The Buddhist Geek

An interview with digital innovator Vincent Horn

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In 2006, two Naropa University students, Vincent Horn and Ryan Oelke, sat in a coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado, brainstorming how they might combine their “geeky skills” with their passion for Buddhist practice. The answer, they decided, lay in a passion project that Horn and Oelke called Buddhist Geeks, an interview-format podcast that the friends launched the following year. On their podcast Horn and Oelke spoke with Buddhist teachers, scholars, and thinkers about technology, global culture, and contemporary Buddhist practice.

By 2008, the Buddhist Geeks podcasts had been downloaded more than one million times, and in 2010 Horn set up a micropatronage system to finance the company’s growth. The Buddhist geeks of the world responded with enthusiasm; the crowdfunding effort was a success, and later that year horn was able to begin full-time work on the project.

Now in its sixth year, Buddhist Geeks has grown beyond the original podcast format to include essays, virtual meditation retreats, and an annual 3-day Buddhist geeks conference in Boulder. As Buddhist geeks continues to grow and expand, the question—Horn calls it their “koan”—that drives the company remains the same: “How can we serve the convergence of Buddhism with rapidly evolving technology and an increasingly global culture?”

In March, Horn spoke with Tricycle’s managing editor, Rachel Hiles, about video games, the future of Buddhist Geeks, and the potentials and pitfalls of the convergence of Buddhism and technology.


Adrian Navarro

You’ve suggested that contemplation is becoming an information technology. What do you mean by that? I was at the South by Southwest Interactive Technology Conference last year, and I heard the technologist and inventor Ray Kurzweil point out that genetics became an information technology when the human genome was mapped and could then be understood in terms of digital information, mostly through the four base pairs of DNA. Since then, DNA has actually even become a digital storage medium; people are storing information in DNA.

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