From LSD short trips to the selfie generation: at the 14th European Trend Day, internationally renowned guests spoke about the growing markets of self-optimisation. A summary.
We should not just improve existing services, but see what the advancing technology can do. We in Europe are far too scared, far too discouraged about the future. We don't need wiseacres, but people who act. We must be mercilessly honest with ourselves, because by collecting data about ourselves we learn more and more what our weaknesses are. "Biofeedback is the new black" and biohacking is a shortcut to happiness. A new business model is developing: data-wellness.
Steven Kotler: "We are all biologically hard-wired for flow"
Flow is the source of maximum human performance and the optimal state of consciousness. In flow, mental and physical performance increases many times over. The prerequisite to get into this highly productive state is 90 to 120 minutes of undisturbed concentration. Almost every sports champion uses flow to achieve maximum performance. Creativity there increases by up to 400%. There are 20 triggers to get into the flow, including novelty, risk, passion and clear goals. At outdoor outfitter Patagonia, employees can leave the office at any time to go surfing and get into the flow. The Montessori education model also uses the flow principle. We are all biologically hard-wired for flow. We must learn to recover actively. Watching TV or drinking alcohol offers no recreation. People with the highest life satisfaction experience the most flow moments in their lives.
Paul Austin: "The main problem today with psychedelics is a lack of psychedelic literacy"
Psychedelics can solve problems. The main problem today, however, is a lack of psychedelic literacy. With his initiative "The Third Wave" Austin wants to improve the image of psychedelics and inform about the consciousness-expanding substances. Many people today miss an opportunity to change their lives for the better. However, if synthetic drugs are to be tested in microdoses, it is important to have a target. You should know exactly why you're trying them. More creativity, mindfulness, reduced social phobias, an increased focus are some of the positive effects. Increased impulsivity is a negative one. Psychedelics are becoming increasingly popular and it is time to take them seriously.
Neil Harbisson: "Merging with technology doesn't bring you closer to technology. It brings you closer to nature"
New technologies are slowly becoming part of our identity. Harbisson overcame his colour blindness with his technical extension, a sensor screwed into the skull. He can now hear colors in different frequencies. Five people can send colors directly into his head via the Internet, so he "hears" the sunset in Japan. The future of the Internet is defined by how we use it as a sensory extension of ourselves. In the future we could send our senses into space without travelling there ourselves. It's about artificial senses, not artificial intelligence. Harbisson wanted to become technology, and not just use it. His latest project: an implant that gives him a different perception of time. Surgery that changes our species will soon become legal. Already today we are psychologically one with technology via our smartphones. We're already psychological cyborgs, so the step to biological cyborgs isn't far. Through his infrared perception, Harbisson can see whether the body temperature of his counterpart is decreasing or rising. Merging with technology doesn't bring you closer to technology. It brings you closer to nature.
Joanna Marchant: "Placebo research really emphasizes the importance of care"
Painkillers are much less effective if we don't know we're taking them. The placebo effect also has an effect with drugs used in traditional medicine. But even if patients know that they are taking placebos, the pills administered have an effect. Today you can order placebos online. The psychological response to placebos triggers different mechanisms in the body. Big pills or pink pills work better as placebos than blue pills. Even if blood sugar levels, kidney function or bone fractures cannot be cured only by a positive attitude, improvements have been proven, for example in altitude sickness, pain and migraine. Only the knowledge that one is beeing cared for helps some people to feel better. Placebo research really emphasizes the importance of care. Virtual reality games today help burn victims by letting them imagine themselves in a snow world. There they feel their pain as not so intense any more. Perhaps it is not the pharmaceutical companies that will bring new therapies onto the market, but the gaming industry.
Anna Bjurstam: "We are living in a reality of illusion"
New technologies help us, but they are also a source of misinformation. We are living in a reality of illusion. The vice president of Six Senses Spa believes in small steps for long-lasting positive effects on the body. Science and technology are changing the wellness industry. Bjurstam's Spa Resorts offer rooms to scream in and pillows for crying, sleep measurement, virtual reality glasses and jet-lag apps.
Verena Buchinger-Kähler: "Fasting is the antipole to modern narcissism"
Fasting is more than renunciation. The Buchinger-Klinik promotes lifestyle medicine. Fasting for 16 hours activates healing processes in the body. Oxidative stress and inflammation are reduced. Fasting creates a toxic environment for tumor cells, and sensitizes cells to chemotherapy. We should not ignore the high social component of fasting. In fasting we are all the same. Why is fasting trendy? Because it's the complete opposite of modern medicine. Fasting is the expression of the desire for a long and high-quality life. Fasting is the antipole to modern narcissism, because we must refer to our inner self, and should not be directed outwards.
Stefano Mancuso: "Plants cannot walk away when facing a problem – they need to find a solution"
95 to 97.5 % of the earth's biomass is produced by plants. Plants are smarter than we think. They scan their environment and create an image of their physical environment. There are social and non-social plants. Plants also play with each other. Plants can't just run away when facing a problem. They have to find a solution, for example for drought or enemies. And plants found the solution to a variety of problems. Plants have more than 20 senses. Whether our brain is an evolutionary advantage will only become apparent at the end of the existence of our species. A species exists for an average of five million years. Homo sapiens only lasts 300,000 years so far.
Will Storr: "In order to change who we are, we need to change our social environment"
European individualism was born in ancient Greece. Because the land was not suitable for agriculture, it was a place of small shops. To operate these, you had to be a hustler. The self became the potential. Here we still differ from East Asian peoples, who see the world in a more collectivist perspective. Who are we today? We're neoliberals. In competition with everyone else, we have to be completely convinced of ourselves in order to win. Everyone strives for perfection. Eating disorders, depression, suicides are on the increase. Social media doesn't help. Through them we constantly compare ourselves with others. To change who we are, we need to change our social environment. There are signs that neoliberalism is coming to an end. Leftists demand more regulation, Trump heralds a protectionist era. Change is coming. Whether it will make us less self-obsessed remains to be seen.
Norbert Bolz: "The 'Pursuit of Happiness' becomes the 'Happiness of Pursuit'"
The concept of concern for oneself already existed in ancient times. The difference to the individualism of today: at that time it was about universal recognition of all and excellence through performance. Today the individualism of arbitrariness applies: "I am the way I am." It's about worrying about yourself, about your own body. Today we have an incredibly increased concept of health. If you put on such a high scale, you can only get scratches. Good living is always a combination of ethics and dietetics. The economy offers us a cosmetic of existence. The "pursuit of happiness" becomes the "happiness of pursuit": We are constantly striving, looking for ways, always have new projects. This creates moments of happiness. The functional equivalent of happiness is disaster. If you escape it, you come very close to happiness.