Zen for the Robot

Zen is many things and meanwhile nothing (which is how Zen might define itself), but in an objective way, it can be defined as a kind of experimental wisdom which can be reach by means of meditation and direct, experiential encounters and practices with the world and the self.

But what does Zen mean for a robot or generally a machine? This question may sound irrelevant as the machine is considered soulless, not having a self. Meanwhile, questions about the relationship between achievements of Artificial Intelligence and the possibility of having a machine with character, emotions, and self might arise.

The project I’m planning to do is not going to pause on these theoretical questions and dilemmas. The methodology would be like this; short survey in Zen literature searching for description of a “Zen situation”, try to rebuild that situation in a machine. Some examples might come handy here:

  • “How do you step from the top of a 100-foot pole?” (Koan)
  • “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” (Baba Ram Dass)
  • “As long as you seek for something, you will get the shadow of reality and not reality itself.” (Shunryu Suzuki)
  • “Zen is not some kind of excitement, but merely concentration on our usual everyday routine.” (Shunryu Suzuki)
  • “When you get to the top of the mountain, keep climbing.” (Anonymous)

One idea which came to my mind in the first place was building a machine which generates some kind of sound by its movements and meanwhile has a tendency to stop moving when there is a loud sound.

One response to “Zen for the Robot

  1. Love this topic as I study zen and have a love of robots. I always use computers and robots as metaphors and I think the idea of creating a situation for a robot is interesting. Based on the “usual everyday routine” that would make the NASA R2 appropriate. Although is it routine to do space exploration? Or does space represent mind here? LOL

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