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Buddhism and Tech

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After just a few short decades of rapid development, technology has become ubiquitous in almost every aspect of life, from the devices and services we use every day, such as mobile technology and social media, to futuristic but revolutionary phenomena like cybernetics or automation.

At first glance, technology and its development might appear to have little common ground with the 2,500-year-old spiritual tradition of Buddhism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Closer examination reveals that the interface between Dharma practices and groundbreaking technology has long been a core narrative of Buddhist leaders. And with the ever-increasing presence of technology in the world, it should remain a relevant subject for Buddhist and technologists across the globe. 

Neuroscientists, for instance, have measured the brainwaves of monks to research neuroplasticity, while cybernetics and gene editing are forcing philosophers and religious leaders to rethink some of the most basic building blocks of their traditions—the question of what it means to be human and have human dignity. In addition, social media have transformed our lives and how we relate to other people, and automation will dominate the workplace in many industrialized nations, with ramifications on how we conceive of work and careers, personal fulfilment, and society.

Buddhistdoor Global’s special issue for 2019 will explore some of the questions posed by these modern realities, bringing together Buddhists, scientists, researchers, and tech writers to discuss how technology can benefit sentient beings, and what role Buddhism might have to play in this. As technological industries advance, religions are constantly forced to grapple with the consequences of progress—at times praising, but also sounding the alarm. Our writers in this special issue will discuss, from their unique and insightful perspectives, how technological forces are shaping our lives and how we Buddhists might witness and respond to such rapidly changing times.

Explore our 2019 Special Issue Articles (Updated Quarterly)

From projectdenjong.com

On Being Brave: Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche on Technology and the Dissemination of Dharmaommunities:

By Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – 23 April 2020

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary and look forward to the ways in which we can bring the words of the Buddha to the widest possible audiences in languages they can understand, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche shares the beneficial potential of today’s continually evolving technology and how it can—and should—be put to good use.

Read more . . .

Image courtesy of Ron Epstein

An Interview with Ron Epstein on Responsible Living: Explorations in Applied Buddhist Ethics—Animals, Environment, GMOs, Digital Media

By Annika Lundkvist – 31 December 2019

Ron Epstein, PhD is a founding member of Dharma Realm Buddhist University and retired lecturer emeritus in the philosophy department at San Francisco State University. Annika interviews him on his book Responsible Living: Explorations in Applied Buddhist Ethics—Animals, Environment, GMOs, Digital Media.

Read more . . .

Image by Sophie Rogers

Defining Consciousness: How Buddhism Can Inform AI

By Shaelyn McHugh – 30 September 2019

How does the mysterious notion of consciousness fit in to the brave new world of an AI-dominated future? Shaelyn McHugh examines the stakes of the development of consciousness in computers, and how Buddhist philosophy can inform us on how we can define the mind and its programming application to AI. 

Read more . . .

From transtechlab.org

Transformative Technology as the Path Forward for Humanity

By Nina Müller – 12 September 2019

Dr. Jeffery A. Martin, founder and director of the Transformative Technology community, discusses his worldwide investigation into the enhancement of human well-being.minds.

Read more . . .

James Hughes, director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Image courtesy of James Hughes

The Techno-Optimist: An Interview with Buddhist Futurist James Hugheson in Contemporary India

By Nina Müller – 25 June 2019

As the intersection between technology and society offers the prospect of profound changes to our understanding of what it means to be human, how can we ensure that technological advances are of benefit to all beings?

Read more . . .

From adweek.com

Scaling Intelligence in an AI-Dominated Future

By Shaelyn McHugh – 19 June 2019

AI not only dominates our lives already, but may be on its way to achieving AGI—artificial general intelligence, the equivalent of human intelligence through machine learning, while continuously self-improving. Shaelyn McHugh outlines the stakes, and asks what Buddhism can tell us about this moment in human history.

Read more . . .

Ajahn Brahm. Photo by Buddhistdoor Global

On Technology and Human Connection: An Interview with Ajahn Brahm

By Shveitta Sharma – 21 March 2019gh – 19 June 2019

Renowned Dharma teacher and scholar Ajahn Brahm gives his perspective on technological change and progress, and its implications—potential dangers and possible benefits—for the future of human society. 

Read more . . .

From sivanaspirit.com

The Path of Practice in our Digital Age​

By Nikki Mirghafori – 21 March 2019

Artificial intelligence scientist and Buddhist teacher Nikki Mirghafori discusses how she gained her own affection for computers at an early age, the fear that computers might come to dominate computers, and our own responsibility when working with computers, not just for the future but for today.

Read more . . .

Shibuya crossing at night. From flickr.com

Cyberpunk: The Human Condition amid High-tech Alienation and Urban Dystopia

By Raymond Lam – 15 March 2019

Cyberpunk carries eerie reminders of certain characteristics of urban living—of insecurity and digital distractions, of social alienation and unfulfilling work, and an almost gleeful dismissiveness of the need to reflect on what it means to be human: a key concern of Buddhist thought through the ages. 

Read more . . .

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