Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Could the Dali Lama Reincarnate in a Computer?

The following exchange is quoted from the book GENTLE BRIDGES: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind by Jeremy Hayward and Francisco Varela [Shambala, 1992] pp. 152-153:
DALAI LAMA: In terms of the actual substance of which computers are made, are they simply metal, plastic, circuits, and so forth?

VARELA: Yes, but this again brings up the idea of the pattern, not the substance but the pattern.

DALAI LAMA: It is very difficult to say that it's not a living being, that it doesn't have cognition, even from the Buddhist point of view. We maintain that there are certain types of births in which a preceding continuum of consciousness is the basis. The consciousness doesn't actually arise from the matter, but a continuum of consciousness might conceivably come into it.

HAYWARD: Does Your Holiness regard it as a definite criterion that there must be continuity with some prior consciousness? That whenever there is a cognition, there must have been a stream of cognition going back to beginningless time?

DALAI LAMA: There is no possibility for a new cognition, which has no relationship to a previous continuum, to arise at all. I can't totally rule out the possibility that, if all the external conditions and the karmic action were there, a stream of consciousness might actually enter into a computer.

HAYWARD: A stream of consciousness?

DALAI LAMA: Yes, that's right. [DALAI LAMA laughs.] There is a possibility that a scientist who is very much involved his whole life [with computers], then the next life . . . [he would be reborn in a computer], same process! [laughter] Then this machine which is half-human and half-machine has been reincarnated.

VARELA: You wouldn't rule it out then? You wouldn't say this is impossible?

DALAI LAMA: We can't rule it out.

ELEANOR ROSCH: So if there's a great yogi who is dying and he is standing in front of the best computer there is, could he project his subtle consciousness into the computer?

DALAI LAMA: If the physical basis of the computer acquires the potential or the ability to serve as a basis for a continuum of consciousness. I feel this question about computers will be resolved only by time. We just have to wait and see until it actually happens.

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