1000 Years of Kindness

Giving attention to what matters most.

All relationships are rooted in the exchange of attention. Technology connects us, but it’s often in a shallow and distracted way. Each day, we collectively devote millions of hours to social networking, yet the quality of our lives and relationships seems to suffer.

Rather than invite distraction, what if a smartphone could help you give your full attention? What would happen if each day, every person with a smartphone, even if just for a moment, practiced giving their full attention? How long would it take to generate 1000 years worth of attention?

1000 Years of Kindness came to me as a way to explore these questions. My vision is to build a platform for people to share collective intentions, and make dedications of time and attention to intentions they support. The power of intention has been well documented by scientists and sages alike. When a person holds an intention in their mind, that aspiration is more likely to be realized. When a large number of people join together to support a common intention, the effect is magnified.

The heart of this project is a mobile app which facilitates giving attention in the form of a movement mediation. Any physical activity can serve as a dedication of your time and attention. You could dance, walk, or just manipulate the smartphone in your hand. For the duration of the dedication, you focus on the movement and on the intention. As long as the device in motion, time is contributed to the given intention. Physical rituals of dedication are common in spiritual traditions, but nothing like this has ever been attempted using modern technology.

Intentions are created and shared on a companion website. Data collected from the app drives the content on the website, which will take design inspiration from highly successful sites like Kickstarter, and Crowdrise. Rather than campaigning to raise money for a project or charity, people would promote collective intentions in order to raise attention. Anyone can create an intention. As long as the intention is not harmful, and people want to support it, then it will be welcome. Some intentions will be very personal, such as a loved one recovering from illness, while others will address global social and environmental challenges. The site will integrate with existing social networks, making sharing intentions with friends and family simple.

Stories, images, and video will make intentions more meaningful. Once an intention is live, the names and locations of people supporting it would be displayed in real time, along with all the participation statistics. To create a sense of urgency (and keep the site from getting cluttered) intentions no longer receiving support eventually come to a close

Some intentions will ‘go viral’. The most popular intentions, along with ones sourced from special individuals (imagine a popular spiritual teacher, celebrity, or thought leader contributing an intention) would be showcased. This is a tremendous opportunity to expose what people really care about, and test the power of intention in a very real way.

Time devoted to each intention will also count towards the goal of generating 1000 years of “kind” attention. The progress towards this meta-intention will be a focal point of the website, and will encourage everyone who participates to feel they’ve contributed in a meaningful way. An important message of the site will be that every moment matters.

Our attention is the greatest gift we have to give each day. Technology today usually divides and dilutes our attention, but I don’t believe it has to be this way. I want to prove that not only can a technology help us cultivate attention, but it can provide a means for giving it fully, connecting us deeply, and changing the world.

There have been a few attempts to use technology to leverage the ‘power of intention’. Lynne McTaggart, who has written extensively about the science of intention, launched www.theintentionexperiment.com, which serves up weekly group intentions. Malika Chopra created www.intent.com, a site where people can create and share intentions with over 2 million registered users. 1000 Years of Kindness, while similarly inspired, stands apart in a couple ways.

First, the mobile app will provide real time metrics of exactly who is devoting time to what intention. This data will provide motivating feedback for users, and driving the rich social layer of the project. For example, within the app you can see how much time you have personally dedicated to each intention, as well as the collective total amongst all users who share that intention. The Intention Experiment lacks any feedback or metrics whatsoever.

Second, participation in 1000 Years of Kindness involves both an online component (creating and sharing intentions), as well as a meaningful real world experience via the mobile app. Intent.com, on the other hand, uses ‘clicks’ to measure support, a very shallow user experience.

How Will It Meet the 1440 Foundation Objectives?

1000 Years of Kindness will allow people to share their full attention with each other, and in turn experience a depth of connection not readily found in digital technology. I want to provide people with an intentional, altruistic, non-information based alternative to the information-rich, self-centric, apps we regularly turn to on our smartphones. I believe there is an opportunity here to harness the power of intention on the scale of modern social networking, allowing friends (and strangers) to act together in service of a specific individual, cause, or idea. In doing so I hope people will realize the value of their attention, and reflect on where they are directing it.

As for the four relationship skills defined by the 1440 Foundation, let me be explicit as to how this project will address them:

  1. The act of consciously directing one’s full attention (which is central to the app experience) is a proven method for fostering greater self-awareness.
  2. The most successful intentions will no doubt be the ones that come from an authentic place. In this way, authenticity will be implicitly encouraged.
  3. The website will be a ‘safe space’ where each visitor will be encouraged to share and support intentions close to their heart. Engaging in this process will require, and generate, unspoken trust among the participants.
  4. Supporting an idea or cause with monetary donations serves an important purpose, but it isn’t always appropriate or financially possible. 1000 Years of Kindness will be a non-monetary outlet for empathic energy, a way to express and practice empathy through technology.

The Team

MICHAEL HIGHLAND (www.michaelhighland.com) – That’s me! Every day I endeavor to better understand my relationship with reality, and realize novel ways for technology to transform consciousness. I’ve built all kinds of apps, games, and websites, and last year I co-founded Futureproof (www.iamfutureproof.com), a software company exploring how to bring greater awareness, intention, and well-being to our relationship with technology. I hold a bachelors degree in Science and Engineering, with a concentration in Digital Media Design from the University of Pennsylvania.

Additionally, I have invited a few wise friends to act as advisors for this project should it receive backing.

MARILYN SCHLITZ, PhD, is Ambassador of Creative Projects and Global Affairs at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. As a scientist andanthropologist, she has pioneered clinical, laboratory, and field-based research in the areas of consciousness, human transformation and healing. A researcher, speaker, change consultant, and writer, she has extensive background in study of attention and intention as it relates to transformative practices.

 

KAREN GIFFORD has been involved in the start-up world in the Bay Area in various capacities since she relocated there almost nine years ago. She is an investor in several startups, including Twitter, and serves as an advisor at 3taps, a data visualization related start-up. She studied and practiced meditation in a yogic tradition for more than ten years, and recently began teaching meditation.

 

GINO YU, PhD, is currently an Associate Professor and Director of Digital Entertainment and Game Development in the School of Design at PolyU. His main area of research focuses on the application of media technologies to cultivate creativity and promote enlightened consciousness.

Development Map

A rough breakdown of project components in chronological order:

  • Database Backend (200 hours)
  • iOS Mobile App (300 hours)
  • Website (300 hours)
  • Beta Testing / Quality Control (100 hours)
  • Marketing and Promotion (100 hours)
  • Heroku rails cloud hosting for first year ($600-$1200)

That’s a total of 1000 hours to build and launch the project. At $20 an hour (my minimum rate) the cost of the project is $20,000. I am inclined to take on as much of the work as possible myself as the developers I work with run $50 – $100 an hour. The remaining $5,000 of the award would be reserved for hiring additional development help and covering running costs of the site for as long as possible.

Working alone, this project would take approximately 6 months.

Long term I will have to seek other sources of support to keep the site up and running. This could include charging a small amount ($1) to post a new intention or asking for donations through the site.