Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Artificial Intelligence & Cases of Rebirth

Well, strictly speaking, artificial intelligence is not under Physics purview, and cases of rebirth are not needed in the study and practice of Buddhism. Yet, both are quite close to Physics and Buddhism respectively and both are related and very real.

The current field of artificial intelligence is very obvious in terms of the voice activation control. Just look at Apple's Siri.  Sorry, I'm really lazy to explain the basics of A.I. which I don't think I have enough knowledge of anyway. There is this Turing test and Cleverbot. Well, not the best conversationalist, but still she gives unexpected answers sometimes. The point that I want to make is, that as computers and technology improve, as the internet gets more and more information from us, as the research in A.I. increases and gets better and better....

Eventually, we can see the top down and the bottom up approaches may make up something that resembles humans. Especially if we add in one more technological advance called quantum computer. There has been some speculations that human brains and thinking involves something quantum-like, and thus making a quantum artificial intelligence may have a better chance of it getting to one stage we call self-awareness. Where it is an another being, with feelings and free-will, not just complicated expressions of trillions of lines of codes.

Buddhist psychology may offer some help in this regard where the mind is analysed in terms of four aggregates: Feelings, perception, mental formation and consciousness. Each of these maybe programmed separately, but also somehow fits in together again. If a knowledgeable Buddhist is working on A.I. development based on Buddhist psychology, that is.

Anyway, let's say that one day we have a real self-aware A.I. What will it be like? In Buddhist terms: Can it gain enlightenment? Is it fundamentally different from us because it can think in parallel, and we can't? Does it have until 8 consciousness (Mahayana concept)? Or just 6? Does it even suffer like us?

A more interesting question is: what if the self-aware A.I. is just like the case of rebirth?
Here are some videos of these case studies in case you're unfamiliar.
In case this happens, then A.I. or robots are just new bodies and consciousness for beings to be reborn into.

Then, can we differentiate between the A.I. who undergoes rebirth and A.I. that does resemble humans but are fundamentally different because they do not suffer like us. (No craving.) Yes it seems quite easy to differentiate them then. Maybe the Buddhas and Bodhisattva may manifest into them too! Interesting ideas for science fiction.

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