- T.H. Barrett (SOAS, London): Buddhism, Technology, and a Question for Joseph Needham
Though the magisterial series Science and Civilisation in China initiated by Joseph Needham (1900-1995) must remain the first port of call for anyone interested in the science and technology of China before modern times, there is no question but that when he set out on this project over seven decades ago his attitude towards Buddhist influences on the course of technological development in China was unduly negative – he admitted as much himself. He was, after all, a man of his times, and his initial conception of Buddhism certainly smacks of another age. Since I have touched only briefly on this problem in the past, I would like to elucidate the ways in which his early writings tend to miss the mark, and to point up some examples of fresh evidence that helps to complete the picture.
- Marcus Bingenheimer (Temple University): Friends of friends – Hidden bridges in the communication networks of early Chinese Buddhism
The largest available dataset on historical social networks in Chinese Buddhism currently comprises some 17,000 actors, who interacted over a 2000 year period. It is mainly derived from biographical literature and lineage records. This presentation will focus on the beginning of the main component of the network. Although we know of Buddhist translators and their patrons as early as the 2nd century CE, from a social network view, the true fountainhead of Chinese Buddhism can be shown to be a constellation formed by three seminal figures: the monk Daoan, his student Huiyuan, and the Indian translator Kumārajīva, in the time between c.360 and 420 CE. Each of the three is at the center of an active community of collaborators and patrons. According to the available records, historical network analysis illustrates how the stable growth of Buddhism after the 4th century is a direct result of the activities of Daoan, Huiyuan and Kumārajīva and their students. Without the varied and influential activities of these three, Buddhism might have remained a religion of foreigners (like later Manichaeism and Nestorianism), or stayed a fad among aristocrats (like the xuanxue movement). This presentation aims to show how their networks compare to that of other influential figures at the times, and how historical social network analysis can identify bridge actors between their communities, who have been largely overlooked in traditional historical accounts of the period. We will also see how community detection algorithms can serve to distinguish significant groups in a useful manner. The Chinese Buddhism HSNA dataset is freely available under a CC BY-SA license at: http://mbingenheimer.net/tools/socnet/index.html.
Keywords: Chinese Buddhist history, historical social network analysis, biographies of eminent monks
- Justin Brody (Goucher College): Enaction, Convolution and Conceptualism: An AI-Inspired Theory of Buddhist Perception and Conception
- Douglas Samuel Duckworth (Temple University): A Buddhist Contribution to Artificial Intelligence?
Significant questions confront Buddhist traditions in the wake of emergent technologies: can the human body be configured in a certain way, such that it reveals a new world or environment to inhabit beyond optimized self-preservation or survival? Can we manipulate our bodies with technologies – inhibited (or enhanced) by a chemical, a trauma, a contemplative technique, or an implant – such that we are reoriented to a transformed and liberating understanding of the nature of the world and our being in it? As new technologies enhance certain domains of cognitive performance by modeling and extending the structure and capacities of cognition, Buddhism, with a theory of mind and mental development in the absence of an independent essence, owner, or agent like a self, can potentially be a valuable resource.
One of the problems and promises of machine design is that machines, as cultural products, reflect the psyche and goals of their creators – our machines are an extension of ourselves and an expression of human values. With the development of artificial intelligence lies the hope to continue an evolutionary path to actualize the potential intelligence beyond that of the current human condition – the post- or transhuman. Yet a potential danger lurks, like in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, when we make machines in our own image (consciously or not), and our habitual tendencies are embedded subconsciously, or unconsciously, in our creations. That is, we can easily perpetuate the structures of violence and oppression that dwell below the access consciousness of our conscious minds. This where a potential Buddhist contribution to machine design and development may be found. Machines replicate aspects of the psyche (intentions and interests) of the designer and the societies and institutions that support technological design, and uncovering the implications of this embeddedness may be one of Buddhism’s most important contributions to technologically engineered intelligence.
- Jessica Falcone (Kansas State University): The Ambiguity of Digital Ruins: the Ephemerality and Impermanence of Virtual Spaces
This paper explores the ephemerality of digital spaces and the (im)possibilities of digital ruins by paying special ethnographic attention to removed or deleted Buddhist spaces in the virtual world of Second Life. While some Buddhist informants in Second Life tended to attribute the virtual disappearances to the Buddhist truth of impermanence, the Buddhist communities of Second Life were built to endure for some time, and therefore, the instances of failed communities continue to haunt in their own ways.
- Charles Goodman (Binghamton University): Machine Learning, Plant Learning, and the Destabilization of Buddhist Psychology
Recent developments in artificial intelligence and the nascent but rapidly growing scientific literature on “plant learning” pose serious and, as this paper argues, related challenges to Buddhist philosophy of mind and to Buddhist practical ethics. These challenges are of two general types. First, the empirical results threaten to extend the reach of mind more broadly than premodern South Asian and Tibetan Buddhists were willing to allow, potentially calling into question the rational defensibility of a range of Buddhist moral commitments. The tradition does have some intellectual resources that may make it possible to deal with this set of problems.
But the discovery of learning in non-animals also threatens to destabilize the crucial Buddhist distinction between “sentient beings” and the “receptacle world,” raising the possibility of what Yuval Harari calls a “separation between intelligence and consciousness.” To the extent that this separation is a live possibility, it could put further pressure on non-Buddhist views that postulate a soul, while raising new concerns about the defensibility of Buddhist idealism. Such a possibility should also sharpen our attention to AI safety by making the prospect of existential AI risk even more threatening than it would otherwise have been.
- Gregory Greive (University of North Carolina): The Virtue of Dependence: An Ethics of Social Media Based on the Mahāyāna concept of Pratītyasamutpāda and the Cybernetic Theories of Stafford Beer
We currently lack adequate means to address the unethical behavior that has become an all too common part of social media. In order to forge a virtue ethics for social media, this paper is an initial exploration of the cybernetic theories of Stafford Beer analyzed through the lens of the Buddhist concept of Pratītyasamutpāda. Stafford Beer (1926-2002) was a British Cybernetic theorist. In its modern guise, Cybernetics studies circular feedback loops in biological and social systems (Wiener 1948). In this paper, I concentrate on Beer’s conception of a viable system model, a term that defines any adaptable system organized in such a way as to meet the demands of surviving in a changing environment (1972). The Buddhist doctrine of Pratītyasamutpāda, usually translated as dependent origination, states that all phenomena (dharmas) arise only in dependence on other phenomena. As the Indian Scholar, Nagarjuna, in the twenty-fourth chapter of his Treatise on the Middle Way writes: “Whatever arises dependently is explained as empty. Thus dependent attribution is the middle way.” What these two scholars share, is that both Beer and Nagarjuna’s thought suggests an ethics of dependence, which moves beyond permanent principles, which are too rigid and abstract to deal adequately with the complex, highly particularized ethical world of contemporary digital technology. Instead, both systems of thought suggest an ethics based on a concern for the real, existing, unique social being created in the complex web of relationships that make up the social and ethical world of a contemporary digital media subject.
- Paul Hackett (Independent scholar): Spread of printing technology to Tibet and its consequences
- Xiao Han (UQAM): “机器之心”—上座部阿毗达摩视角下的人工智能之分析
- Natasha Heller (University of Virginia): The Aesthetics of Android Buddhas
This paper will analyze several contemporary representations of the merging of Buddha and machine, both in artistic projects and in use in temples. Through these examples I will explore how enlightenment might be understood as akin to a mechanical or robotic process, and how aesthetics express the relationship between technology and spirit. Two recent artists play with the idea of buddhas-as-robots: Ziwon Wang’s sculptures of bodhisattvas and buddhas use sleek white forms stripped of the ornamentation typical of traditional statues. By juxtaposing these body parts with systems of gears, Wang’s statues offer a modern vision of interconnectedness, where one movement entails other movements. The short film “The Heavenly Creature,” based on Pak Sŏng-hwan’s short story “Readymade Bodhisattva,” presents a robot who is enlightened, and how this challenges the robot’s Buddhist temple and the company which created it. Temples, too, have used robots in the form of buddhas or bodhisattvas. The Android Kannon funded by the Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto was built by famed roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro. Ishiguo, known for robots that are close approximations of human beings, here makes the mechanical aspects of the Kannon robot very clear. In contrast, the Xian’er robot at Longquan Monastery in Beijing is based on a cartoon character of a monk, and represents a very different aesthetic. Comparing these different Buddhist robots, I will argue that certain robot bodies are more suited to capturing the qualities of a Buddha, and even perhaps the ideal of enlightenment. I will place my discussion within the context of Buddhist philosophy and theories of embodiment, and conclude that culturally-situated histories of other bodies can help us understand the affect of robotic bodies.
- Peter Hershock (East West Center): The Intelligence Revolution and the New Great Game: A Buddhist Reflection on the Personal and Societal Predicaments of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
The most pressing challenges of the present and coming decades—among them, climate change; the degradation of both natural and urban environments; and rising inequalities of wealth, income, risk and opportunity—are not technical problems. They are ethical predicaments that consist in deep (and often tragic) conflicts within and among our globally dominant systems of social, cultural, economic and political values. Today, we are witnessing the early stages of perhaps the greatest of these predicaments: a transformation of the human experience by the impacts of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data. This presentation will first discuss the current state of the “intelligence revolution,” its likely future, and the systematic colonization of consciousness that informs the deepening interdependence of the new global attention economy and the surveillance state. Buddhist conceptual resources will then be used to reflect on who we must present as to resist the displacement of intelligent human practices by “smart” services and to realize an ethical ecosystem suited to ensuring that the intelligence revolution is conducive to more equitable and humane global futures.
- Matthew King (University of California, Riverside): The Mind Beyond the Atom: Lozang Gyatso and the Logical Problems of Brain Science and Materialist Biomedicine
- Jeffrey Kotyk (McMaster University): The Astronomical Work of Monk Yixing 一行 (673–727) and its Enduring Legacy in the Song to Ming Periods
The Chinese monk Yixing 一行 (673–727) is especially unique in being both an early architect of the Esoteric Buddhist tradition in East Asia in addition to being a significant figure in the history of astronomy and calendrical science in China. His legacy in the Buddhist world is well known, but the enduring quality of his scientific work in later centuries is less appreciated. The present paper will document the reception and development of Yixing’s work on calendrical science while also discussing the perception of his historical and mythical person amongst Chinese writers from the Song to Ming periods.
- Bill Magee (Maitripa Institute): Open-Source Geshe: A Digital Assistant for Tibetan Debate
See: uvaphd.com; github.com/wam7c/debate.
Key words: Tibet, Logic, Debate, Epistemology, Collected Topics, Open Source.
- Bill Mak (Kyoto University): Buddhist Astronomy, A Misnomer? – The Case of the Transmission of the Jiuzhi li 九執曆 in China
Despite claims and accounts of a handful of Buddhist monks in China possessing superior astral knowledge and skills, there is so far no evidence of a single, coherent tradition of Buddhist astronomy. Historically, while Indian Buddhists are generally acknowledged to have contributed to the field of medicine, they are not known among their non-Buddhist contemporaries as skilful mathematicians or astronomers. While one often finds in the Chinese records the portrayal of foreign monks as skilful astronomers and diviners, a close examination reveals in fact that Buddhists in India, as later in China, possess much less skills than their Brahmanical and Jaina counterparts, and in general play very little role in the scientific development of their time. Their astronomical knowledge is often appropriated from a variety of sources to fulfill practical needs such as the calendrics, time-reckoning in rituals, and astrology. In this paper, I shall examine the case of the Jiuzhi li 九執曆, composed in Chinese by *Gautamasiddhārtha 瞿曇悉達 in 718 C.E., which is the most advanced extant astronomical treatise known to have been used by Chinese Buddhists during the Tang Period. Advanced Indian mathematical and astronomical concepts such as spherical trigonometry, sine table, and algorithmic techniques for the computation of celestial motions are found in this treatise and are very different from those of the Chinese. The text was circulated among the Tang officials and the esoteric Buddhists in Chang’an before transmitted eventually to Japan where a section of it was preserved. The treatise was however poorly received by the Chinese and was lost for centuries until a copy of it was accidentally discovered in the early seventeenth century. Since then Chinese and Japanese scholars have tried to decipher its content. Despite the difficulty of its technical language, its astronomical content is found to be far less sophisticated than the Sanskrit astronomical works of the time. The disinterest of the Chinese in this work, however, means also that they have missed an opportunity to discover a completely different way of analyzing celestial motions, and to engage with a different form of mathematics and astronomy ultimately more advanced than their own.
- Beverley McGuire (University of North Carolina Wilmington): Buddhist Self-Tracking Apps: Identifying, Tracking, and Regulating Emotions in a Digital Era
This paper examines Buddhist digital technologies designed to identify, track, and regulate emotions. Emotion practices tied to language, material objects, and situations change over time and across cultures (Schuler 2018; Scheer 2012). In our digital era, people often communicate and connect with others through emails, text messages, and social media, relying on emoticons (emojis) to convey emotions that in face-to-face conversation would be apparent through nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and bodily gestures. Emoticons contribute to greater social presence by transmitting relational information that increases the perception of human interaction and enhances comprehension (Aldunate and González-Ibáñez 2017).
Although scholars have shown how digital devices can adversely effect emotional development, resulting in an inability to identify the feelings of others or themselves, a loss of empathy, and a diminished capacity for self-reflection (Turkle 2015), some Buddhists have sought to cultivate these capacities by developing apps that seek to increase emotional awareness. Most of the apps that come up if one searches for “Buddhism” are meditation apps: However, exceptions include the app “Mitra” designed and developed by the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT to helps users identify their core values, cultivate emotional awareness, and align their emotions with their values. Users report feeling more self-aware after they track their emotions and values regularly. These types of quantified self-tracking technologies create “a laboratory of the self” that amplify certain aspects of oneself while reducing and restricting others (Kristensen and Ruckenstein 2018). This paper analyzes the ways in which Buddhist ideas influenced the design and development of the technology as well as the user experience. It also discusses continuities and discontinuities between “Mitra” and other self-tracking apps.
- Sebastian Nehrdich (Hamburg University): A Quotation Network for Buddhist Chinese Sources Based on Million-scale Nearest Neighbor Search
For the research of Buddhist textual material, citations and similar passages are of major importance. This paper explores the application of continuous word representations and nearest neighbor search in order to efficiently compute a quotational network of the Chinese Buddhist canon. It also discusses methods of evaluating the quality of the detected parallels and demonstrates a potencial use-case of the resulting data for philological research in the form of a web application.
- Stuart Ray Sarbucker (Oregon State): Buddhist Meditation and the Ethics of Human Augmentation
Emergent technologies of “Human Engineering,” also known as “Human Augmentation,” are rapidly changing the nature of human embodiment and have profound social and moral implications.1 Particularly noteworthy are technologies that enhance human physical, sensory, and cognitive capacities, from artificial limbs and visual and hearing aids that expand action and perception to wearables and implants that provide instant access to vast amounts of data. The philosophy and practice of Buddhist meditation (Skt. dhyāna, Pāli jhāna, Ch. ch’an, Jpn. zen) provides a paradigm for understanding how Buddhist ethics might address issues raised by the augmentation of human capacities through technology. Indian Buddhist traditions, and those of greater Asia derived from them, typically divide meditation (dhyāna) or mental cultivation (bhāvanā) into two primary spheres, serenity (śamatha) and insight (vipaśyanā). The mastery of śamatha, a yogic practice that leads to increasingly calm and focused cognitive states, is associated with the attainment of higher modes of cognition (abhijñā) that lead to power over one’s embodiment and the world. In addition, meditators in deep śamatha-dhyāna are said to attain cognitive capacities that are equivalent to those of the brahmā-deities that exist on higher cosmological levels of the form (rūpa) and formless (arūpa) realms (loka). Vipaśyanā, however, is said to be a uniquely Buddhist practice that facilitates liberating knowledge or wisdom (jñāna, prajñā) and thereby frees a practitioner from bondage to the cycle (saṃsāra) of birth and rebirth and the suffering (duḥkha) that it entails. From this śamatha-vipaśyanā distinction, we can glean a set of insights into how Buddhist ethics might be utilized to evaluate technologies of human augmentation. These include 1) a recognition that technology may make humans more god-like, but that even the gods are still denizens of saṃsāra and not liberated beings; 2) that technology, like meditation, might facilitate the achievement of serenity and concentration as instruments for achieving liberating knowledge or wisdom (jñāna, prajñā), if applied skillfully; and 3) that one who has achieved liberating knowledge or wisdom (jñāna, prajñā) might utilize technology in a manner similar to the abhijñā as a vehicle for helping free others from suffering and ultimately achieve liberation. In addition to examining the broad spectrum of forms of technological augmentation, we will focus on technologies that promise to accelerate cognitive or spiritual development—from neurofeedback and “headwiring” to the use of psychoactive substances and virtual reality—that seem particularly germane to discussions of Buddhism, technology, and ethics. Lastly, we will examine how emergent philosophical and religious conceptions of the “Transhuman” and “Posthuman” represent states of transformation that are strikingly parallel in some ways to Buddhist conceptions of spiritual development and attainment, particularly with respect to the figures of the Arhat, Pratyekabuddha, Bodhisattva, and Buddha.
- Joshua Stoll (University of Hawai‘i West O‘ahu): Buddha in the Chinese Room: Empty Persons, Other Mindstreams, and the Strong AI Debate
This paper will analyze the concept of strong AI and the debate surrounding John Searle’s Chinese Room argument from a Buddhist point of view. First, we will explore the debate on the Chinese Room argument’s implications for the possibility of strong AI. Then we will delve into Buddhist arguments for the selflessness of persons (pudgalanairātmya) as well as the status of other mindstreams (santānāntara) and Buddha’s omniscience (sarvajnātva) as it relates to the possibility of his cognition of other psychophysical continua (santānāntara). Finally, the implications of these Buddhist considerations will be introduced into the debate regarding Searle’s thought experiment in order to develop an understanding of strong AI from a Buddhist perspective.
- SUN Guozhu
- Panyadipa Tan (Shan State Buddhist University, Taunggyi, Myanmar): Rediscovering the Buddha’s wisdom in Scientific Age: Buddhist Meditation and Research on Psychosomatic Health and Longevity
A major factor that makes Buddhism appeal to modern people contributing to its growth in the West is its empirical teachings which invite investigations of truths by reason and direct experience. This unassuming pragmatic spirit distinguishes Buddhism from other religions, making it particularly relevant in this era where evidence-based scientific inquiry becomes hegemonic to discovery of knowledge. In recent decades much collaborative effort in scientific research has been initiated between Buddhist practitioners and scientists. Accumulating evidence from such collaboration not only attests to the potential health benefits of Buddhist meditations, but has also greatly helped edifying Buddhism as a religion that confers demonstrable mental and physical wellbeing. Today, the Buddhist-inspired mindfulness meditation has increasingly been adopted into integrative and mainstream healthcare systems. Its possible roles in managing stress, affective mood disorders and various forms of pain and addiction have been considerably recognized. In addition to this, a plethora of psychosomatic effects potentially against chronic and degenerative diseases have also been reported for certain forms of Buddhist meditation. Based upon hundreds of peer-reviewed clinical studies on Buddhist meditation interventions in public science repositories, this paper aims to give an up-to-date, systematic appraisal on how Buddhist meditation affects psychosomatic and longevity indices. The possible biological mechanisms involved in such effects will be briefly discussed. Relevant excerpts and legends from ancient Buddhist texts on how mental cultivations might help ameliorate physical affliction and illnesses will also be referenced. Finally, the caveats and apparent shortcomings of current scientific findings in informing the ethical and spiritual goals of Buddhism will be addressed. I hope this paper will keep Buddhist scholars of non-medical background abreast with state-of-the-art medical research findings in Buddhist meditation. Through continual collaboration across disciplines, Buddhism and science are ready to continue work with each other toward a balanced and sustainable technological progress that weighs in fundamental ethical and humanistic values.
- Yu-chun Wang (Dharma Drum Institute for Liberal Arts): Word segmentation for Classical Chinese Buddhist literature
With the growing of digital humanities, information technologies take more important roles in humanity research fields, such as religion. To analyze text for further processing, many text analysis tools take a word as an unit. However, in Chinese, there is no word boundary markers. Word segmentation is required for processing Chinese texts. Although several word segmentation tools are available for modern Chinese, there is still no practical word segmentation tool for Classical Chinese, especially for Classical Chinese Buddhist literature. In this paper, we adopt unsupervised and supervised learning techniques to build Classical Chinese word segmentation approaches for Buddhist literature processing. Normalized variation of branching entropy (nVBE) is adopted for unsupervised word segmentation. Two supervised learning mechanisms, conditional random fields (CRF) and long-short term memory (LSTM), are used to generate models for classical Chinese word segmentation. The performance of our word segmentation approach achieves up to 0.9186 in F1-score. The experiment results show that our proposed method is effective to correctly segment most Classical Chinese sentences in Buddhist literature. Our word segmentation method can be a fundamental tool for further text analysis and processing researches, such as word embedding, syntactic parsing, and semantic labeling.
- Mei Wang (University of Science and Technology of China): 基于人工智能技术的佛教壁画类文化遗产修复研究 Study on Artificial-Intelligence-Based Buddhist Murals Restoration
深度学习是人工智能研究领域下的一种机器学习方法，原理是对数据进行表征学习来模拟人脑神经结构，其广泛运用于图像处理研究，近两年亦逐步应用于文化遗产保护工作。其中生成式对抗网络（Generative Adversarial Networks，GAN）作为近年来流行的一种深度学习模型，主要用于图像的生成，在宗教艺术作品的数字化修复方面发挥了显著作用，对壁画乃至唐卡的补全、风格生成等都具有重要的参考价值。
This paper aims to promote the integration of latest technology and Buddhist art and culture, focusing on the feasibility and accessibility of Artificial Intelligence (AI) assisted Buddhist mural restoration in East Asia. Long before the diffusion of AI technology, Buddhist murals from Mogao Caves has undergone long-term exploration for its digitization. After entering the so-called AI era, study of the digitization of murals could be brought to a brand-new stage. Therefore, this paper takes Buddhist murals as a case to explore the possibility of using AI technology based on Deep Learning (DL) to preserve Buddhist arts. DL is known as a Machine Learning (ML) method under AI-related research, which is widely used in image recognition and generation. Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN), as a popular DL model, is widely used in image generation and could be used in restoring and generating broken murals and Thangka. Tasks of murals preservation using AI technology include broken image restoration, ancient paintings dating, lost historic painting style generation.
- Christian Wittern (Kyoto University): Zen, Motorcycles and burning Buddhas
- Yan Lu
- Yi Jianhui (Nanjing University): 佛陀与机器人：AI发展对佛陀观的挑战
- ZHOU Liqun
- Min Zhu (Harbin University of Science and Technology): 人工智能的“心识”限度——基于《成唯识论》的思考