No-Mind: Do not think about not thinking at all

Thoughts have a power all of their own. Any thought we hold too tightly, or keep too close to our hearts, can have a detrimental effect on our lives.  A thought can become an obsession. For example, a thought that our partner is having an affair develops in our mind, and we filter all of their actions through it, searching for evidence however small. This small thought could develop into an obsession and jealousy and mistrust begins to taint every moment of our lives. Eventually we will see things that are not actually there and over time this will strangle the relationship like weeds in an untended garden.

We should strive to regularly empty our minds lest a thought achieves a foothold that cannot be overcome. Takuan Soho (1573-1645), a Japanese Zen Master and Philosopher from the 1600’s, provided similar advice to his contemporaries whether they were the Shogun, Master Swordsmen, fellow monks or lay members of his community. In a translation of his writings The Unfettered Mind by William Scott Wilson, he said:

If your mind leans in the direction of these thoughts, though you listen, you will not hear; and though you look, you will not see. This is because there is something in your mind. What is there is thought. If you are able to remove this thing…your mind will become No-Mind, it will function when needed, and it will be appropriate to its use.

Unfortunately achieving this state of No-Mind is difficult if not practised regularly. We must make this state, even for a heartbeat, part of our daily lives. But again Takuan warns that this too is a thought: “…the mind that thinks about removing what is in it will, by the very act, be occupied.” He wrote a short poem to help us, and four hundred years later it rings as true as the day he wrote it:

To think, “I will not think.”-

This, too, is something in one’s thoughts.

Simply do not think

about not thinking at all.

Kaligrafia_08

Kaligrafia

Takuan Soho (1573-1645) was a prelate of the Rinsai Sect of Zen, well remembered for his strength of character and acerbic wit; and he was also a gardener, poet, tea master, prolific author and a pivital figure in Zen painting and calligraphy (William Scott Wilson – The Unfettered Mind, 1986).

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Kurzweil’s Singularity and artificial enhancements to our body

The concept of the singularity came up last night while I was researching an aspect of my novel. According to Ray Kurzweil, the singularity is point in the evolution of the universe when technology can improve itself faster than humans can improve it and the technology cuts us out of the loop.

ieee-spectrum-technological-singularity-thumb

Long before this point, however, Kurzweil predicts there will be only a few humans without extensive artificial enhancement wether it be enhanced limbs, digestive systems, or the insertion of entertainment driven nanobots. He also suggests the possibility to upload your mind entirely from your physical body. I found this disconcerting and a little depressing. It is not the future I imagined for my grandchildren where the line between their natural human presence and a humanoid cyborg is blurred.

This was a distraction to my research and I pushed these thoughts to one side and continued along, suitably engrossed, on my original path of discovery. The next time I looked up from my books and notebook I noticed it was 1am and thought, “Why do I have to sleep? There’re so many things I want to research and understand!” My mind raced while I reluctantly closed the notebook and slid my fountain pen into its leather case. How could I get by with less sleep? And then, like the target of my own satirical attack I choked on the thought. This is why humans will opt for artificial enhancement; not just to run faster, or to breathe in a CO2 rich atmosphere, but to release our mind from the dirty biological container it’s entrapped in.

I realised I will be tempted to upload my mind. But this realisation led me to consider what would become of the mind/body that remained—I must assume the uploaded “consciousness” is a copy. Would it be culled and consumed as some form of payment for service, or could the physical part be “parked” as a potential refuge for the mind if an emergency eventuated that threatened the security of the artificially supported entity in the world wide neural web? A hard copy backup or snapshot…

How would these artificially supported consciousnesses interact? Just consider the difficulty in sustaining a long distance relationship without the occasional physical visit. Maybe we’ll interact in a completely virtual environment so authentic the experience sufficiently meets the demands of our minds; however unclear they currently may be. There’s has to be a short story here at least!