Zen and the Singularity

From: Ben Goertzel (ben@goertzel.org)
Date: Sun Jun 30 2002 - 20:09:42 MDT

OK Eli,

Here is some straight poop for you

I asked a Zen Buddhist abbot (one step up from a priest) whom I know your
question, via e-mail.

This abbot happens to also have a physics PhD and to currently work in the
software industry.

I gave him your exact wording:

"Do you believe that an extremely intelligent mind - not necessarily a
human mind - that was just trying to get at the truth, without reference
to either faith on the one hand or prideful denial on the other, would
be able to see that a lot of things asserted by Zen Buddhism are true,
and a lot of things asserted by other belief systems including atheism
are false - enough that if the mind had to pick out which religion was
most likely to be right, it could pick out Zen Buddhism as the most
likely candidate, regardless of whether the mind actually decided to
become a practicing Zen Buddhist and so on? Assume that the intelligence
can not only do extremely thorough scans for evidence in the external
world but that it can also look into human minds."

Here was his reply:

"For your friend's question, there is an assumption that needs to be
addressed. That is, that intelligence (naturally being of the intellect -
neural pathways in the brain or other CPU processing information) has the
ability to ascertain the truth. The mystic's view is that truth - Reality
- is only ascertained once we have transcended the mental framework of
experience - or, in Buddhist lingo, cause and effect. We (our brains) talk
about reality in terms of sensory input, but the mystic subtracts all the
sensory input from the equation and says that what's left is all that's
real, and true. Intellectually, this is appalling ... to suppose that we
can't think our way to the truth. So, to a mystic, the rest of the
question doesn't make any sense, since the premise is wrong.

"Keep in mind that Zen means mediation, which, by definition, implies the
transcendence of the ego - the interpretive power that distinguishes right
from wrong - and it is only in this state that Reality is perceived
directly, i.e., without any "filtering" mechanism such as those that the
ego imposes. All mystical traditions are the same in this sense - Zen
can't be superior to any of them since meditation is meditation regardless
of the training methods used to achieve that state."

-- Ben G

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