How Confucianism could put fear about Artificial Intelligence to bed

Article by Tom Cassauwers: “Western culture has had a long history of individualism, warlike use of technology, Christian apocalyptic thinking and a strong binary between body and soul. These elements might explain the West’s obsession with the technological apocalypse and its opposite: techno-utopianism. In Asia, it’s now common to explain China’s dramatic rise as a leader in AI and robotics as a consequence of state support from the world’s largest economy. But what if — in addition to the massive state investment — China and other Asian nations have another advantage, in the form of Eastern philosophies?

There’s a growing view among independent researchers and philosophers that Confucianism and Buddhism could offer healthy alternative perspectives on the future of technology. And with AI and robots rapidly increasing in importance across industries, it’s time for the West to turn to the East for answers…

So what would a non-Western way of thinking about tech look like? First, there might be a different interpretation of personhood. Both Confucianism and Buddhism potentially open up the way for nonhumans to reach the status of humans. In Confucianism, the state of reaching personhood “is not a given. You need to work to achieve it,” says Wong. The person’s attitude toward certain ethical virtues determines whether or not they reach the status of a human. That also means that “we can attribute personhood to nonhuman things like robots when they play ethically relevant roles and duties as humans,” Wong adds.

Buddhism offers a similar argument, where robots can hypothetically achieve a state of enlightenment, which is present everywhere, not only in humans — an argument made as early as the 1970s by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori. It may not be a coincidence that robots enjoy some of their highest social acceptance in Japan, with its Buddhist heritage. “Westerners are generally reluctant about the nature of robotics and AI, considering only humans as true beings, while Easterners more often consider devices as similar to humans,” says Jordi Vallverdú, a professor of philosophy at the Autonomous University of Barcelona….(More)”