August 3, 2004

Survive the Singularity: Propagate Buddhism!

Transhuman Horizons is a website devoted to science, technology and futursim. In an online forum discussion among members of the Extropian Institute, the topic of the singularity is discussed. In this discussion, Buddhism is described as a value system most likely able to cope with the singularity because one principle of Buddhism is that change is inevitable.

Posted by chri1010 at 1:31 PM

Notes on the Singularity

I think Vernor Vinge is probably credited as the originator of the concept of The Singularity. Since I've put a link to his paper here, I don't think I need to paraphrase his definition of the singularity itself. A few thoughts on the implications, though....

Although the singularity is usually equated with artificial intelligence, I think that's only one aspect of what's in store when the quantity of knowledge being produced around us is more than we can begin to fathom. We definitely see the workings of this already, and as I have been out here in Portland, I've really felt the reality of this "knowledge overload." As technology continues to outpace us, how can we keep up?

The implications for Buddhism and Futurism are that how we define the self now will be obsolete. Vinge says that the singularity "is a point where our old models must be discarded and a new reality rules." The model for "the self" will be one of these models that will need to go (if it hasn't already). The singularity may be the point when the postmodern, fragmented self must be contended with, if it hasn't been already. (Except that, the postmodern self is still "a self" even if it has been fragmented.) In the singularity, we'll experience a stronger connection to the notion that we have multiple selves that can be, to some degree, at odds with each other (thus, paradigmatic).

Posted by chri1010 at 1:01 PM

Thoughts Without A Thinker

I've been reading this book called Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective by Mark Epstein. While the book focuses pretty tightly around how psychotherapy can be enhanced by adding a Buddhist perspective, I think there's applicability to the more general understanding of the self here, too. Epstein gives a fine introduction to Buddhism for the uninitiated, and he uses plenty of concrete examples. I'm not finished with the book, but my sense is that Epstein argues that psychotherapy is an external form of seeking while Buddhism is more internal. The solution offered by Buddhism and Epstein is meditation.

How meditation connects to futurism and the singularity at this point, I'm not sure. But, I'm not done thinking about this yet.

Posted by chri1010 at 12:44 PM