Matthew Kael

Matthew Kael Swanson profile picture

My journey to flow... began through the martial arts. One day, after repeatedly getting my ass handed to me, my instructor at the time sat me down for a brief meditation. I had dabbled in meditation before, but never when my sense of mortality was in question. What happened in those 5 short minutes changed my life. When we got back on the mat, for the first time in an open sparring setting my body moved without the encumbrance of my mind. A higher order intelligence took over, something akin to a bodily infused consciousness. I have maintained a daily meditation practice ever since, which has opened my eyes to other avenues of flow. From painting, to surfing to designing technology products, I have found endless opportunities to flow.

As my awareness of flow expanded, I began to notice a pattern. In situations where I encountered discrete, unnatural movements in my surrounding I was more likely to lose my flow; whereas whenever I was immersed in an environment with organic, natural movements I was more likely to reach a state of flow. Meditating on this further, I noticed another more unsettling pattern: many of these discrete movement patterns were coming from poorly designed digital technologies that had inserted themselves into my environment.

As a technologist, this struck deep. Some technologies have clearly helped us move more freely, like the myriad of technology innovations that have automated the supply of food so that we don’t have to hunt or farm ourselves. But in many other situations, digital technologies are designed without considering the disruptions they cause to our flow. Meaningless notifications interrupt us right as we’re deep in thought. Sensationalized content gets prioritized in our news feeds, consuming our focus away from flow. Digital interfaces force us to fill in “required” fields that conform our behaviors to a database rather than the other way around.

Now, a technology is upon us that has the potential to influence our behaviors beyond comprehension. Because Artificial Intelligence can mimic the same symbols that we use to communicate our intellect, it has the possibility of being used in unintelligent ways. If we view intelligence as a discrete math problem, we will see AI used to enforce conformity in our movements. If, on the other hand, we view intelligence as movement, we will more likely see AI used to free up our movements, and lead to more opportunities to flow. I am a champion of the latter, follow my journey here as I explore the movement patters that give rise to flow.


Connect with me for a regular roundup of ideas and thought experiments.