I was talking to my wife Chee Huey, and talking through about the different opportunities that have come up through my connections and LinkedIn.

All in all, it feels a bit frazzling, as it seems like I’m pulled in all directions.

And my wife suggested that I AM pulled in all directions. She suggested that it might be useful for me to write down, for myself, what do I want to do out of my remaining time (two years from Oct 2022 to Oct 2024), what do I want to “get out of this”. So that is what this write-up is about.

Dharma, Design & Digital – the intersection area I want to explore

The motivation for my two year sabbatical came from a conversation with my wife. She asked me what I would like to do if I was given a magic wand and money wasn’t a concern. I told her that I would want to focus on learning programming, so that I can build digital applications, designed using principles from the Dharma.

Essentially, I want to explore the intersection of these three Ds:

venn diagram of three circles: Digital, Design, Dharma, with the intersection highlighted.

  • Digital – digital technologies
  • Design – human centred interaction design
  • Dharma – principles from the Buddha Dharma (& Vinaya)

This is very abstract, so let me illustrate with a couple of examples:

  1. As a hypothetical example, using the Dharma principle of substitution to remove unwholesome thoughts (see part I here), imagine that there is an email client application with sentiment analysis & a ML facial-expression recognition model (which doesn’t capture your face but registers your supposed emotions).

    One day, you receive an email from an annoying guy named PJ, who doesn’t seem to understand what you wrote, and repeatedly asks questions that are so annoying. As you reply with a lot of caps and double punctuation (“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, PJ??”), sentiment analysis indicates you might be angry. This is confirmed by the facial-expression recognition ML model, which captures your frown. It might even capture you flipping the bird at the screen, like this project.When you click “send”, suddenly there is a pop-up playing a funny cat video for 1 minute (and only 1 minute). The cat is drinking water from its owner’s shower, and that makes you laugh!Then the application asks you “You seemed a bit angry. Are you sure you want to send off the email?” And you still have the option to send this angry email to PJ. But the substitution of the 1 min funny cat video changed your mood, and disrupted your angry self righteousness.Suddenly, the email doesn’t seem like a good idea anymore, and you redraft the email before sending it out.

  2. Another Dharma principle which I want to explore, is to be mindful of my thoughts, and to mindfully prompt myself whether my mind state is wholesome or unwholesome. This is a direct teaching from the Buddha, to learn to divide one’s thoughts into two kinds, wholesome or unwholesome.

    So imagine a phone app that randomly buzzes, and prompts me through the day, to ask whether my mind state is wholesome or unwholesome for the past hour.And at the end of the day, it shows me whether my mind state is generally wholesome or unwholesome, like this:

screenshot of a tally of the daily no of bright stones and dark stones, with a graph showing a weekly tally of bright stones and dark stones

There are a few considerations for me

  • while I understand the Buddha-Dharma and Design pretty well, I can’t really make my own apps, because I haven’t learned how to code. I’ve tried no-code tools, and while they are great for making quick prototypes, the fact that many of these apps are on proprietary platforms rather than open programming languages makes me extremely uncomfortable: what happens if the no-code platform goes bankrupt because they don’t get funding?So, learning to code is quite important for me
  • the idea of dogfooding is quite important. From the book Dream Machine:

    One thing (Bob Taylor) definitely liked and put into practice was a style of research that could be paraphrased as, “Don’t just invent the future; go live in it.” … But whatever you build, use it. In fact, get everybody in PARC to use it. Get them pounding on the technology every day, writing reports, writing programs, sending E-mail–anything and everything, so they can see for themselves what the problems and the possibilities are. And then use what they learn to build better technology.

So, I should design, make, and then use what I make

Making a living through the 3Ds

But what about making a living?

In my mind, there is an end-state, which looks like this:

![three circles, with the titles Digital Products, Training and Consulting, with bidirectional arrows pointing between each circle. Within these circles and arrows, there is a venn diagram of three intersecting smaller circles, of Digital, Design, Dharma. ](../wp-content/uploads/2022/11/End-State.png?resize=1000%2C1000&ssl=1)
  • The focus is on the 3Ds
  • But the services and products comprise of three offerings, which complement each other: digital products, training, and consulting

Training addresses customer capability gaps, which complements consulting (which is more specialised) and digital products (which cater to a repeated need):

Training is to cater to capability gaps, but it might also lead to opportunities for consulting & possible digital products. Consulting likewise focuses on specific needs, whereas digital products cater to repeated, more general requirements, and training caters to capability gaps:

Consulting focuses on specific needs, but could also point to possible digital products, and to training opportunities. In both cases, consulting and training offer insights into possible digital product ideas.

That’s the end state. It might take longer than two years (likely!). But that is what I want to do.

How do I get there? My next steps:

As a start, I will be focusing more on Training and Consulting, which I have articulated on my blog. I would be especially interested in freelance gigs that

  1. tap on or enhance my existing skilsets and experiences, and
  2. have some **intersection with the Dharma** (e.g. the area of ageing is of interest, as ageing is a key aspect of Dharma practice). This would include doing research into Dharma (e.g. doing volunteer research into what Dharma practitioners need from digital tools, if at all)

And I am also learning and picking up programming (I’m in the middle of learning Python, and revising Clojure). I will then start making applications for myself, in the 3D space. Related technical areas and skills I am also interested to explore are in blockchain (especially applications for community and network building amongst people) and AI (which I think will be transformational), but that’s after I’ve first made applications for myself.

I am also downgrading my housing, so that my wife and I can be mortgage-free, so this frees up my financial burden.

I will also volunteer with organizations that I feel for. Like the EDB alumni network. Or CIID alumni network.

#design #dharma #digital #digitaldhamma #personal_manifesto

Feedback most welcome!

Updated as of 30 Nov 2022