Using Technology To Reach Buddhist Enlightenment

Via the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, J. Hughes on the use of new technologies in genetics and neurology to suppress vice and accelerate spiritual progress:

The Buddhist tradition recognizes that we are not all born with equal propensities to wisdom or moral behavior, and that Enlightenment is only possible for the very few […] A fully virtuous life is biologically impossible for most people. But, given the rapid advance of neurotechnologies, “if these cognitive shortcomings could be compensated for, or balanced, through the use of safe and voluntary enhancement techniques, then it would be morally desirable to do so.” If specific, consistent moral behavioral orientations – truthfulness, compassion and so on – can be identified, and our likelihood of manifesting them is strongly influenced by inherited genetic predispositions or persistent neurochemistry, then it might be possible to use future neurotechnologies to systematically make ourselves more truthful or compassionate.

A question raised about the use of neurotechnology to achieve “spiritual” ends is whether the result would be “authentic.” Sometimes a distinction is made between praise-worthy “natural” methods of self-transformation, and “unnatural” methods. But which is more natural, gossiping around the fire or sitting silently for hours, having visions in a sweat lodge, and taking peyote? In other words taking a drug to control one’s cravings or sharpen one’s mind is no more or less natural for homo sapiens than many spiritual practices.

So long as the neurotechnologies are drugs they may be restricted to being a temporary adjunct rather than the principal method of self-improvement. But eventually we will have the capacity to change genes that affect the brain permanently, and install neurodevices that constantly monitor and direct our thoughts and behavior. At that point the distinction between traditional methods of self-change and neurotechnology may become moot.

6 Comments on "Using Technology To Reach Buddhist Enlightenment"

  1. natural state | Nov 10, 2012 at 11:28 am |

    Hmm..the scientific study and application of enlightenment. Though UG Krishnamurti calls it the ‘natural state’. This is uncanny. Science fiction, fantasy, and speculation is increasingly become scientific reality.

    this science speculation link is clearly in the vein of fiction but it is uncanny that such things are becoming real:

  2. namvetted68 | Nov 10, 2012 at 11:39 am |

    Electronic LSD. Groovy.

  3. BuzzCoastin | Nov 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm |

    the dream of the Android Meme
    digital enlightenment through technology

  4. BrianApocalypse | Nov 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |

    A society of scientifically “enlightened” people. What could possibly go wrong!

  5. Given the fact that our ability to study the brain is closely related to increases in computer processing power, and the latter is advancing at astonishing speed, I think enlightenment technologies will become available faster than we think. I am all for it. It is an extraordinary fact that almost every facet of our external lives has been transformed by technology, but we are still dependent on meditation techniques developed hundreds of years ago to transform our minds, and often only through a degree of time and effort simply not available to most people.

  6. Buddhism is the teaching of enlightenment. Enlightenment is a process of awakening to one’s inner light. I believe that every human being has an innate desire for happiness. Attaining enlightenment is the greatest possible happiness for a human being.

    Ask The Lama

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