SuttaCentral

Future of Buddhism Institute


#1

While thinking about artificial intelligence and Buddhism to write a paper for this: https://networks.h-net.org/node/73374/announcements/1351658/artificial-intelligence-buddhism-8th-world-youth-buddhist

I was inspired by two institutions: future of life and future of humanity. Both are concerned with how AI will impact our future. Both of course are not concerned with how Buddhism will be impacted. So it’s up to Buddhists to figure out how to navigate the ever changing future ahead if we wish for the boat of Buddhism to remain afloat braving the oncoming storms.

A simple google shows no Buddhist organizations has been set up yet to just look into the future and present, and to advise the rest of the Buddhist world on how best to react to a certain new development or better yet to proactively preprepare for oncoming changes so that we not only will not be left behind, but come out ahead as world leaders.

One missed opportunity was to warn Buddhist monks about the dangers of smartphones, mobile internet and online free porn. I heard 100,000 monks in Myanmar disrobed after smartphones are out and people actually donate them plus internet access to monks. A preventive step would be to root hack all smartphones to be given to monks to be inaccessible to porn sites and made kids friendly and advice all lay Buddhist to only gift monks these special custom made phones.

Future opportunities and dangers are abound, which the future of Buddhism institute will investigate, come out with a solution or advice and help spread the word.

Here are a few topics off the top of my mind:

  1. AI and Buddhism, (robot kapiya, dangers and opportunities)
  2. Economic change and Buddhism (how should we tell our governments that monks don’t accept money if universal basic income is established and everyone is automatically given digital currency as the income)
  3. Space travel and Buddhism: how to modify the not eating at improper times rule on other planets instead of depending on dawn and solar noon. Establishing a Buddhist planet, pros and cons.
  4. Using secular Buddhism as a means for the scientifically inclined to come into Buddhism, but ensuring that it doesn’t end up replacing Buddhism entirely.
  5. Supporting rebirth research, aiming for scientifically prefect standard case of rebirth investigations for all or most future cases, reviewing past cases.
  6. Buddhism and gaming, using gaming as an entryway into Buddhism, how to design a Buddhist game.
  7. Solution to war, an alternative to weapons development, using the dhamma. As future weapons can be more scary than nuclear, how can we change humanity (other than to convert everyone to become Buddhist or enlightened) to make war outdated and therefore weapons outdated.
  8. Science education for Buddhist Sangha. There exist many diverse background of Buddhist Sangha which may or may not have known proper science, so it’s good to educate them the correct science (not climate denial, or antivaxx) so that they can have good working knowledge of the world. Especially if they are to represent buddhism in interfaith events, or to attract well educated followers who are new to Buddhism.
  9. Vegan for Buddhism, short of making it compulsory, how to continuing promoting veganism to Buddhists until it is no longer an issue for global warming and animal cruelty.
  10. Women in Buddhism: to continue to change Buddhism to be fair to women in terms of opportunities and many other stuffs.
  11. Future topics group: Any other topic as new technology emerge. To recommend establishing a new department as the field matures to merit it and to retire old departments which are no longer required.
  12. Outreach and support group: to outreach to all Buddhist organizations the results of research and get support to fund the institute.

What do you guys and gals think?


#2

I think it’s a good idea, even though it’s pretty much a political activity. Do you envision monastics actively participating, or is it more of research and recommendations from lay people - more like an organization+journal with articles on these topics?

Another topic, since in Asia many monastics are effectively counsellors, would be drug addiction, how to counter it, what parents can do, which organizations they can contact, info material on the internet etc.


#3

I would say monastics are welcomed to join in the research team. Few of the lay person has the same perpective from practising full time like the monks do. They are also directly impacted in reviewing how the vinaya should treat new stuffs.

I think it’s going to be more than just investigation. Political power would be hold by the FoBi by sending Buddhist representatives to world councils and discussions to settle on policies regarding new technologies. Etc, ethical values of AI, religious policy of space colonization, etc… So FoBi can investigate these issue first, act as a discussion medium for the Buddhist world and then act on behalf.

I don’t understand what you are asking in the second part, you can google most of the questions you had there.


#4

One thing worth thinking about is that we will soon have the option of carrying out human genetic enhancements of more radical and targeted kinds than we do now. What if we could modify human beings to dramatically increase the disposition toward ahimsa, and dramatically reduce the incidence of murderous rages? What if we could modify humans so that they had a “switch” that allowed people to turn off their sex drives, and turn them back on again only during “mating seasons”? What if we could modify people to make it easier for them to enter samadhi?


#5

What I mean is people go to monastics with their problems, and in some Asian countries (like in Thailand) drugs are a huge problem. To educate interested monastics in actual psychological counselling in how as a parent to best deal with the drug addiction of a child might be helpful. The same with domestic violence. Information on the internet is very generic and doesn’t replace personal counselling. Just a thought…

That is a good question to discuss since it will come up in reality sooner or later


#6

I think it’s the best idea I’ve heard for ages. Sign me up!


#7

This is a good point. There are Buddhist organisations activively involved in this and I visited one in Los Angeles last weekend.

https://www.refugerecovery.org/


#8

Add in more research group then:
13. How to encourage and facilitate people who wants to renounce to do so, given that higher standards of living is making the world look like heaven and harder to renounce.
Modifying the science to sangha to include councilling skills and knowledges. Although it’s not the job of a Sangha to do counselling.

  1. Biotechnology and Buddhism, including genetic engineering. Will the Vinaya recognise genetically modified humans as humans eligible for ordination? If yes, where do we draw the line? There can be a continuous transformation from human to animals, to superhumans. Question is relevant for cyborgs too. Those who lost their limbs but has mechanical replacements, can they ordain? If so, what is the limit? Whole body is robotic except the brain?

#9

Some Organizational considerations come to mind.

Ideological capture should be of serious concern.
For instance, would this a Theravada organization or open to all Buddhist sects/lineages?
Lay, monastic or both?
A fundamental question becomes then what forms of diversity the organization will value and privilege.

I would think such an organization would be in the role of a honest broker both of analytical perspectives as well of policy responses and/or recommendations. Without a conscious decision to design the organization along these lines it would likely tend to partisan/sectarian advocacy and/or unnecessary strife and disharmony.

Honest brokering recognizes that values, philosophy of life, Buddhist lineage and teachers, temperament and psychological traits, and biology/neurology have an impact on how we judge and evaluate evidence and sense perceptions. So while we might agree on the facts of science or society persons of good will can disagree on their implications and meanings.

Another example:

Thinking as a student of the philosophy and history of science, phrases such as “proper science” bring a shudder and questions as to how the reader understands that phrase.
So I would add:
8(a) A survey of relevant topics in the the philosophy of science. Philosophy of science is concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science. The central questions of this study concern what qualifies as science, the reliability of scientific theories, and the ultimate purpose of science. This discipline overlaps with metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology.
(Note: The very question of whether there is a clear or easily knowable line between science and non-science is hotly debated. )

8(b) A brief survey of the history and sociology of science. Science is also a human process subject to the same influences of concern to the dharma. Recent studies are showing flaws in the scientific method as usually practiced as well as the influences such as the desire for advancement and status (publish or perish).


Topics:
Parallel to science education – awareness of the insights of social psychology that are supported by strong evidence and consensus. For instance: The phenomena of group think, various forms of cognitive bias, attribution error, etc.


Focus: I would suggest a focus on the impacts of emerging science and technology (e.g. cell phones)on Buddhism.

It might be wise to break off a division for the more social science aspects.


#10

@NgXinZhao Are you still interested in this project? I’d be interested in it.


#11

What would that be?!


#12

@dhammadharo

Ya, but I have no idea how to execute these stuffs. Maybe write a book about it is the best I could do.

I have no idea how non profits are started.


#13

That’s a great start!


#14

@NgXinZhao Is setting up a non-profit necessary? Why not just have an online community?


#15

Good idea. So what’s required?

Website, Tumblr page, Reddit, Wordpress for blog, or is there any service which provides free forum? Facebook page, group. Which ones do you guys think is best?


#16

@NgXinZhao Why not start a group here, on this Discourse? Then, later on we can use Slack or something, if people are interested in that kind of tool. And what in your mind will the group do? Is it just discussion, or what?


#18

@dhammadharo thanks, maybe not slack, find something free that we can use.

I think a forum for internal discussion is good for the various topics. Then a website to publish important results or findings of the discussions. Wordpress seems good. The internal discussion is for people who wishes to join up.

The alternative to having full time people is to have interested parties do the discussion on their free time. The internal discussion is to control for trolls, and others who are disruptive.


#19

@NgXinZhao Slack is free for small teams with certain restrictions. To start with, why not just create a group message on here to discuss the top five topics you mentioned (for starters): AI, economic change, space travel, secular Buddhism, and rebirth research. These should keep us occupied for quite a while. We could then assess who wants to write something on certain topics, and how they could be published, etc. One possibility that just occurred to me is inviting scientists who specialize in certain areas to join us virtually in conversation. That could be quite interesting.


#20

ok, you create the group message then.