Matthieu Ricard Downplays Focus on Robotics, AI in Davos
Buddhist monk, photographer, and author Venerable Matthieu Ricard, occasionally known as “the happiest person in the world,” said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week that while recent talk of a “fourth industrial revolution” based on technological advances in computer-controlled technology may not pose a threat to humanity, the focus on such matters ignored some fundamental underlying issues that still need to be addressed.
A report from the World Economic Forum, which ran from 20–23 January, predicted that the growth of robotics and the advent of artificial intelligence would result in the loss of more than 5 million jobs globally by 2020. “The Future of Jobs Report,” published to coincide with the annual gathering, posited that job losses due to robotics and artificial intelligence would total 7 million, of which 2 million would be offset by new work roles. Two-thirds of the projected losses are expected to fall in the office and administrative sectors as machines take over more routine tasks.
While acknowledging the potential benefits offered by such advances, Ricard emphasized that technology and its champions all too often failed to take into account more fundamental needs. “Manmade problems need to be solved by manmade solutions,” he said. “Technology itself is not wrong; when we were in prehistoric times we had hand tools . . . now there are tools a million-fold more powerful—electricity . . . atomic energy. Not in the hands of a few individuals, but of groups and nations who might use it for the betterment of society or for harming. So now, for the first time, we have so powerful tools. That’s exactly when motivation becomes so important; that’s when values become so important.” (Huffington Post)
“In the end, it’s a mystery why we’re not always putting motivation, basic values [first],” Ricard observed. “Who could be against benevolence, tolerance, education, opening the heart? Who could be against benevolence in any culture, any religion, any background? So to put that early in school, the value of solidarity, of cooperation, of gratitude, that seems the most basic thing we should do before building robots who don’t care a damn; they don’t feel gratitude, they don’t feel hatred, they just do what they’re programmed for.” (Huffington Post)
“They can help solve some of the technical problems, to alleviate poverty, to do all kinds of things,” he conceded, “But don’t think they’re going to replace the core of humanity, which, for me, is goodness.” (Huffington Post)
Born in France in 1946, Matthieu Ricard resides at Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in Nepal. His father was Jean-François Revel (born Jean-François Ricard), a renowned philosopher, and his mother is the lyrical abstractionist painter and Buddhist nun Yahne Le Toumelin. After gaining a PhD in molecular genetics in France in 1972, Ricard decided to forsake his scientific career and concentrate on the practice of Tibetan Buddhism.
Ricard has studied under some of the greatest masters of the Nyingma tradition. He was a close student and attendant of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche until Rinpoche’s death in 1991, and has since dedicated his activities to fulfilling Khyentse Rinpoche’s vision.
In 2000, he founded Karuna-Shechen, a humanitarian organization that has completed 130 health care, education, and social services projects in the Himalayan region. Ricard is the author of several books, including The Art of Happiness, The Art of Meditation, and, most recently, Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World, and has also published five albums as a photographer. He is a recipient of the French National Order of Merit for his humanitarian work.
Robots Will Never Replace Humanity, Matthieu Ricard Explains (Huffington Post)
Five million jobs at risk from AI and robotics, warns World Economic Forum (Computing)
Matthieu Ricard: Buddhist monk, photographer and author