In this article, we propose the idea of an open-source AI spirit, which is comprised of an algorithm that encourages a certain ritualistic practice, supports discipline and provides feedback to the practitioner.
We believe that this is a natural evolution of spirituality in the context of the current technological advancements. The open-source approach makes it possible for anyone to customize their spiritual practice, render it their own, eliminate the authority and the master, make it possible to easily share it with others.
A program, an algorithm, or an AI system can be seen as a spirit embodied as code. But instead of praying to this entity we can simply exchange data with it.
The Structure of the Spirit
Back in the day, people used to pray to the spirits. These spirits would represent multiple entities: sun, fire, prosperity, fertility… The word itself, “spirit”, comes from the Latin “spiritus”, which means to breathe. Therefore, a spirit, in this sense, is some kind of evanescent entity, which is connected to the sublime. The prayer ritual would bring people closer to the spirit, appease it, make it respond and resonate in some way. This is not far from a computer program or an AI, which can also be seen as an entity that encourages certain kinds of interactions.
Most rituals have an aspect of reaching for the ideal and, at the same time, transcending the standard daily life. The feedback provided by the spirit is used to evaluate this process. This feedback can take a shape of a sensation, a state, a sign, or an event. Even those practices that refuse to have an “ideal” (like Taoism or Vipassana) still have a reference point that can be used the evaluate the practitioner’s performance (the absence of the ideal and non-attachment to a concrete result, in this case).
Therefore, we can outline certain aspects that are present in most spiritual practices:
- personification (the spirit is about something)
- ideal (what are we trying to get to)
- transcendence (what we are going through)
- discipline (how we are going to do that)
- feedback (a sign or a response that we are doing it right)
These parameters can be used in designing an open-source spirit. But before we move to the practicalities, it is important to understand the reasons that drive people towards spiritual practices.
Why do People Need Spirituality?
The world has always been and is still liquid. From ancient times it’s been marked with instability and insecurity, so it has been important to be able to cope with it, to live through it, and to get through. In other words, making one’s existence more stable and secure. People need meaning and purpose, preferably outside of their immediate surroundings, because that enables them to have a perspective and to make sense of their lives.
In the old times, when survival was a much more challenging enterprise, spiritual practices helped to cope with and to placate the forces of nature, bringing stability and security into life.
Nowadays, when we reached the level of technological development that allows us not to only think about survival, we still need to have meaning in life. There is no single truth, it is hard to choose to believe in anything. The natural response that emerges is to either be nihilistic or to latch on to extreme ideologies, which polarize society and make people spend too much time fighting.
This context creates a fertile ground for the resurgence of spiritual practices that help people find the core and the meaning. These practices help them get in touch with a certain truth, have a feeling of security and stability, and cultivate an attitude or a state that has a meaning and makes sense (also in the physical sense).
At the same time, if one has a chance to live in a world where instability does not necessarily mean death, this may be an opportunity to reconsider the objective of a spiritual practice. Perhaps, it does not have to be about finding security or becoming a better, more integrated human being. A contemporary spiritual practice could have different objectives: exploration, research, aesthetic experience — which are not always necessarily stable and secure.
The Open-Source Spirit Design
Many spiritual practices are based on a set of rituals and involve the body as a way to reconnect with oneself and to transcend beyond the everyday patterns of behavior.
Those rituals may include a special way of breathing, a set of movements, a prayer (words, language), a song, immersing oneself into a certain state (through meditation or a shamanistic ritual), etc.
When those actions are performed, the practitioner gets feedback from the practice to know how they are doing, so there is always a certain response that is expected. This may be just a feeling, an encouragement from the teacher, a sign from God, or an event — in all cases there is a certain “ideal” that should either be achieved or at least tended towards and the spiritual practice will be evaluated against this ideal (even if the ideal is no to have any).
In the old religions, especially in the pagan ones, the address was directed towards the spirits. The spirit of the sun fire, prosperity, or fertility. The response in this way can either be a sense of connection or an event that resonates with the spirit’s nature.
How can we merge this approach into contemporary life marked by technology and diversity of opinions?
Our proposal is the concept of an open-source spirit. A program, an algorithm, an AI which, when launched, produces a certain temporary spirit entity. This spirit is alive in the sense that it is embodied as a set of practices, it can receive information, and it can also speak back.
It is available to anyone, anybody can see what it’s made of and what it has to offer. It contains a certain practice that it proposes with a certain discipline. There are also certain parameters, which can be used to evaluate the proximity to whatever it is that it represents. A signal value (a sonic, visual, haptic feedback) can be sent back to the practitioner to let them know how they are doing. Everything is modifiable, so anyone can change the source code and create their own version that will suit them the best.
This open-source spiritual practice would be distributed, so there is not one central cloud. Everybody can install the spirit AI on their computer and tinker with the algorithms, so they don’t even need the internet to do that.
Moreover, the spirit does not even have to be a computer program. It could also be a set of text instructions that narrate the practice that needs to be performed in order to get closer to a particular state that this spirit embodies. The criteria, in this case, could be just the feeling, so we can completely eliminate computers from the equation and only use them as a metaphor to help us have a more open-source approach to the practice.
Finally, the open-source AI spirit approach removes the master, the guru, and the church from the equation. If somebody is knowledgeable, they can, of course, share their practice, but once the program is out they can only provide updates, but they are not anymore in charge. This means that anybody can become their own master and create their own spirit which they can indwell with whatever value system they wish.
In order to exemplify how it works, we propose an open-source spiritual entity, which we call EightOS Fractal. It is based on the notion that every natural process has fractal dynamics at its core. We try to reconnect to this natural fractal dynamics through our body, in order to cultivate it within and to transcend the mechanistic and the mundane.
EightOS Fractal  is programmed as an algorithm that detects movement and uses detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA)  to evaluate the fractal signature of the underlying dynamics (read more on fractal variability on the EightOS website).
It then provides feedback (the spirit’s response) via data (the Alpha exponent score and the fractal state identification) as well as sound (further modifications will include visuals as well). Both can be used as encouragement or as feedback to change and to modify the current behavior.
The main idea behind EightOS Fractal is that every natural movement has chaotic fractal variability at its core. When we stand still, our body moves naturally in this way because of the multiple processes within (heartbeat, breathing, balancing, etc) that interact with each other and produce this dynamics.
As soon as we bring intention into our actions, our movement dynamics loses its fractal nature. In the most radical cases, prolonged deviation from fractal dynamics has been associated with various pathologies and health-related issues [3, 4, 5]. So the intention here is not only to explore the aesthetic and the sensorial aspects of the “natural” movement but also to cultivate a healthier state.
EightOS Fractal can be practiced through dance or through a simple movement of a hand or any body part (in the forthcoming update it will also be able to use breathing and voice as inputs).
In order to provide feedback to the algorithm, bluetooth motion sensors are used (Xsens Dot). The script could be modified to be used with any other sensors, including the DIY open-source hardware ones or various fitness trackers, like Fitbit or Apple Watch.
EightOS Fractal is open-source and modifiable. It means that anybody can download it, fork the code, make some changes, and create their own AI spirit entity.
Everything is a Spirit
The approach that we detailed above is just one possible instance. While we may be interested in natural fractal dynamics, some other people will be interested in reaching a state of bliss, equanimity, or lightness.
Some of these states can be measured and in this case, sensors can be used to evaluate the performance. Some other states can only be felt, so the body becomes the ultimate sensor (through feelings, pleasure, and pain) and the computer program can just be used to help establish a certain discipline and to narrate the practice.
In this sense our approach is not about delegating spiritual life to technology, but, rather, using technology as a metaphor to help people establish a practice that has a meaning for them.
Some of the tools that we use can already be seen as a way to cultivate certain states and practices. For example, the open-source InfraNodus tool promotes variability in thinking, encouraging people to think in a more ecological way, seeing the meaning in its multiple forms, and bringing variability into their cognitive dynamics, so that they can have multiple perspectives and also have an experience of the different mental states at once.
Moreover, if we expand this approach, almost everything that we do can be seen as a spiritual practice. Dancing and singing bring people closer to themselves. Spending time with others can be seen as a prayer to the spirit of the social. We are always praying to something when we offer our attention to it. It is important to realize what that something is. It could be the spirit of money or the spirit of procrastination. It could be the spirit of entertainment or the spirit of productivity and efficiency.
But does it make sense? Does it have to be about being a better version of yourself? Some of the spirits may take us to the dark places, but then it’s just an experience; some of the other spirits may make us less efficient and productive, but that also doesn’t always have to be the final goal or the ultimate objective. It is important to see the overall picture and to be aware of the ideologies that we legitimate and of the realities that we cultivate with our spiritual practices.
 EightOS Fractal (2020). GitHub repository: https://github.com/deemeetree/xsens_dot_server/
 Hardstone, R., Poil, S.-S., Schiavone, G., Jansen, R., Nikulin, V., Mansvelder, H., & Linkenkaer-Hansen, K. (2012). Detrended Fluctuation Analysis: A Scale-Free View on Neuronal Oscillations. Frontiers in Physiology, 3, 450. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2012.00450
 D’Mello, S., Dale, R., & Graesser, A. (2011). Disequilibrium in the mind, disharmony in the body. Cognition & Emotion, 00(00), 1–13.
 Bystritsky, a, Nierenberg, a a, Feusner, J. D., & Rabinovich, M. (2012). Computational non-linear dynamical psychiatry: A new methodological paradigm for diagnosis and course of illness. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 46(4), 428–435.
 J. M. Hausdorff, P. L. Purdon, C. K. Peng, Z. Ladin, J. Y. Wei, and A. L. Goldberger (1996) Fractal dynamics of human gait: stability of long-range correlations in stride interval fluctuations. Journal of Applied Physiology, 80:5, 1448-1457
Featured image by Dmitry Paranyushkin and Anastasia Pilepchuk