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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 3.2 (2020): 62–77;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and Technology, and Epigraphy)

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The Intelligence Revolution and the New Great Game: A Buddhist Reflection on the Personal and Societal Predicaments of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

East-West Center

Abstract: The most pressing challenges of the present and coming decades—among them, climate change; the degradation of both natural and urban environments; and rising inequalities of wealth, income, risk, and opportunity—are not technical problems. They are ethical predicaments that consist in deep (and often tragic) conflicts within and among our globally dominant systems of social, cultural, economic, and political values. Today, we are witnessing the early stages of perhaps the greatest of these predicaments: a transformation of the human experience by the impacts of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data. This paper will first discuss the current state of the intelligence revolution, its likely future, and the systematic colonization of consciousness that informs the deepening interdependence of the new global attention economy and the surveillance state. Buddhist conceptual resources will then be used to reflect on who we must present as to resist the displacement of intelligent human practices by smart services and to realize an ethical ecosystem suited to ensuring that the intelligence revolution is conducive to more equitable and humane global futures.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, attention economy, big data, Buddhism, ethical diversity, karma


About the Author: Peter D. Hershock is Director of the Asian Studies Development Program and Coordinator of the Humane AI Initiative at the East- West Center in Honolulu. His philosophical work makes use of Buddhist conceptual resources to address contemporary issues of global concern. He has authored or edited more than a dozen books on Buddhism, Asian philosophy and contemporary issues, including: Reinventing the Wheel: A Buddhist Response to the Information Age (1999); Buddhism in the Public Sphere: Reorienting Global Interdependence (2006); Valuing Diversity: Buddhist Reflection on Realizing a More Equitable Global Future (2012); Public Zen, Personal Zen: A Buddhist Introduction (2014); Philosophies of Place: An Intercultural Conversation (edited, 2020); Human Beings or Human Becomings? A Conversation with Confucianism on the Concept of Person (edited, 2021); and Buddhism and Intelligent Technology: Toward a More Humane Future (2021).


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.