HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Arts & Humanities » Philosophy (Group) » Modern technology is akin...

Thu Feb 13, 2020, 06:59 PM

Modern technology is akin to the metaphysics of Vedanta

I am posting this under philosophy because it rests in what is a rather grey zone in regards to the polarized and political, extreme views regarding science, technology, metaphysics and religion. In a sense, beyond Vedanta, Advaita Vedanta, Dzogchen, Bon and similar disciplines, do not fit neatly in a typical western's idea of religion since the categories we now use were not divided in the same way we do that, but that is a historical matter. The Vedas relate information on a variety of topics, for instance.

Not that I am appealing to authority, but Sam Harris is rather positive about Dzogchen, for example, and if you read his books, he makes some good points about its difference from Western projection of theology as a matter of fact in all such matters. There is plenty of information about the kind of skepticism he has utilized in his approach to those subjects. From there we can wonder if Westerners consider the investigation of the mind/reality a primarily religious perspective from a presupposition, or will it require a better understanding of what is being considered prior to forming biased conclusions about it. We will see. We see stereotypes abound, confirmation biases rule, and polarization intrudes.

Considering the nature of the "hard problem" itself, (concerning consciousness) and ancient interests in subjects like awareness, consciousness, mind and reality, we might gain some insights into the matter from that form of often formal, (for its time) investigation and commentary. Since awareness/consciousness requires a radical, subjective empiricism in that sense, (in contrast to a physicalism that relies on a metaphysical realism) we can at least consider that the problem, in some ancient disciplines, has been around for a long time and interest in it has been perennial, at least in the West, but interesting is growing for their psychological and ontological relevance to our current quest into the nature of consciousness itself.

Akhandadhi Das is a Vedanta philosopher and Vaishnava Hindu theologian. He is director of Buckland Hall, a conference and retreat centre in Wales, a member of the Science and Philosophy Initiative, and a broadcaster and advisor to the BBC on Indian philosophical and spiritual traditions.

You might think that digital technologies, often considered a product of ‘the West’, would hasten the divergence of Eastern and Western philosophies. But within the study of Vedanta, an ancient Indian school of thought, I see the opposite effect at work. Thanks to our growing familiarity with computing, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI), ‘modern’ societies are now better placed than ever to grasp the insights of this tradition.

Vedanta summarises the metaphysics of the Upanishads, a clutch of Sanskrit religious texts, likely written between 800 and 500 BCE. They form the basis for the many philosophical, spiritual and mystical traditions of the Indian sub-continent. The Upanishads were also a source of inspiration for some modern scientists, including Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg, as they struggled to comprehend quantum physics of the 20th century.

The Vedantic quest for understanding begins from what it considers the logical starting point: our own consciousness. How can we trust conclusions about what we observe and analyse unless we understand what is doing the observation and analysis? The progress of AI, neural nets and deep learning have inclined some modern observers to claim that the human mind is merely an intricate organic processing machine – and consciousness, if it exists at all, might simply be a property that emerges from information complexity. However, this view fails to explain intractable issues such as the subjective self and our experience of qualia, those aspects of mental content such as ‘redness’ or ‘sweetness’ that we experience during conscious awareness. Figuring out how matter can produce phenomenal consciousness remains the so-called ‘hard problem’.

Vedanta offers a model to integrate subjective consciousness and the information-processing systems of our body and brains. Its theory separates the brain and the senses from the mind. But it also distinguishes the mind from the function of consciousness, which it defines as the ability to experience mental output. We’re familiar with this notion from our digital devices. A camera, microphone or other sensors linked to a computer gather information about the world, and convert the various forms of physical energy – light waves, air pressure-waves and so forth – into digital data, just as our bodily senses do. The central processing unit processes this data and produces relevant outputs. The same is true of our brain. In both contexts, there seems to be little scope for subjective experience to play a role within these mechanisms.


7 replies, 5352 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 7 replies Author Time Post
Reply Modern technology is akin to the metaphysics of Vedanta (Original post)
Newest Reality Feb 2020 OP
Backseat Driver Feb 2020 #1
defacto7 Feb 2020 #2
Newest Reality Feb 2020 #3
defacto7 Feb 2020 #4
Newest Reality Feb 2020 #5
oasis Aug 2020 #6
Klaralven Dec 2020 #7

Response to Newest Reality (Original post)

Thu Feb 13, 2020, 07:22 PM

1. Digital AI is as worrisome to me as the Unibomber's (Luddite) Manifesto -

because I'm thinking it is far easier to program in the "pathological" ideations than a "good" consciousness of the Mind of God(s).

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to Newest Reality (Original post)

Fri Feb 14, 2020, 12:26 AM

2. I can't think of a more appropriate place for this.

Proceed with as little caution as possible and I would posit that gray is the primary color of philosophy.

As to the subject posed I really don't have any comments to make. Personally, I don't relate to the exercise of trying to marry technology to metaphysics as if one can simply dream it so. The words become the point and the point becomes words. Some people like the thought challenge like a good game of scrabble and a chance to exercise one's vocabulary is probably good for all of us. But to me simplicity is where we find the crux of existance and meaning. So melding technology and Vedantic philosophy is kind of unnecessary, but that's just me. They are both fascinating subjects in themselves though.

Maybe someone else would like to pick up the ball and run with it.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to defacto7 (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 14, 2020, 01:05 AM

3. I don't know,

I don't think they need to get married, but maybe they can get along and have a few dates with dinner and some dancing, or Netflix and chill, now and then, unless they start fighting and bickering and we have to break it up.

The article was making associations between the two, methinks, primarily as a bridge analogy between modern thought/technology and ancient understanding of the nature of mind and consciousness or the self/other dichotomy we all experience, and I don't think they need to be merged, but the comparison is useful. It's kind of like getting a feel for the territory in that sense.

Of course, the term technology has a basic and extended meaning. Technology can refer to even our very basic, primitive discoveries and earliest uses of tools, whereas the way we use now use the word, more specifically, is referring to high-technology which is a matter of sophistication, by comparison.

And yes, you are on spot, simplicity, (I mean, bare bones, pure awareness itself) is essential regrading the nature of existence itself, but that is another matter. From there, reifying and conceptualizing deals with abstractions, relationships, associations, etc., and we then end up at the Vedanta Tech Cafe for a cup of coffee or tea while chatting about things like this We can call it a tangent.

Thank you! I found your points very interesting. I enjoyed it.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to Newest Reality (Reply #3)

Fri Feb 14, 2020, 01:37 PM

4. Your explanation whets my appetite... again...

for comparative exploration of abstracts... but I'm not there at the moment. I get the impression you think I missed the point but I'm not convinced of that. Concerning the nature of existence you said "but that's another matter". Is it? Even comparison and analysis of abstract concepts while not backtracking regularly to the simplicity of the individual parts and their place in reality can lead us in circles. Though circles can be fun they are also non-existent but I'll concede they're usefulness in an imaginary way. Sometimes we ride the bus but right now I'm on a bicycle because the simple minutiae is so facinating and centering.
I suppose I'm off topic. Sorry.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to defacto7 (Reply #4)

Fri Feb 14, 2020, 02:41 PM

5. No, you are on the right track there.

Since this is a public forum and some things can lead to long tangents, (I can go off on them easily as is evident) the reason I said it was another matter was not to sidestep those points or detract from them. In fact, I would prefer that people give more thought to ideas along those lines and investigate the matter of existence, being, etc.

For a "mind" it seems almost a waste not to contemplate being, existing, experience, itself, etc. Although separation can be an essential problem to investigate, isn't it fascinating that we, as human beings, can manage to exist in a way that feels separate from everything else, and not even imagine that it could be any other way or that it is a product of a tenuous dualism? Then, we also manage to project that out for the sake of survival and convenience on our environment. The reason I bring that up is that the subject/object relationship is a good place to look.

Yes, going in circles is cyclic and straight lines are linear, hmmm. A to B or round and round? Now, if I would have gone into a tangent to respond to that, it would have been far too long and out of context.

I think honing in on common interpretations of words like abstract and concrete and existence could be helpful because they tend to be used in a reflexive way and we make a lot of assumptions regarding their relevance. For topics like this, defining the terms can sometimes help.

Of course, real vs. imagined, or actual vs, reality, etc. Well, those are other matters, too, but they provide some fertile ground for contemplation. I am not a relativist unless it involves relative things.


Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to Newest Reality (Original post)

Thu Aug 13, 2020, 01:18 PM

6. Interesting read on metaphysics/technology. Thanks

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Response to Newest Reality (Original post)

Thu Dec 10, 2020, 12:28 PM

7. Interesting, but it continues the mind - consciousness dichotomy, which is likely unsupportable


The separation of the mind, which is processing information using the electrochemical system of the brain, and the consciousness, which is said to be inexplicable as the result of such processing, will probably not hold up in the long run. This despite the best efforts of philosophers who desire to keep a space for a soul which persists after death, is in communication with a god, and so forth.

However, the discussion of the VR gamer observing the game is probably in the right direction. To shift the perspective slightly, consider a server complex in a data center that is managing a complex, multiplayer, distributed game. Beyond the programs that implement game functions, there will be another set of programs that admit players, mange players, start game functions, identify problems, possibly even spin up added servers/containers as load changes, monitor usage, etc.

This system management layer of software is becoming ever more complex and capable in how it observes the functioning of the data center and the information processing going on in the data center. It, rather than AI or machine learning, is the layer that will eventually be recognized to be conscious.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread