RE: Zen singularity

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Mon Feb 23 2004 - 10:41:50 MST

Ben wrote:
> > MQ, the connection btw Zen and the Singularity is that both reveal the
> > limited and largely arbitrary nature of reality as human minds
> > conventionally perceive/conceive it!

MQ wrote:
> How does Zen reveal that specifically?
> "Hit and run" Categorizing-Mind disengagement provided by simultaneous
> stating of opposites hardly reveals or sheds light on anything.
> It's fun, but it doesn't tell me anything truly useful.

Well, first a disclaimer: I am no expert on Zen, but I've practiced a fair
bit of meditation over the years, and I got a lot of exposure to Zen via my
ex-wife being deeply involved in a Chinese Zen temple...

So the remarks I'll make in this email are my own reaction to and
interpretation of Zen, which shouldn't be taken too seriously.

There are plenty of online resources on Zen for those who are interested.

The website of my ex-wife's order is, for example

I also recommend the writings linked to from -- which is
not Zen, but is related

And I have found the writings of this dude particularly well-constructed...

Anyway ... my own experience with meditation was that it helped ME to
understand some of the limitations of my own habitual patterns of thinking,
perceiving, acting and being ... to sense, in a way, the lack of solidity
and definiteness in many things in the world and myself that I'd previously
felt were a bit more "real" and "certain" (not that I'd *ever* felt anything
to be totally real and certain -- I was never that naive even as a small
child ;-)

"Simultaneous stating of opposites" refers to a style of talking about Zen
that some people have adopted, which is very amusing and is probably very
useful in some contexts (and is not the only way of talking about Zen).

What I'm talking about are the kinds of realizations that you get from
plunging yourself deep into meditation.... You can get pretty far beyond
your individual self and you can feel the insubstantiality and non-absolute
nature of the everyday world....

The analogy with the singularity is that it will also bring us far beyond
our individual selves and reveal rather boldly the non-absolute nature of
the everyday human world and mind-states...

But I wouldn't want to overstate this analogy -- that wouldn't be fair
either to Zen or to the Singularity!

Zen doesn't focus so much on progress -- it's more of an exchatology of
immanence, whereas Singularitarianism is more of an eschatology of
transcendence. Zen is more about realizing that we're already there, in the
middle of the wonderful perfection of being; whereas Singularitarianism is
about trying to bring about a more wonderful, closer-to-perfect state of
being via technological means.

Zen presents more paradoxes to the conceptual mind, because it asks us to
realize that everything is already just as it should be, but it also pushes
us to get beyond the habits that constrain our ordinary thinking and living.
And it then asks us to get beyond the frame of thinking in which this kind
of paradox is perceived as a paradox -- rather than just another part of
wonderful being -- etc.

The two are not in contradiction to each other in principle -- you can work
toward the Singularity with a Zen mind ... though it will bias the nature of
your work -- for instance Zen practice tends to go along with compassion,
which means a Zen approach to the Singularity would be unlikely to involve
killing a lot of humans.... On the other hand, it's an empirical fact that
not many serious Zen folks seem to be interested in techno-transcendence, as
they're more focused on achieving perfection "within"

Finally, a key point is that reading about Zen -- even reading my silly
emails about it -- isn't much use. If you want to appreciate or evaluate
Zen in any meaningful way, you need to meditate a lot -- I guess there's no
other way. Personally I do NOT meditate a lot -- I used to meditate
regularly though never that obsessively -- because there are other things
I've chosen to do with my limited time ... but nearly all of the limited
understanding I have of Zen came from this experience rather than from

-- Ben G

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