RE: Zen singularity

From: mike99 (
Date: Sun Feb 22 2004 - 20:31:07 MST

> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf Of
> Sent: Sunday, February 22, 2004 7:30 PM
> To:
> Subject: RE: Zen singularity
> On Sun, 22 Feb 2004, mike99 wrote:
> > There is Zen, and then there is the popular (mis)conception of
> what Zen is.
> > [A Zen student wrote:]
> > One morning when we were all sitting zazen, Suzuki Roshi gave a brief
> > impromptu talk in which he said, "Each of you is perfect the way you
> > are...and you can use a little improvement." replied:
> However I'm talking about the distant (or even not so distant) future.
> Already the human race has reached a point where we have decided to limit
> our expansion.

Have we? Population growth certainly hasn't stopped. Nor has economic
growth. Resource usage continues to increase year by year.

> Areas of the world are purposely left untouched.

A few national parks amounting to a miniscule fraction of one percent of the
land area does not seem like much of a limitation. Those areas are
surrounded by land that is either actively or potentially under development.
Many public lands in the USA (especially in the West where I live) are
leased for private use.

> It seems
> quite possible that a 'higher' being might be even more so this way.

Maybe. Or maybe not. I haven't heard any good reasons why this would be so.

> Just as we feel we don't have the right to remake all of nature according
> our rules,...

Wait a minute. Who is this "we" you keep referring to? The thrust of human
history since before there was recorded history has always been to expand,
to control nature and to remake it as much as possible to fit our needs.
This is as much true of Asian cultures, including the Zen-influenced culture
of Japan, as it is of Europe or America or Africa or South America. The
modern reverence for "nature" among citizens of the industrial democracies
generally exists in inverse proportion to that population's exposure to
untrammeled, unimproved "nature." Our ideal of nature bears more resemblance
to the idealized, **improved** form to be found in an English garden (or in
the even more artificial Zen gardens of Japan) than in raw nature, red in
tooth and claw.

And where, exactly, is it written that we have, or have not, the "right" to
do whatever we please with nature? "Rights" are human constructs. Nature,
per se, has no rights whatsoever. We, on the other hand, have certain rights
that are guaranteed by our governments and by the UN Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. But you will have noticed that many of these rights are not
actually in force for many people on Earth today. By the same token, even if
there were to be some international treaty granting "natural rights" (so to
speak) to raw nature, those rights could not be asserted by mute nature
herself, but would have to be claimed on her behalf by others.

Nature has no rights of its own, nor have humans collectively agreed (so
far) to grant nature any rights.

> it may feel that it would be wrong to overly interfere in the
> evolution of the universe.

Perhaps some other species, AI or otherwise, may feel this way. In that
case, such a species will eventually find itself surrounded by the presence
and works of other species that have no such compunction.

> You also have to ask, is there always going to be "a little improvement"
> possible?

It's impossible to know right now if there will be any conclusion to our
knowledge of natural law and our ability to develop technology to harness
it. We may, indeed, someday have a final Theory of Everything and maybe a
ultimate technology to go with it. But will we ever have complete and final
knowledge of mathematics? If Chaitin
( is correct, this may not be
possible. So, like the lead character in Grag Egan's novel _DIASPORA_ we may
spend an unlimited future mining mathematical truths.

> Perhaps a 'higher' being can at last define and reach
> perfection?
> Atleast for a little while.

If "perfection" only lasts "for a little while" then (to use some hyperbolic
Buddhist terminology) it is not the **unsurpassed, supreme perfect**

Obviously, there are many questions on this topic that we are simply not
capable of answering at this time. It would seem merely prudent, then, to
minimize the number of assumptions we make about what other, smarter beings
might want to do, or be capable of doing. All we can be sure of is what the
most intelligent species on our planet has done and is doing. Extrapolating
the behavior of this species into the future would seem to be less
problematic than assuming that a still higher intelligence would
automatically behave in a radically different fashion.

You might be right. Maybe a future superintelligence will get comfortable
and just sit back and watch the universe run its course. But somehow, I
doubt it.


Michael LaTorra

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