“We are truly learning as technologies enable us to amplify and help us become better, more productive, and more efficient in many ways, while at the same time being mindful of the need to take regular detox breaks and pauses.”
– Anuraj Gambhir
About Anuraj Gambhir
Anuraj is a futurist, speaker, consultant and educator, advising startups and corporates on He has worked in senior executive roles across the mobile ecosystem spanning five continents for major companies including Siemens, Ericsson, and GSM Association. He is founder of Wise Mirror and Expert Faculty for Singularity University.
What you will learn
- Introduction to Wise Mirror as a catalyst for transformation (03:48)
- Embracing the complex interplay of nature, spirituality, and technology (05:36)
- The fusion of innovation, intelligence, and technology (07:43)
- Exploring neurotech and Brain-Computer Interfaces (10:19)
- The integration of neurotech into daily life for improved health and performance (15:19)
- Emerging trends in near-infrared and infrared scanning technologies (18:31)
- The intersection of data, mind-body connection, and epigenetics (20:13)
- The critical transition from information to wisdom (23:00)
- The importance of ethical considerations in AI (25:00)
- Lessons from the Blue Zones for a balanced and purposeful life (26:28)
- Embracing Bliss Mode as a bridge between technology and spirituality (30:04)
Ross Dawson: Anuraj, it’s wonderful to have you on the show.
Anuraj Gambhir: Thank you so much, Ross.
Ross: One of your many initiatives is Wise Mirror, and I’d love to hear a little more about what that is.
Anuraj: Sure. Ross, Wise Mirror came about from the term White Mirror, which I’d say is a sub-format. It’s where we flipped, initially, the Black Mirror, which is the Netflix series, I’m sure you’ve seen, that is very powerful, but unfortunately too dystopian for the layman. It’s where you’ve got the technology being utilized in many different formats, but unfortunately, in a negative way in most cases, but it does open your mind up in many ways. We flipped it to a more hyper-positive orientation and called it White Mirror, where we wanted to manifest through interactive multimedia, storytelling to story showing, really trying to see how could we use science fiction and align ourselves with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the 17 of them, and then we’ve been working on one called 18, around coheritability, which is where humanity and spirituality intersect.
Wise Mirror is a broad manifestation, it’s a philosophy, one could say, a mindset. We are a community of global conscious leaders who have come together to ponder on many big areas like AI, that we’ve been talking about, which we flipped to something called Intelligence Augmented. Now we’ve been working on a broad vision of AWI, which is Augmented Wise Intelligence. With Wise Mirror, it’s about that flip from scarcity to abundance, from B2B, from darkness to light, or hatred to love, from isolation to connection, and from being a watcher to a participant. It’s about an interactive, immersive element of how one person can help change the world.
Ross: Yes, indeed. We can be amplified in so many ways today, with technology, crowds, and many other things. One person can change the world far more than ever before. Technology is giving us power. I would love to hear, perhaps in context for this, digging a little bit more into how we can make that reflect ourselves in a Wise Mirror. As part of your journey, you come from a land of spirituality, where there are some deeper perspectives of consciousness. We’d love to hear how that is interwoven with your path as a technologist because you work a lot with wearables in particular, and how we directly interface with technology, but also more spiritual traditions. I’d love to hear a little bit of the background of how that’s developed.
Anuraj: I grew up in the foothills of the Himalayas, amongst beautiful nature, up to the age of 15. Then I moved to Australia and did my HSC here. It was really my upbringing. My mother has been very spiritual and she brought us up in a wide, broad aspect of spirituality which impacts us as human beings with all the key traits of empathy, gratitude, unconditional love, and all those things that we imbibe in Wise Mirror. From my dad’s side, he’s been a deep technologist. He ran a big electronics industry in India. For me, it was really those two walls coming and intersecting together, then immersing myself and living that in my own career. My career grew in telecom and mobile technology, in designing mobile devices in the early stage of the transition from mobile phones to smartphones.
We are truly learning as technologies are enabling us to amplify and help us become better, more productive, and more efficient in many ways while at the same time being mindful about the need to take that detox and pause very often. That’s where the spiritual thinking comes in, saying, “Technology is just an enabler”. It’s neutral because can be used for good but also we’ve seen the Black Mirror side. It’s how we flip that super good element of it but also make sure that we don’t get too bogged down with it; that it helps us to do the particular work, but at the same time, we collide those worlds to make it a meaningful, living reality for us to come back in a world where we’ve used it but we’ve actually gone beyond it in many ways.
Ross: What are some of the other ways in which you have tapped the depth and diversity of India’s traditions of consciousness?
Anuraj: Let me quote a saying in Punjabi. When we’re talking about this Amplifying Cognition, which is an amazing podcast and initiative that you’re running, there’s a thing called “Man Jeete Jag Jeet” which means, ‘Win over your mind, you win over the world.’ As you talk about humans and AI and this new technology enhancement, that’s where we’re seeing it. The journey that I’ve had, having grown up in India, then moved to Australia, and then lived and worked in 20 other countries around the world, ten years in Europe, North America, back in India, and Africa, was awakening for me in terms of grassroots innovation, something called “Jugaad”, where we use the minimum resources to create maximum value. It’s something called Reverse Innovation in the West. It’s a way of frugal innovation, where there are amazing learnings of how we use the most crude and basic intelligence and take that to amplify a task that we’re doing to be able to fulfill something in a much more efficient way.
I’d say technology has helped a lot in many ways. But at the same time, it’s how we use those different types of intelligences, eventually coming down to emotional being a very key one. We talk about that progression from PQ, your physical quotient, to your IQ, to EQ, to SQ, which is the spiritual quotient or intelligence, to an AQ, which is that adaptive, contextually driven intelligence. Then we’ve got many sub-aspects of that where we talk about, say, fluid intelligence or other types of aspects like multiple intelligence models that are out there. Social intelligence is a key part of it. But it comes down to creativity at the end. How do you tap that creative intelligence with original ideas, and insights and come up with meaningful solutions.
Ross: Fantastic. Turning a little bit more to the technologies, we also interweave some of these themes of spirituality or the broader consciousness with technology. One of the domains in which you are a deep expert is neurotech. We’d love to hear more about some of the technologies that you’re using, the ones you’re excited about, what’s out there, the tools, and how can people use neurotech to enhance their thinking.
Anuraj: Neurotech, or the brain-computer interface, or many refer to it as the BMI. It’s a bunch of technology that has come together, and the simplest ones. The company I’ve worked closely with is called NeuroSky from the very early days, who have been pioneers in EEG, or electroencephalography, which is reading your brainwaves, your alpha, beta, delta, and gamma waves and being able to present them in an analytical form to say how attentive or focused you are. On the other hand, how meditative or relaxed you are. When we get both these areas, you get into the zone or a flow state, which is very powerful when you measure it. With the variables, what we have seen, or the movement of the Quantified Self, is what you measure, what you can analyze, you can change. There is so much in terms of metrics that you can collate and build up a dashboard for your holistic well-being.
We’ve seen that with neurotech, there are so many immense possibilities to look at, from your neocortex, from your prefrontal cortex where you’re measuring the different waves, being able to move from these different states of beta, alpha, theta, and delta which is deep sleep. In India, we tinkered with something and created an experimental zone called I-Zone, an imagination-thinking lab using neurobiofeedback. What we’ve done is use a single-channel EEG with the NeuroSky Mindwave mobile headset. We looked at getting people more positively primed with the right content, running innovation workshops for different themes, getting them the insight awareness, and then running curative workshops and measuring their brainwaves to see how creative they are.
With that, we were really looking at the alpha waves to quite an extent, which is where you’ve got creativity thriving a lot more, and you’re in that relaxed state which is 7 to 14 cycles per second or Hertz. Then there are other states where we could look at how you could use theta, which is deep meditation or relaxation, doing the right exercises, and getting people into that flow state further. Then you’ve got, going beyond alpha and beta, the gamma state, which is the higher mental activity, perception, or intuition, and that deeper connection to your consciousness is prevalent.
I’d say there are immense possibilities with neurotech. This is through the measurement of passive EEG. We’ve got another aspect, which is somewhat invasive or interactive, which is being able to write, rather than just read your brainwaves, which is where neurotech has evolved into something called Transcranial Stimulation. There are different formats. There’s TDCS and TACS. I’ve mentioned a few startups in that space. We’ve been looking at one called INCAP Neuroscience, at a remarkable accelerator, where we looked at how we look at cerebral palsy, bring back those motor skills, that’s what we’re seeing with the NeuraLink that Elon Musk has been working on, from so many evolutions that it’s been through, it’s got so much potential. It’s that disability tech space, which is where it becomes very much more meaningful.
I’m proudly mentoring this startup called Dream Machine, with Peter Zing and my colleagues, and looking at dreams. How do we manifest dreams? Look at the BCI plus AI, and how do we visualize dreams, or read minds, in fact, in that regard. We’ve seen very early aspects of that come about with a lot of academic research that has been happening and applications there.
Ross: Going back to neurofeedback, the key point here is that this gives people a sense of what their state of mind is or what their brainwaves are currently doing. This becomes part of a training, where they can use that to consciously direct their state of mind.
Ross: We need to learn to use this feedback in order to be able to achieve some sort of instantaneous… It’s a skill we need to develop, which, based on the feedback, we can start to direct our state of mind.
Anuraj: Correct. There are many examples. I’ve got a device called FocusCalm, which is from a company called Bradco, that I’ve worked closely with, out of Harvard Innovation Labs in the US. We’ve got other products, a great Aussie company, doing emotive, and multi-channel EEG products. They’ve got products that can measure fatigue. A company called Life by Smart Cap, which can measure driver fatigue and take people off the road if you can look at them in microsleeps, something which you can measure through multi-channel EEG again. There are very powerful ways to measure sleep through EEG, a tool called Sleep Shepherd by Blue Shepherd, which has a sleep lab, looking at how you’re having different states of sleep from light sleep to deep sleep, restless and awake states, and so forth, and breaking it down much further, something even the Aura Ring, for example, that I’m wearing right now, is doing at a very detailed level.
There are many different applications of neurotech. You have to look at what are those tools that can prime it. Another device called FlowTime, which comes with a lot of integrated meditations and Muse has been there for a while. They’ve been another great product that can do curated content, and be able to take you through different states of heightened performance or more relaxed states and so forth. There are integrated meditations and practices that are part of the total package that comes with a lot of these devices.
Ross: When we look at brain-computer interfaces, there is a pretty clear line between the invasive and noninvasive. NeuraLink is sticking things into your brain which, as you say, can be helpful for disabled people and maybe one day, healthy people will decide it’s a risk worth taking. But just in the noninvasive space, essentially, we’ve got EEG, which is a very old technology. I remember that when I was a child, the neurofeedback device was advertised.
Ross: We’ve got functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and so on, which gives us a lot more data. But we have to stick our head inside a big machine, which is noisy. That’s not something you can do a lot of. Are there any other noninvasive brain-reading techniques, other than EEG or fMRI, that can start to give us more insights into what’s going on in our brains?
Anuraj: Yes. There are a lot of things happening around near-infrared or infrared scanning around you. There’s a device I’ve got with me here called Mende from Sweden, which is a very interesting device. Again, it helps you be a lot more focused. It’s got a lot of gamified elements in the app integrated, which help you become more attentive or get you to that relaxed state. I’d say there are a lot of training aspects, which are integrated now with devices like that. There are different techniques and I would say we are seeing this space especially becoming a lot more prevalent now. In fact, quite a few. We had a neuretech meetup here in Sydney a couple of weeks ago, and some startups here are already working on similar technologies in that space, one called a New Road, right here from Sydney University.
Ross: There’s cognition or thinking and our minds are connected to our bodies and this goes to a broader idea of the quantified self. I suppose quantified means measurable.
Ross: But there’s also qualitative data to a sense, the feedback, which comes from EEG is combined into a broad indication because there are very complex waves, we’re not getting numeric data on that but to get a sense of where primary brain states are. Just more broadly, in terms of quantified self as in getting information about ourselves to improve ourselves, what are some of the other exciting areas or possibilities at the moment?
Anuraj: We’re seeing a lot more holistic packaging of things. There’s a startup I’ve mentored called Wodify, where we created something called the Health Map. We look at your fitness data, sleep data, genetic data, and nutrition, and have a lot of details about your medical history and your lifestyle habits. Being able to put all that in a very smart dashboard and present that, then being able to take the right actions and present the right nudges to the person, and also being able to visualize. That’s something we came up with in the startup at Singularity U in Silicon Valley as part of the global startup program. That was very powerful. When people saw what they would look like if they didn’t take the right actions, it was very much that manifestation that led to people quickly realizing the need to act.
But what I’m seeing is this aspect of vagal toning, which is what the journey and exploration of the quest we’re working on is how do we bring your head brain, your gut brain, and your heart brain together in a lot more synchronous or harmonious way to look at how we stimulate the vagus nerve which is connected to our vital organs of the parasympathetic nervous system. Once we get that healthy vagal tone, as one may call, we’re able to regulate many different things, getting into peaceful mind states, positive moods, healthy pulse rates, blood pressure, harmonization, being able to fix digestion, and many other issues that we’re finding. This is where epigenetics comes in very strongly, where you’re able to change with the right actions that you’re taking.
Ross: This is all data or information about us which enables us to improve ourselves. But if we think of it as a feedback loop, the link in that loop which is the weakest is the information changing behavior and you mentioned this idea of nudges and so on.
Ross: Some people, for a long time, have used Quantified Self, and they’ve made enormous changes in who they are, and others get a lot of data, but they don’t do anything about it. How can we improve that flow? As you say visualization or nudges or whatever, what are the ways this information about us can actually make a difference in who we are? How do we improve that feedback loop?
Anuraj: It’s really that translation, or how do we transcend that information into valuable knowledge. Then that becomes more meaningful and translates to wisdom and then subsequent action, obviously. But until those steps happen in the right way, that’s where AI can help and that other intelligence-augmented element. We need to be able to use those dashboards. But it’s about the UX. It’s that aspect of the user’s total experience or something I’ve called the TUPE in the mobile world, the total user and product experience, because it’s an end-to-end aspect. If there’s a missing link in between, it breaks the system, and then people only get to that early raw data or information, and they haven’t taken the actions to change their world. It has to flow through very seamlessly. It’s all about hyper-contextual and deep hyper-personalization, and how do you deliver that, that’s really the journey that I help with startups, explore, and say, optimizing that for the different personas, having the micro-segments, really understanding your customer deeply, and being able to bring that hyper-deep customization for them is critical.
Ross: Yes, that’s a bit of a two-edged sword of AI, where AI and behavior change.
Ross: Because AI does have an extraordinary ability or potential to influence us and change behaviors by understanding us and knowing what we respond to and that can be used for not-so-good things including not just selling us things, but worse, as well as for very positive things, as in nudging us toward positive behavior.
Ross: This is where AI’s potential is extraordinary. It’s something we do need to be very careful in how we use that, and hopefully, as much as possible in these kinds of tools.
Anuraj: Totally. That’s where the mindful AI or when we talk about the wise AI aspect, it’s all about integrating the right ethics, the right environment, and the flow to it because in this world, with AI, everything has gotten biased in its raw data. How do we reduce that and make it minimal in the aspects that we try to approach it for, and integrate it and harness it to the right power that it can exhibit.
Ross: Let’s weave the themes back together and talk about the broader scope of expanding our consciousness, we can put it that way, with these technologies. How do you see those being interwoven, as in, we do need to be wiser in a very exciting and challenging world today, we do need to expand our consciousness, our thinking beyond the scope that we’re normally used to and we have technologies to enhance ourselves and hopefully, expand our capability. How do these come together? What is your vision for where we can pull these together?
Anuraj: This is where the previous concept of the Blue Zones comes in, the secrets that they’ve exhibited, and I want to take that much further to democratize them. But it’s those key facets of purposeful living having that…
Ross: Sorry. What are the Blue Zones?
Anuraj: The Blue Zones are where people are living the longest, the most centenarians in the world. There are five of those around the world, which have been documented by Dan Buettner, who founded them. There’s Okinawa, Japan, there’s Ikaria, Greece, there’s Loma Linda, California, Sardinia, Italy, and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. I’ve been to a couple of them. I’ve experienced firsthand what they are like, and the longevity hotspots. It’s those attributes, the facets that they exhibit, which is around having an ikigai or the purpose of life or the deep connection that we have, a rooted sense of purpose, which is what we call MTP in the Singularity U, or massively transforming purpose, or people call it as a big, hairy, audacious goals. But it’s having that purposeful living, having the community and connection, the close-knit community and family ties, which is very critical.
As we know, everything is interconnected. There’s so much to learn from nature because that’s when natural intelligence comes in, it is a very integral part of this. Having the right movement, people over there, in these areas, have been doing a lot of mindful walking, dancing, gardening, and things like that. Mindful eating is a very key part. Nutrition, plant-based diets, and eating in moderation, but also it’s the total environment, the package what they surround themselves with, what they do, and what’s really in their mind. It’s amplifying that much further, which is where I see how we democratize them with technology. Things like Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, being able to do and even yesterday, I was out there and doing a bushwalk, something I called exponential thought leaders, Bush walk the talk, which is like an unconference in nature.
We need to be able to reconnect back on these levels, back to what our ancient wisdom, like Ayurveda and so many other learnings, has brought us, the ways of life, to bring back this aspect, what I call the bliss mode, which brings that state of harmony, coming back to a simple and pure life, where technology is the real enabler. In today’s world, we need to be able to merge these worlds, and say, what is it that we truly need to do? We need that diversity. I love the way you talk about cognitive diversity. I’ve applied that a lot in my career in my roles as Chief Innovation Officer, where we’ve got transdisciplinary teams, having cross-industry, and multiple disciplines. I’ve had ethnographers, anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists, besides, the techie developers, marketing, and the rest of the innovation team in a disruptive setup. That’s where you get that diversity of ideas.
The other aspect is neurodiversity. We’ve seen people use things like ADHD and things that can be seen as negative, but they’ve used that to look at hyper-focus and flip it to a new model. There’s a lot of potential there to see how can we bring in that wider, broader aspect, thinking out of that box, defining what that box is really.
Ross: Bliss mode sounds very compelling. How specifically can technology enable us on our path to Bliss mode?
Anuraj: I’ll just give the background of Bliss mode. I came up with that when I presented on technology intersecting with spirituality to His Holiness, Dalai Lama about 13-14 years ago now. It was about how we’ve got the aircraft mode on phones, and all these different modes. I said, ‘What if it’s not about switching off your phone?’, which is what people will think, to go back into that bliss state, one may say, but I said, ‘It’s a new mode that we flip to, called Bliss mode.’ That’s where we’ve seen a plethora of wellness apps and many other tools, and the ones that I was describing earlier, and the way-to-able movement, the quantified self, and so forth. But that path is really about how do we imbibe the learnings from ancient wisdom and conscious leadership today, which is all about the mindful approaches that we need to take in every aspect, every technology deployment, how it integrates, and how it’s being used for the greater good is being applied. The 18th Sustainable Development Goal, the fourth term that I coined, called coheritability, is that rapid adaptability and bringing that brain-heart coherence, a lot more relevant for bringing that aspect to manifest that harmonious future that we can devise for the planet.
Ross: That’s fantastic. It is this critical path where we have technologies to amplify us not just in very pragmatic ways as productivity but also in terms of what we do need to be doing is thinking bigger to the scope of the universe hopefully, and broadening our consciousness. How can people find out more about your work, Anuraj?
Anuraj: For Wise Mirror, we have a website wisemirror.org. It’s still fairly basic but we do have a lot of our content now being published on YouTube. There’s a Wise Mirror YouTube channel. I’m on LinkedIn, which is where I’m mostly on in social media. I don’t really use too many other ones, tend to be spending more time in nature, and I will say, believe in the JOMO part, the joy of missing out in some of those things, but it’s good to find the mix, in our world. It’s probably more LinkedIn and the other channels, the Wise Mirror website, are the means to reach out.
Ross: That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for your time and your insights, Anuraj, It’s been a wonderful conversation.
Anuraj: Likewise, Ross. Thank you so much.