After yesterday’s long-ass post about the Dalai Lama, I figured we might as well stay on the Buddhist tip.
Found an interesting article at thinkBuddha.org about Transhumanism — another abiding interest of mine.
The blogger at thinkBuddha was forthright in admitting his relative ignorance of Transhumanism; the reason he was writing about it at all was because of a seemingly unfavorable New Scientist article about cognitive scientist and Transhumanist Marvin Minski.
As a practicing Buddhist with a layman’s interest in technological development and its impact on culture and civilization, I read the post with great interest.
According to current definitions, Transhumanism is an “intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and ameliorate what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as stupidity, suffering, disease, aging and involuntary death.”
A lot of that seems at odds with the basic tenets of Buddhism, which regards the sloppy bad crap of life as the fertile manure from which the lotus of enlightenment sprouts. Of course, one could counter that Buddhism itself is a self-improvement trip. But that’s somewhat off the mark. Buddhism seeks to improve conditions not through transcendence, but rather acceptance. This acceptance is hardly an ignorant, “oh well” approach to things, however. There’s an almost scientific approach to the examination of consciousness, until the neurosis brought on by attachment to ego is exposed under the all-encompassing light of realization.
I’m also interested in Transhumanism, but recognize the enormous ethical implications human enhancement will bring about. We never really reconciled the last century’s misguided stabs at eugenics, and I dare say that DNA tweaking and bio/nanotech “add-ons” will create a political shitstorm the likes of which humanity has never seen.
And this technology isn’t in some far-off sci-fi future, either. Given technological measures such as Moore’s Law, some observers suggest we’re at the cusp of a Singularity. But that’s another story. Kind of.
I haven’t yet reconciled my personal Buddhist practice with possible technological “improvements” to my biological self. Like the Christian philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, I do believe that the universe (or God) seeks to know itself, and technological progress is a function of evolution. Hell, everything can be expressed by data.
Of course, it’s probable that everything can also be expressed by feeling and karmic connectivity. You know, like, rocks having souls an’ shit.
Are they both sides of the same coin? Is the universe an infinitely macro and micro orderly chaos machine? Are the mandalas of Buddhism actually spiritual representations of fractal expression?
Are you there, George Dvorsky? It’s me, Casey.