My friend, who has a PhD. in computing, and whose thesis was on ‘artificial intelligence’, says that man is a biochemical computer and nothing more.
The Buddha has said that all things are composite and there is no self, no soul, no spirit, no ‘I’, which seems to agree with my friend’s viewpoint. Could you please help me, because I feel that there is something missing from these views but I can’t see it myself.
Man certainly is a biocomputer, but something more too. About ninety-nine point nine percent of people it can be said that they are only biocomputers and nothing more. Ordinarily one is only the body and the mind, and both are composites. Unless one moves into meditation one cannot find that which is something more, something transcendental to body and mind.
The psychologists, particularly the behaviourists, have been studying man for half a century, but they study the ordinary man, and of course their thesis is proved by all their studies. The ordinary man, the unconscious man, has nothing more in him than the bodymind composite. The body is the outer side of the mind and the mind the inner side of the body. Both are born and both will die one day.
But there is something more. That something more makes a man awakened, enlightened, a Buddha, a Christ. But a Buddha or a Christ is not available to be studied by Pavlov, Skinner, Delgado and others. Their study is about the unconscious man, and of course when you study the unconscious man you will not find anything transcendental in him. The transcendental exists in the unconscious man only as a potential, as a possibility; it is not yet realized, it is not yet a reality. Hence you cannot study it.
You can study it only in a Buddha, but even then studying is obviously very difficult, just very close to the impossible, because what you will study in a Buddha will again be his behaviour. And if you are determined that there is nothing more, if you have already concluded, then even in his behaviour you will see only mechanical reactions, you will not see his spontaneity. To see that spontaneity you have also to become a participant in meditation.
A computer cannot feel boredom,
a computer cannot feel meaninglessness,
a computer cannot experience anguish.
A computer cannot start an enquiry about truth,
it cannot renounce the world and become a sannyasin,
it cannot go to the mountains or to the monasteries.
It cannot conceive of anything beyond the mechanical –
and all that is significant is beyond the mechanical.
Psychology can become only a real psychology when meditation becomes its foundation. The word ‘psychology’ means the science of the soul. Modern psychology is not yet a science of the soul.
Buddha certainly has denied the self, the ego, the ‘I’, but he has not denied the soul and the self and the soul are not synonymous. He denies the self because the self exists only in the unconscious man. The unconscious man needs a certain idea of ‘I’, otherwise he will be without a centre. He does not know his real centre. He has to invent a false centre so that he can at least function in the world, otherwise his functioning will become impossible. He needs a certain idea of ‘I’.
You must have heard about Descartes’ famous statement: “cogito ergo sum – I think, therefore I am.”
A professor, teaching the philosophy of Descartes, was asked by a student, “Sir, I think, but how do I know that I am?”
The professor pretended to peer around the classroom. “Who is asking the question?” he said.
“I am,” replied the student.
One needs a certain idea of ‘I’, otherwise functioning will become impossible. So because we don’t know the real ‘I’ we substitute it by a false ‘I’ – something invented, composite.
No biocomputer or any other kind of computer
has any idea of self or no-self.
Buddha denies the self because to him ‘self’ simply is another name for the ego, with a little colour of spirituality, otherwise there is no difference. His word is anatta. Atta means ‘self’, anatta means ‘no-self’. But he is not denying the soul. In fact he says when the self is completely dropped, then only you will come to know the soul. But he does not say anything about it because nothing can be said about it.
His approach is via negativa. He says: You are not the body, you are not the mind, you are not the self He goes on denying, eliminating. He eliminates everything that you can conceive of, and then he does not say anything what is left. That which is left is your reality: that utterly pure sky without clouds, no thought, no identity, no emotion, no desire, no ego – nothing is left. All clouds have disappeared… just the pure sky.
It is inexpressible, unnameable, indefinable. That’s why he keeps absolutely silent about it. He knows it that if anything is said about it you will immediately jump back to your old idea of the self If he says, “There is a soul in you,” what you are going to understand? You will think that, “He calls it soul and we call it self – it is the same. The supreme self maybe, the spiritual self; it is not ordinary ego.” But spiritual or unspiritual, the idea of my being a separate entity is the point.
Buddha denies that you are a separate entity from the whole. You are one with the organic unity of existence, so there is no need to say anything about your separateness. Even the word ‘soul’ will give you a certain idea of separateness; you are bound to understand it in your own unconscious way.
Hamid, your friend says that “Man is a biochemical computer and nothing more.”
Can a biochemical computer say that? Can a biochemical computer deny the self, the soul? No biocomputer or any other kind of computer has any idea of self or no-self. Your friend is doing it – certainly he is not a biochemical computer. No biochemical computer can write a thesis on artificial intelligence! Do you think artificial intelligence can write a thesis about artificial intelligence? Something more is needed.
A computer cannot have any awareness.
A computer is incapable of feeling silence.
And these are the qualities which prove
that man has something more than artificial intelligence.
And he is absolutely wrong in thinking that Buddha says also the same thing:
… That all things are composite and there is no self no soul, no spirit, no ‘I’.
He is wrong to think that Buddha agrees with his viewpoint – not at all. Buddha’s experience is of meditation. Without meditation nobody can have any idea what Buddha is saying about. Your friend’s observation is from the standpoint of a scientific onlooker. It is not his experience, it is his observation. He is studying biochemical computers, artificial intelligence, from the outside. Who is studying outside?
Can you conceive two computers studying each other? The computer can have only that which has been fed into it; it cannot have more than that. The information has to be given to it, then it keeps it in its memory – it is a memory system. It can do miracles as far as mathematics is concerned. A computer can be far more efficient than any Albert Einstein as far as mathematics is concerned, but a computer cannot be a meditator. Can you imagine a computer just sitting silently doing nothing, the spring comes and the grass grows by itself…?
There are many qualities which are impossible for the computer. A computer cannot be in love. You can keep many computers together – they will not fall in love! A computer cannot have any experience of beauty. A computer cannot know any bliss. A computer cannot have any awareness. A computer is incapable of feeling silence. And these are the qualities which prove that man has something more than artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence can do scientific work, mathematical work, calculation – great calculation and very quick and very efficiently, because it is a machine. But a machine cannot be aware of what it is doing. A computer cannot feel boredom, a computer cannot feel meaninglessness, a computer cannot experience anguish. A computer cannot start an enquiry about truth, it cannot renounce the world and become a sannyasin, it cannot go to the mountains or to the monasteries. It cannot conceive of anything beyond the mechanical – and all that is significant is beyond the mechanical.
A policeman starts chasing a car after noticing that the driver is a computer, a robot – wearing a hat, smoking a cigar and driving with one hand hanging out of the window.
He finally succeeds in stopping the car. He approaches it and sees to his surprise that there is a man sitting next to the computer.
“Are you mad?” exclaims the officer, “letting your computer drive?”
“Excuse me, officer,” replies the man, “I asked him for a lift!”
Yes, in stories it is possible, but not in reality.
Mr. Polanski enjoys playing with cuckoo clocks. One rainy Sunday morning he takes his cuckoo clock apart and puts it back together again.
At twelve o’clock the family gathers, waiting for the pretty little bird to sing its song… nothing happens. They wait till one o’clock – no cuckoo. At two o’clock they are still waiting for the bird to appear. Finally, at three o’clock, the little door opens and the cuckoo comes out.
“Dammit!” it squeaks. “Do any of you guys know the time?”
Osho, I Am That, Ch 4, Q 1