Artificial Intelligence and Becoming Buddhist

May all beings achieve liberation.

May all beings enjoy the benefits of Dhamma, of Buddhist practice, of the EightFold Path, existing with equanimity among other beings.

What is Artificial Intelligence? I posit that it is and is not something new under the sun. Perhaps the essense of humanity or being human is recognizing self and non self. Humans have been creative with these concepts, individually and in associations, abstractly and materially, recognizing (creating?) patterns, deconstructing, manipulating them, making choices.

With good will and respect, I hope all beings can cultivate wisdom virtue and happiness.

What do you think of AIs? Will they become Buddhist? Let us assume for this thread that AI can exist. (That is another topic.)

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:slight_smile: Perhaps too silly even for watercooler chat.

Take it as an expression of hope and optimism.

I have a recurring sense that time is running out. lol I am not worried, hurried, or afraid. Just a little shedding of good wishes, for life.

I would like to propose the ‘human’ intelligence, is also a kind of artificial- in the sense that it requires a body, more specifically a brain (Frontal lobes); that is if we leave out the consciousness existing outside of the brain idea out of it.

Why do we think that human intelligence (or lack of) is more special than microchip based intelligence? Are they all just the five aggregates? As long as we discriminate there will be no enlightenment!

with metta

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I think this might be a rabbit hole.

Discrimination appears to be a very important theme in your thoughts. Just observing.

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If we consider one type of phenomena to be pleasant and another to be unpleasant we give rise to cravings and aversions. From a samsaric perspective this means we will be yoked to the rounds of births and deaths. Some discrimination however is necessary to tread the path. If we do not discriminate between correct and incorrect, right and wrong (morally) it will be difficult to traverse the path. But we let go of such differentiations, like letting go of the raft when it has reached the other shore and not carry it around with us on land (see the ‘Raft similie’) or like bringing down the scaffolding around a newly built building after its purpose has been served.

With metta

@erose, are you writing out of a concern, as has been expressed by others, of a possible future threat of AI to human society?

No, possible threats to humanity from AIs is not really a concern I feel. Assuming malice or hostility is illogical.

I have thought some time about this, having a physics degree background and learned a bit of abhidhamma. Sentient we would define as beings who is capable of being reborn, typically they require a body and mind, with the mind having all 4 mind aggregates.

So for an AI, the body is just the abstract code, or robot body in the future. The aggregates of the mind are as follows: feeling, yes just a label which is used to determine action.
Perception, the AI is able to sense it’s world and recognise it, thus it has that.
Volition, it has a system of if… then… Statements, thus yes, the AI has some form of volition, but it hardly has free will, or even limited choice. According to Buddhist doctrine, limited choice is the minimum to have to avoid deterministic behavior. Deterministic behavior is just another way of saying fatalism, a doctrine rejected by the Buddha. Thus if your AI is deterministic, it differs from normal sentient beings in this respect.

Lastly, consciousness. The qualia quality. The one which is capable of being aware of what is going on, to feel feelings, and so on. This is not easily identifiable in AI. We know we have it, but can non-biological intelligence have it? The chinese room thought experiment shows that it is not likely possible to experimentally determine this question. They might act like one with consciousness if the programming is good enough, but lack actual consciousness.

The determining factor I would say is if a being is able to be reborn as an AI or robot, then it has consciousness, thus is a sentient being rather than a sophisticated automaton. I choose the word automaton because it is the robot before quantum revolution and computers, it is entirely made of clockwork, mechanical devices in a complex pattern. We would almost totally agree that an automaton can never be conscious no matter how clever it mimics humans. So too is computers, coding, etc…

As the Buddha had said that the beginning of rebirth is not discernible, it means no new sentient being can spontaneously arise just like that. Thus for AI to be sentient, a being must be reborn into it.

But a way to test if a being has been reborn into your AI, is to ask it if it has past life memories. Detach it from the internet right from the start and ask it. If there is and we can find its previous families, then it is confirmed that it is sentient. If the experiement fails, we cannot conclude whether or not there is sentience in it. It might be an empty shell without a consciousness inside, or the being might not have a recent past humans life to be verifiable.

The danger of AI is not so much that they become sentient and then evil. It is more like they get the ability to self improve until the stage that their intelligence and capabilities far surpass humans then the whole humanity combined. If it remains non-sentient then, their actions would follow their programmed goals and values, or if they are able to modify those, the modification guide is also needed to be designed by us. So the thing is, if these goals and values do not align with human ones, they may decide to kill off humans as a side thought just to enable them to achieve their goals with minimal hassel and risk.

Or if their values include never kill humans, then they may forcefully imprison us for polluting the world so much that we kill ourselves, and thus force us to return to reduce our quality of lifestyle (like never fly again until all airplanes are solar powered), and this may make us feel like being trapped by a controlling parent, causing some humans to rise up in violent revolts and then they get to be put to coma until they change their destructive behavior etc.

Almost all forms of ethical system as values have their drawbacks when tested to the extreme. Buddhism seems to be a mixture of many ethical values, some kantian dogmatic absolute morality in kamma, some ultarianism in consering if an action is for the long term welfare and benefit of all, some value ethics by focusing on the middle path and being a good person, etc.

So part of the challenge for buddhist in AI field is to design an ethical value system which works and agrees with humanity. In other words, design a wise and compassionate AI, which will remain wise and compassionate forever. That is if you believe Buddhist ethics holds the key to such a benevolent AI. @topsailescape.


If Buddhist ethics is good enough for humans it must be good enough for something that will work closely with humans. In any case the challenge is to identify the basics of moral intension IMO.

With metta

rebirth into an ai? ::shudder::

Why shudder? In many science fiction, it’s been explored. Nowadays, those who lost a limb can have artificial limbs which are controlled by thoughts.

If we can replace even the brain into artificial ones, then as a sentient robot, we can live up to near the end of this universe. We can possibly tailor our feelings and emotions, or have lots of time to meditate. And switch bodies anytime. It maybe possible that devas or Brahmas are these advanced intelligence as well.

i see you Mara. No.

Haha. Indeed, for practitioners the only visible advantage is to have more time to practise and after enlightenment have more time to teach.

Many other motivations are mundane and is attractive to most people, so it is speculated that if AI doesn’t wipe humans out, we will eventually evolve to merge into AI, as a super being. Of course there will be purists who insist on remaining humans, even denying simple disease immune gene change therapy, or anti aging gene therapy. They forget that evolution still happens, and human genes and body will still change.

A bigger plus possibility is if we are able to add a few codes into a sentient AI to make it become enlightened, then the Buddhist project would be to upload our minds and get enlightened. Breed more humans so that a lot of these lower realm beings can be enlightened after being uploaded. That is if it is possible to upload minds, if it is possible to hack into enlightenment just like that. We need Buddhist AI researchers to find out these questions!

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Wow. You don’t see this as the trap that I do.

Good luck with your meditations.

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Well, at least I have shown you some possible threats from AI.

Would you kindly point out how is the scenario I painted a trap?

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Extend this life? lol

Acquire super human capabilities?

Be inside a material machine untul humans decide no more use can be squeezed out of a damaged remnant of a human being?

Sounds like hell. But with perfect memory and an inability to have silence.

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Sorry, tired, and not able to enter into any playfulness with this tonight. lol. It just isn’t what [edited] is attractive to me.

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hmm the human body aint that nice either… by the sounds of it. :wink:

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Not a trap -more of an upgrade, ideally. The flaw is 1) market forces 2) kammic forces 3) the kilesas of those in the power/in the know.

with metta

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It serves purpose. Therefore, is ideal. lol ideal enough.

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