titan, an immortal being, who provided humankind with fire, and thus technology – the ability to progress human civilization. This angered the gods, and subsequently, he was punished by being tied to a rock with his liver eaten out for eternity by an eagle. This horrific narrative is replicated in the “Modern Prometheus” of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Today, the myth of Prometheus survives among a cadre of biotechnologists from Silicon Valley, and programs which claim to obtain technologies from non-human extraterrestrial intelligence. The strange difference between the myth of the Prometheus and this modern variation is that these scientists actually create viable technologies that change society in tangible ways. We will explore their worlds and try to place this narrative within historical context. However, it appears unprecedented. What could this possibly mean?
Archetypes, Algorithms and Evolutionary Choices Glen Slater, PhD
The posthuman promise to unite humans and machines has all the signs of a vastly influential religious movement, born of a widespread technophilia. Meanwhile, our migration into cyberspace and mechanistic approach to existence are generating a number of psychological maladies. For the second time in recent history, a rupture in the psyche-world relationship compels us to bring more consciousness to our use of technology. This presentation exposes the spiritual crisis behind posthumanism, and explores the attempt to exchange the archetypal basis of mind for a computational intelligence. It shows how algorithms and augmentation are leaving parts of the soul to atrophy. Countering these trends will require a co-creative way forward, wherein future design merges with natural patterning and virtual worlds account for deeply human realities.
Stephen Aizenstat, PhD, is the Chancellor and Founding President of Pacifica Graduate Institute. He is a professor of depth psychology, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a credentialed public schools teacher and counselor. Dr. Aizenstat has explored the potential of dreams through depth psychology and his own research for more than 35 years. His Dream Tending methodologies extend traditional dreamwork to the vision of an animated world where the living images in dream are experienced as embodied and originating in the psyche of Nature as well as that of persons. His book, Dream Tending, describes new applications of dreamwork in relation to health and healing, nightmares, the World’s Dream, relationships, and the creative process. For more information, visit dreamtending.com.
Alia Aizenstat, MA, is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Associate and Professional Clinical Counselor Associate who works both in private practice and as a Lead Group Facilitator at AHA!, a non-profit organization educating teens on emotional intelligence and social justice. Alia is the author of Psychotherapy in the Digital Age: The Integration of Online Identities in the Therapeutic Process, and the founder of the Virtual Identities Integration Treatment model. She is an international lecturer and has been working to implement psychoeducational segments on digital responsibility into schools and therapeutic treatment centers.
Robert Bosnak, PhD, is an internationally noted Jungian psychoanalyst with 45 years of experience. He pioneered the Embodied Imagination® (EI) method that is being used worldwide for psychotherapy and medical healing. He has now extended this approach to accessing the creative imagination in science, business and the arts. At M.I.T. the Embodied Imagination method was developed for actors and those in the arts and developed further at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. At Stanford University it was “workshopped” for engineers. And it has been used by therapists and physicians in medical contexts. The Embodied Imagination method has also has been applied to business problems with startling results. Robert Bosnak is the author of multiple books, including the classic Little Course in Dreams appearing in 12 languages. He is past president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams and is a novelist whose novels have been published in multiple languages. He teaches alchemical psychology online at www.jungplatform.com
Erik Davis, PhD, is an author, podcaster, award-winning journalist, and popular speaker based in San Francisco. He grew up in North County, Southern California, and spent a decade on the East Coast, where he studied literature and philosophy at Yale and spent six years in the freelance trenches of Brooklyn and Manhattan before moving to San Francisco. He is the author of four books: Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica (Yeti, 2010), The Visionary State: A Journey through California’s Spiritual Landscape (Chronicle, 2006), with photographs by Michael Rauner, and the 33 1/3 volume Led Zeppelin IV (Continuum, 2005). His first and best-known book remains TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information (Crown, 1998), a cult classic of visionary media studies that has been translated into five languages and recently republished by North Atlantic Press. He wrote the libretto for and performed in “How to Survive the Apocalypse,” a Burning Man-inspired rock opera. He has hosted the podcast Expanding Mind on the Progressive Radio Network since 2010, and earned his PhD in Religious Studies from Rice University in 2015.
Michael Elliot, PhD, serves as core faculty in Pacifica’s Masters in Counseling Psychology program. Dr. Elliott has been in private practice as a psychologist treating individuals, couples, and families for over 20 years and has supervised trainees and interns in Marriage and Family Therapy as well as Clinical Psychology. Dr. Elliott is the Founding Director of, and current consultant to, the nationally recognized Auxiliary Studies Program in Orange County California treating secondary school students with learning and behavior disorders. He has conducted workshops and presented papers at various conferences including the American Psychological Association. His publications include: The Art and Soul of Couples and Family Therapy in the CAMFT publication, The Therapist, in June 2013, and The Unmotivated Child: A Crisis in Perception, in The Sky Is The Limit, a bi-monthly journal for Learning Disabilities, in January 1998. Dr. Elliott is currently finishing his first book, Dreaming Of A Pregnant Bird: The Art, Philosophy, And Practice Of Imaginal Psychology.
Adrienne Mayor, PhD(Hon.), is a folklorist and historian of ancient science who investigates natural knowledge contained in pre-scientific myths and oral traditions. Her research looks at ancient “folk science” precursors, alternatives, and parallels to modern scientific methods. She is Berggruen Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, 2018-2019. Mayor’s latest book, Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology investigates how the Greeks imagined automatons, replicants, and Artificial Intelligence in myths and later designed self-moving devices and robots. Mayor’s 2014 book, The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World, analyzes the historical and archaeological evidence underlying myths and tales of warlike women. Mayor’s two books on pre-Darwinian fossil traditions in classical antiquity and in Native America have opened up a new field within geomythology, and her book on the origins of biological weapons uncovered the ancient roots of biochemical warfare. The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy won top honors (Gold Medal) for Biography, Independent Publishers’ Book Award 2010, and was a 2009 National Book Award Finalist. Mayor’s fossil legend research is featured in the National Geographic children’s book The Griffin and the Dinosaur (by M. Aronson, 2014).
Elizabeth Nelson, PhD, has been a member of Pacifica’s core faculty since 2003. She specializes in scholarly writing, research process and strategy, methodology, and dissertation development and also teaches courses in dream, imagery, and cultural studies. Her own research interests include personal and cultural expressions of the shadow, gender, and power, with a particular devotion to dangerous women in text, film, and life. Elizabeth has bridged her professional experience in technology with her background in literature and expertise in depth psychology to teach courses on the profound impact of digital technology. Elizabeth is the author of two books, The Art of Inquiry: A Depth Psychological Perspective, coauthored with Joseph Coppin, which is now in its third edition (Spring Publications, 2017). Her second book is Psyche’s Knife: Archetypal Explorations of Love and Power (Chiron, 2012). Prior to her teaching career, Dr. Nelson worked with Silicon Valley startups for 18 years as a professional writer, editor, and marketing consultant.
Diana Walsh Pasulka, PhD, is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Her research focuses on religion and technology, including supernatural belief and its connections to digital technologies and environments. She is author of American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology (Oxford University Press). Her current projects include two edited volumes, Believing in Bits: New Media and the Supernatural, co-edited with Simone Natalie and forthcoming with Oxford University Press, and Post Humanism: The Future of Homo Sapiens, co-edited with Michael Bess and forthcoming with Palgrave MacMillan Reference. www.americancosmic.com
Jonnie Penn is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a sought-after keynote speaker, a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a Rausing, Williamson and Lipton Trust doctoral scholar researching artificial intelligence at the University of Cambridge. He is currently an Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. Formerly, he was a MIT Media Lab Assembly Fellow, Google Technology Policy Fellow, Fellow of the British National Academy of Writing (Pembroke College, Cambridge), and television personality. www.jonniepenn.com
Glen Slater, PhD, is a Core faculty member at Pacifica Graduate Institute and Associate Chair of the Depth Psychology Program with Specialization in Jungian and Archetypal Studies. He has taught Jungian and archetypal psychology for over twenty years and contributed a number of articles to Jungian journals and essay collections. Glen edited and introduced the third volume of James Hillman’s Uniform Edition, Senex & Puer, as well as a volume of essays by Pacifica faculty, The Varieties of Mythic Experience.
Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Ladera Lane Campus
801 Ladera Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93108
Continuing Education Credit:
This program meets qualifications for 5 hours of continuing education credit for Psychologists through the California Psychological Association (PAC014) Pacifica Graduate Institute is approved by the California Psychological Association to provide continuing education for psychologists. Pacifica Graduate Institute maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Full attendance is required to receive a certificate.
This course meets the qualifications for 5 hours of continuing education credit for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and/or LEPs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Pacifica Graduate Institute is approved by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (#60721) to sponsor continuing education for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and/or LEPs. Pacifica Graduate Institute maintains responsibility for this program/course and its content. Full attendance is required to obtain a certificate.
For Registered Nurses through the California Board of Registered Nurses this conference meets qualifications of 5 hours of continuing education credit are available for RNs through the California Board of Registered Nurses (provider #CEP 7177). Full attendance is required to obtain a certificate.
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