As we stroll, Dan Zigmond pulls on a black baseball cap. The sunlight is large, and the trees give small shade. It is a big park—stretching across a good 9 acres of grass, mulch, shrubs, and gravel paths—but from exactly where we are, it appears to be substantially greater. Outside of the 9 acres, all we can see are a lot more trees, a lot more environmentally friendly, and the mountains in the east, so the park appears almost unlimited. “That always amazes me,” I say. After all, we’re on the roof of the latest Facebook building, a Frank Gehry creation identified as MPK20, proper future to Highway eighty four, the Dumbarton Bridge, and the sprawling urban marshlands of Menlo Park, California, exactly where the bog is adorned with so a lot of electrical power traces, transmission towers, and electrical substations.
Zigmond operates in the building under, overseeing data analytics for the Facebook News Feed and other parts of the world’s most well-known social network. That usually means he analyzes the large of quantities of on the web data produced by News Feed, on the lookout for approaches to make improvements to the provider and other parts of Facebook. He’s also a Zen priest who analyzed with the exact Buddhist monk as Steve Employment. And that usually means he’s part of a extensive custom within Northern California tech circles. As we stroll via Facebook’s rooftop park, he hands me a duplicate of a 1986 educational monograph identified as From Satori to Silicon Valley. A slender paperback tiny ample to suit into my back again pocket, it explores the website link concerning Silicon Valley and the American counter society of the 1960s and 70s, which includes so a lot of hippie attitudes lifted from Buddhism. On the cover, two black-and-white symbols merge together: the ying-yang and the transistor.
‘There’s that exact spirit of observing technology as a way of receiving us to a far better upcoming.’
As Zigmond tells me, the conceit is that the counter society aided drive the evolution of the personal laptop as it emerged from Silicon Valley and challenged the dominance of big techno-companies like IBM and AT&T. Persons like Jobs—a extensive-haired hippy Buddhist fruitarian laptop maker—didn’t just appear ahead to a upcoming pushed totally by technology. Instilled with the hippie ethos—the idea that we could come across some thing more true, much healthier, and less difficult than the put up-industrial mega-capitalist society that emerged in the twentieth Century—Jobs and his peers also appeared back again to a a lot more all-natural earlier, hoping they could use personal desktops to empower persons and convey them together and reclaim some of the humanity the modern day globe had taken away. Zigmond believes these exact attitudes go on to drive Silicon Valley, which includes tech giants like Facebook (a enterprise intent on “making the globe a a lot more open and related place”) and Google (“organize all the world’s information”). “There’s that exact spirit of observing technology as a way of receiving us to a far better upcoming,” Zigmond says.
So, it’s only all-natural that Zigmond, a single of Facebook’s top data analysts, just printed a reserve of his very own identified as Buddha’s Diet program. It mixes a few of Northern California’s biggest obsessions: science, Japanese philosophy, and meals. Indeed, it’s a diet regime reserve. The subtitle is: The Historic Artwork of Shedding Weight With no Shedding Your Thoughts. But there are better classes to be uncovered from this slender volume, not just about science, Japanese philosophy, and meals, but about Silicon Valley.
Of Mice and Zen
Dan Zigmond has been a Buddhist for approximately 30 a long time. He identified the Japanese religion though studying computational neuroscience at the College of Pennsylvania, and soon after graduating, he moved to Thailand, living in a Buddhist temple though training English at a close by refugee camp. In this temple, the monks ate concerning dawn and noon, according to the procedures of the Vinaya Pitaka, the primary teachings of Buddha. They ate regardless of what was out there and as substantially as they needed, but only within that window. And they remained slender. In the well-known imagination, the Buddha was a extra fat person. But he way too was slender.
After two a long time in Thailand, Zigmond returned to the States, and sooner or later, he wound up at Google. He labored as a data scientist, looking for approaches of increasing services like YouTube and Google Maps, and he was part of the Buddhist society that ran proper via the enterprise. After an early engineer named Chade-Meng Tan promoted meditation groups across the enterprise and wrote a reserve identified as Research Inside Your self, Google turned a vacation spot for monks from across the globe. When Meng gave tours to these visitors, he would convey them by Zigmond’s desk, demonstrating off Google’s distinctive brand of Buddhism. “I bear in mind a lot more than once functioning on some tough studies code and on the lookout up to see a band of Tibetan monks in whole Buddhist robes hovering above me, always smiling,” Zigmond remembers.
‘I bear in mind a lot more than once functioning on some tough studies code and on the lookout up to see a band of Tibetan monks in whole Buddhist robes hovering above me.’
In 2014, Zigmond moved to Hampton Creek, part of the new wave of Silicon Valley startups intent on applying technology and modern day know-how to return the globe to a far better way of eating—another echo of the globe Theodore Roszak explores in From Satori to Silicon Valley. “For a lot of in the counter society,” Roszak writes, “the outcome of large industrial technology would be some thing like a tribal democracy exactly where the citizenry may well still be dressed in buckskin and go berry-buying in the woods: the artificial surroundings manufactured a lot more artificial would in some way turn out to be more…natural.”
Hampton Creek utilized the yellow Canadian pea to make a sensible facsimile of the rooster egg, some thing it utilized to make mayonnaise and cookie dough. The idea was that Zigmond and his team would analyze all the data Hampton Creek scientists collected about plant proteins and how they interact, so the enterprise could come across new approaches of building much less expensive, safer, and much healthier meals.
In the Valley, most firms are packed with foodies—people just as worried with quinoa and kale as code—and at Hampton Creek, this was real in the excessive. “Instead of there being program engineers at every desk,” Zigmond says, “it was plant biologists and biochemists and persons who are always considering about meals.” This pervaded not just their function, but the breaks in concerning their function and the Net backlinks they traded above electronic mail. A single working day, an individual despatched all-around a Salk Institute study that explored the consuming behavior and fat burning capacity of mice.
In the study, mice that had been given an unrestricted volume of large-extra fat, large-calorie meals gained an unhealthy volume of body weight. That was to be expected. But the study also observed that mice provided an unrestricted volume of meals only throughout selected situations of working day consumed about the exact quantity calories and stayed slender. That caught Zigmond’s focus, and not just due to the fact it went against frequent notion. It reminded him of all those monks in Thailand.
Buddha Was a Data Scientist
Quickly, Zigmond shifted his consuming behavior in the exact direction. He determined that Buddha’s dawn-to-noon program was impractical, provided the needs of modern day life in Silicon Valley. But he restricted his consuming to a 9-hour window, substantially like the routine explored in the Salk study. “The idea—and the motivation—were essentially the exact. Each and every working day, I was combining a interval of consuming and a interval of fasting,” Zigmond says. “That’s consistent with the all round concept of Buddhism and Buddha, which is always on the lookout for this Center Way—avoiding these extremes on a single aspect or the other.”
Zigmond lost about 25 lbs ., though consuming about the exact quantity of calories. He deemed this a data-collecting exercise. He was collecting personal data in assist of all those 2,500-year-previous Buddhist teachings. This, he says, is what Buddha would do. Buddha was born a prince, but spent a long time living an ascetic life. In the end, soon after a lifetime of data collecting, he settled on some thing in concerning. The Center Way. “One of the hallmarks of Buddha’s teachings—and the way he lived his life—was this insistence on evidence, on data. He did not want any one to just take anything on faith,” he says. “Buddha was a data scientist.”
‘He did not want any one to just take anything on faith. Buddha was a data scientist.’
In the stop, Zigmond wrote a reserve about all this, together with a Stanford College on the web content material manager named Tara Cottrell. Applying data from that Salk study and subsequent research, it shows the price of the Buddhist attitude toward meals. As the reserve describes, the Salk Institute later on ran comparable fat burning capacity scientific tests in which persons restricted their consuming to a 10-hour window and lost a modest volume of body weight. Additionally, they slumber far better at night and felt a lot more energetic throughout the working day.
According to Dr. Satchin Panda, who oversaw the Salk scientific tests, in every single human organ, 10 to 20 per cent of our genes flip on and off at selected situations of working day. The concept is that the modern day globe has upset our circadian rhythms, and that limiting meals and treats to precise home windows of time can assist restore them. “We observed clocks all above the physique,” he says. “The speculation is that human physiology, fat burning capacity, behavior—all of it—must have some circadian element. Remaining up light-weight into the night, obtaining significantly less light-weight throughout the daytime, obtaining way too substantially light-weight at night, or even consuming at the incorrect time or having medication at the incorrect time can have adverse wellbeing consequences.”
But Zigmond’s reserve also adapts Buddhist attitudes to the modern day globe, suggesting approaches of working with stuff like hamburgers, whiskey, and sodas. Buddha was a vegetarian and he did not drink alcoholic beverages, but Zigmond’s reserve does not advise abstinence from meat or booze—only moderation. The Buddha allowed monks to drink liquids whenever they like, but Zigmond argues that this has led to being overweight and diabetes amongst monks who now have matters like Coca-Cola. His reserve also finds a Center Way concerning Buddha and nowadays.
Ahead and Back again
The irony is that Zigmond operates for a single of the world’s most significant Net firms, a enterprise that bears no tiny duty for why everyone’s circadian rhythms are off-kilter. With their online services encouraging us to stare at screens all working day and effectively into the night—and their significantly pervasive function ethic trying to keep persons on the work at all hours—these firms are contributing mightily to the problem Zigmond hopes to remedy.
But this is the irony that always accompanies Silicon Valley. It modifications life for far better and for worse. It moves both of those ahead and back again. It combines hippie attitudes with attitudes that couldn’t be significantly less hippie.
Silicon Valley modifications life for far better and for worse. It moves both of those ahead and back again. It combines hippie attitudes with attitudes that couldn’t be significantly less hippie.
Facebook’s social network connects us with persons across the world, but it also separates us from persons proper future to us. Businesses like Google encourage a society exactly where persons shell out an excessive and sometimes unhealthy about of time at the place of work, but they also look for to make improvements to the time put in there, via matters like locally sourced natural and organic meals, Buddhist-influenced “compassionate management,” and, certainly, meditation groups. Hampton Creek needs to make a far better way of consuming, but like so a lot of Silicon Valley firms, it seemingly pushed way too really hard as it arrived at for the almighty greenback. It now faces a federal investigation soon after allegedly shopping for up its very own mayonnaise in an effort and hard work to impress investors and flip by itself into a billion-greenback unicorn.
This is the exact dialectic explained in From Satori to Silicon Valley. It is by no means likely to resolve by itself. But it’s a good thing. Looking both of those ahead and back again is just what we have to have. The trick lies in realizing how the previous thoughts can assist the new, when to heed the meta-classes that operate via a reserve like Buddha’s Diet program, when to appear for the Center Way. This is notably real now that the Net is so completely modifying the nature of our political technique, now that virtual actuality is having us even even further from the bodily globe, now that artificial intelligence is established to exchange so a lot of human tasks. “The stuff we do in technology actually can make the globe a far better spot,” Dan Zigmond says. “But at the exact time, there are some elementary matters about life and being human that never actually alter, that technology does not contact and shouldn’t contact.”
Go Back again to Major. Skip To: Commence of Short article.