The protesters looked anxious as they rode down the escalator in San Francisco’s Marriott Marquis. A yoga bag slung over one of their shoulders hid a banner reading “Eviction Free San Francisco.” Another had a bullhorn tucked into her backpack. Two reached out to touch an inflatable, neon-blue lotus as they walked toward the conference hall.
They were there to disrupt “Three Steps to Build Corporate Mindfulness the Google Way,” a panel on Google’s corporate mindfulness program at the 2014 Wisdom 2.0 conference. As the panelists began their introduction, protesters walked on stage, unfurled their banner, and began chanting “Wisdom Means Stop Displacement; Wisdom Means Stop Surveillance; San Francisco: Not For Sale!”
The conference itself is an annual gathering of life coaches, tech elites and spiritual teachers now in its fifth year. It bills itself as a “conversation about the merging of wisdom and technology,” and topics range from mindful business and leadership to social entrepreneurship and innovation. Past speakers have included Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg, Twitter founder Biz Stone and Rwandan President (and possible war criminal) Paul Kagame. It even got its own “What to Wear” column at Forbes.