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2019 Course Details

MAS.756: Principles of Awareness (0-9-0)

Published onNov 13, 2017
2019 Course Details

(Click here for the application form, deadline — Jan 26th)


Joichi Ito (Director, MIT Media Lab)
The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi (Director, ML Ethics Initiative)
with Guest Speakers

Teaching Assistants

Karthik Dinakar
Ariel Ekblaw


What is awareness? Is it a “default” state or is it cultivated? Can it improve performance and wellbeing? What role does technology play in promoting or hindering awareness? Is there an ethical framework for our capacity to be aware? And can self-awareness be linked to happiness? 
The course will be set in an experiential learning environment where students will explore various theories and methodologies around these questions. Students will be required to keep an open lab book documenting their observations, and present them regularly during class sessions. The final project will consist of evaluating and developing awareness tools, techniques and interfaces targeted towards performance and wellbeing.

Themes to explore:

  • Boundaries of Awareness: Self and Other

  • Change

  • Resisting Reductionism

  • Relational Awareness

  • Non-Duality

  • Joy and Happiness

Class meetings will consist of practice, lectures and discussions with invited speakers. Some of the talks will be open to the public. And the practice will range from meditation to hacking.




Tuesdays, 10 am - 12 pm

Schedule (Spring 2019)

  • February 5 - Introduction and Stillness (E14-244)

  • February 12 - Relational Awareness (E14-244)

    / reading: Martin Buber. I and Thou

  • [February 19 - no class]
    / Monday schedule of classes to be held in observance of President’s Day

  • February 26 - Thought Formation (E14-244)

  • March 5 - Change (E14-244)

    / reading: Daniel Goleman. Destructive Emotions and How We Can Overcome Them - A Dialogue with the Dalai Lama

  • March 12 - Compassion (E14-244)

    / reading: B. Alan Wallace. The Four Immeasurables - Practices to Open the Heart

  • March 19 - Non-violence (E14-244)

    / reading: Ibram X Kendi. Stamped from the Beginning

  • [March 26 - no class] 
    / MIT spring break

  • April 2 - Shifting Paradigms - Resisting Reductionism (E14-244)
    / reading: Resisting Reduction, Joi Ito (link)

  • April 9 - Emotions (E14-244)

  • [April 16 - no class] 
    / Patriots’ Day

  • [April 23 - no class]

    /Member’s Week

  • April 30th - Resting States— Sleep/Dream (E14-244)

  • May 7th - Purpose (E14-244)
    / Media Lab member event

  • May 14th - presentation of final projects (E14-244)


  • 7 hours of sleep per day

  • contemplative practice

  • journal (share on pubpub)

  • one new thing per day


  • 50% class attendance and participation

  • 30% open lab book

  • 20% final project

Class Size

Not to exceed 25 extremely curious individuals who are willing to share their personal practices, thoughts and learnings. Preference given to Media Lab students.

Please note that this course is set in an experiential learning environment to which a consistent cohort is essential. Only students who are able to commit to regular attendance are encouraged to apply.


Permission of Instructor.

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