Science and Spirituality

Artificial Intelligence versus Cosmic Intelligence

- Discussion between Chetan Surpur and Swami Bodhananda

Swami Bodhananda Artificial Intelligence versus Cosmic Intelligence

When science and spirituality meet, it brings the essence of truth and not conflict as the west envisions it.  Recently, in the Bay Area, on Yoga Bharati platform, a young Computer Engineer, a recent graduate from the top engineering school studying on Artificial Intelligence (AI) met a Swami who talks about Cosmic Intelligence (CI), both with open minds, with their immense passion and sincere sadhana in their respective fields.

Swami Bodhananda, the founder of Sambodh society visits Bay Area every year and Yoga Bharati hosts many of his programs. He guides Yoga Bharati members and families. He indeed, dialogued with one such member and had an intense discussion over email and in person, which some Yoga Bharati family members witnessed.

Highlights of Chetan’s views of AI as relevant to philosophical view:

Chetan Surpur Artificial Intelligence versus Cosmic Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence – Physical set of neurons creates intelligence. The way you perceive the world, the self-experience that you have, the idea of the world and everything that you feel just comes down to physical neuronal firings. Neurons are arranged hierarchically and lower level neurons feed into higher-level neurons and hence the patterns that the lower level neurons are processed at the higher level neurons to perceive things such as an apple, etc. Essentially, as Chetan puts it, it is a bottom up approach of the world where consciousness is viewed as being manifested by the matter.


Highlights of discussion between AI versus CI:

  • Swami Bodhananda: A mechanistic interpretation of the brain can pose a methodological and epistemological challenge as we approach the problem of consciousness.
  • Chetan: Human behaviors, like expressing love, or having sentience, is an emergent phenomenon of ultimately physical interactions in the brain. If we were able to understand how exactly the amygdala works with the neocortex to produce emotion, we would be able to understand exactly how human emotion works.
  • Swami Bodhananda: I feel that consciousness/feel factor can be made to manifest when physical conditions like complex neural firing at distant sites are created and interconnected.( the correlation hypothesis).  But I am not sure whether computationally it is possible to replicate the emotional and organic relationship that the brain has with environment, which may be the key to conscious subjective experience. Study of artificial intelligence and computational man will go a long way towards that goal. My guess is that you are on the right path. Where yoga is stuck, science/vijnana is taking baby steps.
  • Chetan: Basically I understand the sentiment that we are limited by our senses, and we have to transcend them in order to truly understand the world. I think another possible approach is to use our brain to indirectly understand these complicated things like consciousness and subjectivity, by understanding the rules that make up the brain, which in turn generates these complicated things. For instance, since we cannot see in 4 dimensions, we can use our mathematical, scientific minds to translate those ideas into 3 dimensions, and indirectly see them with our limited minds. Of course, it's not the same as seeing them with 4D eyes, but at the end of the day, we have transcended our senses to understand something we previously thought was beyond our understanding. This is what excites me about the field. Through AI, we will be able to understand more about ourselves, and gain actionable knowledge that we can use to radically improve the world.
  • Swami Bodhananda: We will continue this conversation as we get fresh ideas.  Contemplative practices and experimental sciences have different purposes, vocabularies and methodologies.  They frame questions differently. The Upanishads talk about two domains of pursuit--the objective and subjective, something like the present analytic and continental philosophical divide. And this dialectical clash in the center of human thought is healthy.
  • Chetan: Yes, this has been a great conversation. I do believe there are multiple ways of looking at the same thing, and I think I'm looking at it bottom-up while you look at it top-down. Either way, we're all seeking the same answers.


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