TagTaoism

A Discussion on Daoism and Machine Consciousness

Over at AFutureWorthThinkingAbout, there is the audio and text for a talk for the  about how nonwestern philosophies like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism can help mitigate various kinds of bias in machine minds and increase compassion by allowing programmers and designers to think from within a non-zero-sum matrix of win conditions for all living beings, meaning engaging multiple tokens and types of minds, outside of the assumed human “default” of straight, white, cis, ablebodied, neurotypical male:

My starting positions, here, are that, 1) in order to do the work correctly, we literally must refrain from resting in abstraction, where, by definition, the kinds of models that don’t seek to actually engage with the people in question from within their own contexts, before deciding to do something “for someone’s own good,” represent egregious failure states. That is, we have to try to understand each other well enough to perform mutually modeled interfaces of what you’d have done unto you and what they’d have you do unto them.” I know it doesn’t have the same snap as “do unto others,” but it’s the only way we’ll make it through.

[An image of a traditional Yin-Yang carved in a silver ring]

2) There are multiple types of consciousness, even within the framework of the human spectrum, and that the expression of or search for any one type is in no way meant to discount, demean, or erase any of the others. In fact, it is the case that we will need to seek to recognize and learn to communicate with as many types of consciousness as may exist, in order to survive and thrive in any meaningful way. Again, not doing so represents an egregious failure condition. With that in mind, I use “machine consciousness” to mean a machine with the capability of modelling a sense of interiority and selfness similar enough to what we know of biological consciousnesses to communicate it with us, not just a generalized computational functionalist representation, as in “AGI.”

For the sake of this, as I’ve related elsewhere, I (perhaps somewhat paradoxically) think the term “artificial intelligence” is problematic. Anything that does the things we want machine minds to do is genuinely intelligent, not “artificially” so, where we use “artificial” to mean “fake,” or “contrived.” To be clear, I’m specifically problematizing the “natural/technological” divide that gives us “art vs artifice,” for reasons previously outlined here.

The  overarching project of training a machine learning program and eventual AI will require engagement with religious texts (a very preliminary take on this has been taken up by Rose Eveleth at the Flash Forward Podcast), but also a boarder engagement with discernment and decision-making. Even beginning to program or code for this will require us to think very differently about the project than has thus far been in evidence.

Read or listen to the rest of A Discussion on Daoism and Machine Consciousness at A Future Worth Thinking About

Genesis P-Orridge, Hakim Bey and John Perry Barlow in Conversation (1993)

Here’s an old Mondo 2000 interview from 1993 with both Genesis P-Orridge and Hakim Bey conducted by Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow:

JOHN: Right, Taoism has no truck with good and evil at all.

HAKIM: Taoism seems to be the one religion that doesn’t have the Gnostic trace.

JOHN: In our culture, the problem arose with the Romans.

HAKIM: I think it goes further back. It’s Babylon. It’s just like the Rastas say, “It happened in Babylon.” It’s Marduk and Tiamat. It’s Mr. Hard-on God up against Sloppy Mom. In China, chaos is a benevolent property. Huntun is the gourd or the egg out of which everything comes. He’s a wonton. Huntun and wonton are the same words. He’s like this little dumpling and everything good comes out of him. In Babylon, chaos is the disgusting monster vagina that has to be ripped up by Marduk into myriad blobs of shit and slime. And we are those globs of slime. That’s how the human race came into being. What is the purpose of the human race? To serve Marduk, to serve the masculine principle, to store up grain in the granary for the priests, to pay for the priests for their sacrifice so they get the free hamburgers. That’s the whole Western myth. It’s St. George and the Dragon. St. George pins the dragon down.

In China, the dragon is the free expression of creativity. He’s the mixture of Yin and Yang, the principle of power. But here’s evil, plain and simple. This is why chaos has kicked off, for me, for Ralph Abraham, and others, an interest in making a critique of this Western mythology, and saying, “Let’s put Humpty Dumpty back together.”

JOHN: There’s been an interesting co-evolution lately of a lot of apparently disconnected things, like chaos mathematics and neo-tribalism, a sudden interest in Taoism and what I perceive to be a deep feminization of Western culture.

GEN: Some philosophers feel that there’s a risk in absolute unconditional surrender of that male-God power, even though it’s obviously failed miserably. Should we seek out every possible male trait and subordinate it to a female principle?

HAKIM: I didn’t like the rule of Dad, but I don’t think I’m going to like the rule of Mom either.

Pastbin: Zoning Out, Temporarily with Hakim Bey and Genesis P-Orridge

See also:

Douglass Rushkoff in Conversation with Genesis P. Orridge (2003 and 2007)

Hakim Bey dossier

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge dossier

Electronic Taoist Deities Now Accepting Prayers in Hong Kong

Wong Tai Sin’s new prayer hall

And speaking of digital polytheism:

Over the Lunar New Year weekend Vivian Choi made her annual visit to Wong Tai Sin, one of Hong Kong’s largest Taoist temples, to ask for blessings in the new year. But instead of burning dozens of incense sticks in the age-old Taoist tradition, Ms. Choi slipped a written prayer into a small box. An electronic deity statue then lit up and blew artificial smoke, signaling the acceptance of the offering.

As worshippers welcomed the Year of the Rabbit, Wong Tai Sin temple in Kowloon ushered in a new era of its own: high-tech Taoism.

For 100 million Hong Kong dollars (US$13 million), the 90-year-old temple created a underground prayer room — decked with gold and marble and equipped with LED lights and motion detectors — just in time for the Lunar New Year holiday, which started Feb. 3 and is expected to draw more than a million visitors to the temple over two weeks.

Wall Street Journal: Taoism Goes High Tech at Hong Kong’s Wong Tai Sin Temple

See also the iPad confession app.

The Wisdom of Lao Tzu: A Taoist Guide to Getting Things Done

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“We live in a competitive society and are often told that to get ahead we require drive, commitment and determination, that we must expend a great amount of energy and, if necessary, use force to get what we want. A ?survival of the fittest’ mentality is deeply entrenched in our culture.

Much of this thinking comes from Darwin’s Origin of the Species, a work which has influenced us in the most profound and subtle ways, not least of all because it advanced the idea that competition was a natural and normal part of life, that nature was ?red in tooth and claw.’ Whatever we might think about Darwin, we do tend to see the world in these competitive terms.

But there is another way of thinking. There is another way of getting things done, a way which sees nature differently and recognizes the importance of harmony, balance and living peacefully. Taoism is a philosophy which seeks to achieve great things by ?going with the flow.’ The semi-mythical figure Lao Tzu is said to have written the classic Taoist text, the Tao Te Ching. Here are six short quotations from the text which give us advice on the best way to get things done. Much is lost in translation, of course, but you will have some sense of the original.”

(via The Positivity Blog)

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