Dig this, there’s a youtube video showing Japanese Buddhist priests (don’t know which tradition–Shingon perhaps?) bowing before the Android Kannon. Interestingly, Android Kannon has both feminine and masculine voices, like the ambiguous gender of the traditional Kannon.
The priests who installed this Android talk about the power and magic of AI, that this ‘buddha’ will grow continuously more intelligent over time, surpassing the intelligence of human beings. But think about how AI develops: the robot ‘learns’ from its programmers, and from interacting with many different people and situations. So AI intelligence is a collective intelligence, the intelligence of multitudes. So what the Japanese priests are bowing to is collective intelligence, collected from the whole range of human experience, past and present.
There’s a way that we can think of the Jataka Tales, the past lives of the Buddha, as the accumulation of animal and human experience, wisdom and intelligence collected throughout the ages. Buddhism is always taught from the perspective of the individual, but if we think of it as the Buddhist Subject, who is the product of countless lives, then that ‘individual’ is also a collective subject. in Futurica’s terms, he is a ‘dividual’, a multiple. The past lives of the Buddha represent the collective intelligence of human history, collected from innumerable people and life circumstances. Gotama could not have become ‘the Buddha’ without that long pre-history of collective intelligence.
When that collective intelligence is loaded into an aluminum-bodied android, the priests are producing what I call Cyborg Buddhism, merging the mineral, animal, human and techno-cultural life forms.
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