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August 21, 2003

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C.T. Thieme

It is possible, should we as humans continue to develop in the linear direction which we are currently on, that we will "build a computer" or more logically develop an artificial intelligence capable of the rational processes in a combination necessary to achieve consciousness. From my extremely limited understanding, I have been led to believe that Buddhism is "the way", I would sacrilegiously say "a way", a vehicle by which we may achieve enlightenment, the human version of pure existence. Some go by airplane. Some by train. Some simply are pure existence, the rocks, the trees, the animals. As humans, we achieve this through rational thought, propelling ourselves through koans, discussion and introspection which leads us to and in combination with meditation till achieving that point where we let it go, we get off the bus, step out of the airplane. If rational thought has no other part in the process, it is at the very least in the decision to meditate.

I am not saying it will happen with A.I., but it may. It is possible. There is a prejudice, a sentientcentricity, which we can possibly hold that may make this possibility unappealing. Nature is what happens on this planet, not what happens which humans take no part in. We are nature. Sometimes aspects of nature are out of balance with nature as a whole. When this happens, eventually these aspects are corrected. Balance and unbalance are natural. Rational thinking is natural. Morality is a construct imposed on the natural state. It just happens. If I am correct, and I am aware that I may not be, computers are natural.

This aside, I will claim that I have a computer right now, sitting at home, which holds within its frame, Buddha consciousness. I can safely make this claim due to one solid qualification. It is off.

Agape,
C.

C.T. Thieme

It is possible, should we as humans continue to develop in the linear direction which we are currently on, that we will "build a computer" or more logically develop an artificial intelligence capable of the rational processes in a combination necessary to achieve consciousness. From my extremely limited understanding, I have been led to believe that Buddhism is "the way", I would sacrilegiously say "a way", a vehicle by which we may achieve enlightenment, the human version of pure existence. Some go by airplane. Some by train. Some simply are pure existence, the rocks, the trees, the animals. As humans, we achieve this through rational thought, propelling ourselves through koans, discussion and introspection which leads us to and in combination with meditation till achieving that point where we let it go, we get off the bus, step out of the airplane. If rational thought has no other part in the process, it is at the very least in the decision to meditate.

I am not saying it will happen with A.I., but it may. It is possible. There is a prejudice, a sentientcentricity, which we can possibly hold that may make this possibility unappealing. Nature is what happens on this planet, not what happens which humans take no part in. We are nature. Sometimes aspects of nature are out of balance with nature as a whole. When this happens, eventually these aspects are corrected. Balance and unbalance are natural. Rational thinking is natural. Morality is a construct imposed on the natural state. It just happens. If I am correct, and I am aware that I may not be, computers are natural.

This aside, I will claim that I have a computer right now, sitting at home, which holds within its frame, Buddha consciousness. I can safely make this claim due to one solid qualification. It is off.

Agape,
C.

klh

I found this an excellent post. I think I have experienced this myself. Not too long ago I had an awakened (lucid) dream, where I was aware that I was awake, but my body was still sleeping. I have since found that this is well known in Tibetan dream yoga and part of Naropa's six yoga's, the yoga of the dream state.
This gap you speak of is well known in Buddhism, not just Zen, but as Rigpa, the clear essence of wisdom. This fundamental emptiness is the heart of Buddhism, as this is what the Buddha said all existence to be, emptiness! Or the gap that exists between thoughts brought into awarenesss through meditation and contemplation!
Ken

Patrick Meuser

Nova,

For the most part, this article points to a sectarian understanding of artificial intelligence and should we adopt such a form of research independent of the Human brain?

You write, "No scientist will ever succeed in building a conscious or intelligent machine". Let me draw a metaphor. If I am to find myself in a situation with no prior knowledge, as a machine, I am still able to decide an intelligent course of action without affecting a past understanding as a consequence of growth. More likely stated: no artisian will ever succeed in deciding conciousness, and no decisive scientist will ever succeed in choosing, for an intelligent machine builds itself.

Nova Spivack

James,

"pure" awareness can be identified as the nature of the mind in the "gap" between two thoughts. In that "gap" -- after one thought has vanished but the next thought has not emerged -- what remains? Is that "gap" a mere nothingness? Do you cease to exist? If not, then something continues despite the absence of any conceptual cognition taking place. What is it that continues? In other words, what is the mind like when there are absolutely no thoughts taking place in it?

Let's be even more precise: What is the mind like at the time when there are neither thoughts nor external sense perceptions arising -- for example in a state of total sensory deprivation? The mind doesn't simply cease, does it? Even if one has no thoughts or perceptions there is still a naked awareness at least, isn't there? But if we observe that naked awareness just as it is, what do we find? What is it like?

If you examine this in your own experience you may find that it is basically emptiness without any characteristics, yet it is also "awake" or imbued with a quality of being or "knowing." There is nothing there at all with any characteristics that can be identified, reduced or isolated in any way. Yet at the same time it is not a mere nothingness -- there is something there that is self-aware of itself, of its own emptiness.

This is not something that can be understood from simply reading these words; you have to actually meditate on this until you experience it yourself and are certain that this is actually what awareness really is like. I am not referring to some sort of subjective perception -- I am referring to a state that is not subjective because it is totally non-conceptual; it is pre-subjective.

Because no concepts or percpetion are involved in recognizing this basic empty awareness that is the nature of the mind, it is not a conceptual or sensory experience and cannot be said to be subjective or even objective for that matter. It is totally prior to any such dualistic distinctions. But don't take my word for it (I know you won't anyway!); you've got to see this for yourself or what I am saying here will sound either meaningless or like some sort of "philosophy."

I am not simply spouting out beliefs here -- I am talking about something that is verifiable and repeatable -- something fundamentally true about Reality -- something as basic as space and time. This perfectly empty awareness is what I call "pure awareness." It is "pure" because it is not clouded by any sort of conceptuality whatsoever and is totally empty of any characteristics.

A good analogy for "pure awareness" is space. Space is never actually obscured or affected by anything that resides in space. Space is always empty and open. No matter what happens, space is never harmed or changed. A fire may appear in space, but space is not burned. Water may appear in space, but space doesn't get wet. A planet may appear in space, but space is never filled. Space is always "pure" no matter what is in it momentarily. Awareness is always pure in a similar way -- no matter what arises in awareness, in its own basic nature it is totally free and clear. That "totally free and clear" nature of awareness -- that is actually there all the time no matter what arises in awareness -- is what is "pure" about it.

Now as to your other point -- you claim that just because in one's experience it may feel like there is no information content that does not prove that there really is no information content. Please note that if there is any "feeling" or conception at all -- even the concept of "this state has no information content" then that is not a truly empty state -- that is not a state that is absent of information content. So I agree with you: If a person "feels" that they are in some state that has no information content, then they are just fooling themselves. A state that is truly empty of information content has no "feeling" -- it is the absence of "feeling" and cannot be "felt." But that doesn't mean it cannot take place! In fact this state takes place for everyone thousands of times a minute in each gap between one thought and the next. The gap is not a thought, not a perception -- it is not information -- it is empty. So what is it? Or are you saying there are no gaps between thoughts? Well if there are no gaps how can you say that one thought has ended and another one has started, or that you even have "thoughts"? If there is no gap between thoughts then there really is no such thing as "a thought" at all -- instead all cognitive activity would be just one undifferentiated continuum -- a single giant thought. Is that how you experience your mind? I don't think so. Therefore there must be gaps between thoughts. In fact, we all have experienced moments without thought -- even if only briefly -- which prove such gaps can exist. So if by definition such a gap is not a thought, what is its information content? And furthermore, what "carries" that information during that gap if you feel it is present? Since there are no thoughts there during that gap, what information could be there and in what form? The gap has no content -- that is why it is called a "gap" in the first place. If it has content then it is not a gap at all, it is just another mental experience of some sort -- in other words some sort of thought. So let's be clear: gaps between thoughts must exist and can be verified to exist. Because they are gaps they do not contain thoughts. What information content could there be in a state that has no thoughts arising in it? Can there be "information content" without a thought arising? Or is information content dependent on a thought that encapsulates and perceives it as such? With no thought present, what could percieve such information content and what could represent it? Without any thought taking place, how could there be information content? Now note I am speaking about the content of a mental experience -- not about physics. There may well be information taking place in the physical universe, or even in the human body and brain -- but that is not the same as saying that this information is percieved.

What I am pointing to is the fact that the human mind is able to BE in a state that is simultaneously aware yet emtpy -- that is a state that is a sort of "gap between thoughts" -- and when it is in this state is does not simply cease to be, but rather it simply rests in total stillness without losing that quality of awareness. Synthetic, computer awareness is not capable of doing this because computers are not really aware at all. Computers don't have a basic natural continuum of awareness -- instead they have a sequence of information states, none of which are actually aware of anything. When the information states are in flux a computer may seem to be thinking or even conscious. But in the gap between such information states, or if the computer is paused such that the information states cease to flow, the computer is no longer conscious or aware. It is not like that with a human being -- even when there is no conceptual process or activity taking place -- even in a "gap" between thoughts -- there is still awareness. This "empty awareness" cannot be simulated or synthesized by a computer, or anything that is not truly aware.

--> Nova

JamesC

"It is pure consciousness, pure awareness of awareness... No computer can have this experience because this experience is a state without any information content".

It's a huge assumption to say that those state's literally are "pure concoiusness", "pure awareness" and have "no information content". To the person experiencing them, they may seem that way, but its very naive to assume that the way our concious experience _feels_ is a indicator of the way they in fact _are_. I have a further problem with those assertions: language allows us to apply the prefix "pure" onto concepts such as "conciousness" or "perception" but do such notions really exist? I don't think so, and I'd like to see some give an clear, concrete description of what they really mean.

josh

There are parts of our brains that can unscramble out magnetic waves, including gamma rays and supernatural energy into real time 3-D. We can make our selfs realize the measurement of mass and energy by stimulating turned off real time measurements, but real time measurement is turned off in our mind, Our mind has to deal with macro at all times to co-exsist. Our minds are Quantum receptors that turn entanglement to a ray or organized mass. In other words God gives the Quantun and we use the kingdom of heaven to filter Quantun with our minds to give us free will to realize and invent but evolution and macro slows evolution as we know it which creates time. Our brains use Quantum all the time ,but it refragments Quantum to smoothly for us to only not to think of each and every awarness or commmands but our brains have code set compatible instincs that are updated by realtime.

Don

Interesting post, Nova, as is the post on www.longbets.org. Have you read Ken Wilber, perhaps? If not, definitely worth a look.

Your whole argument though convinced me that, in fact, computers will realize self-awareness. As you argued, subjects and objects are actually contained *within* awareness. Even a rock has 'buddha-nature' -- so why not a computer? It would be yet another vehicle for awareness, just as humanity and all sentient life is yet a vehicle for awareness to be aware of itself.

Awareness does not need an information process, but I see no reason why a computer system could not be another means for awareness to be manifest.

Rene

Je pense donc je suis?

Patrick

this is fascinating stuff, and mostly very convincing, but it does raise one important question. if we understand intelligence to be a product of the human brain, and the brain to be an electrical system, either one of two conclusions must follow - awareness must be a potential product of a computer-like system, or awareness must be a product of something other that the scientifically-understood human.

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