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Bodhisattva Relations with Machines?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 27, 2020

True Love for the Artificial? Toward the Possibility of Bodhisattva Relations with Machines

Thomas H. Doctor
Kathmandu University Centre for Buddhist Studies at Rangjung Yeshe Institute

Given our increasing interaction with artificial intelligence and immersion in virtual reality, which epistemic and moral attitudes towards virtual beings might we think proper, relevant, and fulfilling? That is the basic question that this article wishes to raise. For the main part, it presents a descriptive analysis of our current situation, which is meant to expose features of artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) that seem both salient and easily aligned with central Buddhist concerns. Developed without any requirement for, or expectation of, the existence of real subjects and selves, Buddhist views and practices clearly resonate with the assumptions of unreal mind and mere appearance that are associated with AI and VR. Yet Buddhists famously also declare that the illusion-like nature of things does not negate, but in fact entails, universal care and deep meaning. I conclude by suggesting that such doctrinal claims may be tested for practical relevance in the present and emerging world of interconnectivity and illusion.

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