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If You See a Cyborg in the Road, Kill the Buddha: Against Transcendental Transhumanism


Woody Evans

Sept 2014 Sep, 2014

Link to article

A stream in transhumanism argues that the aims of Buddhism and transhumanists are akin. It is the case that transhumanism contains religious tropes, and its parallels to Christianity are readily apparent. It does not share much, however, with Buddhism’s Zen tradition. Zen tends to focus its practitioners on becoming fully present and human, not on becoming transcendent, super-powered, or posthuman. This paper explores some of the tensions between transhumanism and Buddhism through the lens of Zen, and suggests that transhumanist Buddhists should be careful not to conflate moments of spiritual enlightenment with permanent techno-social transcendence.


COMMENTS



Posted by admin  on  01/09  at  10:41 AM

(from Durwood Evans)

A stream in transhumanism argues that the aims of Buddhism and transhumanists are akin. It is the case that transhumanism contains religious tropes, and its parallels to Christianity are readily apparent. It does not share much, however, with Buddhism’s Zen tradition. Zen tends to focus its practitioners on becoming fully present and human, not on becoming transcendent, super-powered, or posthuman. This paper explores some of the tensions between transhumanism and Buddhism through the lens of Zen, and suggests that transhumanist Buddhists should be careful not to conflate moments of spiritual enlightenment with permanent techno-social transcendence.





Posted by kdevans  on  01/09  at  10:47 AM

After a couple of years, I have zeroed in on the site of the controversy.  My article reads “Zen Buddhism” as “zazen”, and zazen as the heart of Buddhism (or the purest form of Buddhist practice), and proceeds therefore to put Zen in the place of any/all Buddhism.  Many Buddhists think this is an unfair understanding of Zen and of Buddhism.

Neither Buddhist nor transhumanist critics have yet adequately attacked my core proposition, however.  The paper posits that Buddhism (through a lens of Zen, given) is fundamentally anti-transhumanist because it is fundamentally concerned with becoming “fully human” in the here and now, not about transcending human-ness.  It is about accepting what is, not working on becoming some hypothetical “could be”.  This position remains sound, and continues to aggravate transhumanists and so-called “Buddhist transhumanists”.

At least I think that’s what’s going on with this as of 2016.






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