Brought on by rapid advances in science and technology, novel and hybrid modes of being and engagement are becoming increasingly available to us, and so customary notions of “human,” “animal,” and “machine” are turning increasingly opaque or impractical: not for abstract philosophical reasons, but simply given the profound entanglement between human activities, scientific advances, and the ubiquitous influence of technology. As seemingly fundamental ideas about identity, meaning, and responsibility are in this way called into question, if not outright undermined, by the novel situations that we find ourselves in, it seems worth our while to consider a broad cross-cultural array of human systems for meaning and fulfilment.

CSAS draws inspiration from Buddhist models of cognitive and ethical transformation, taking the idea of the Bodhisattva as the starting point. Bodhisattvas are traditionally conceived as evolutionary models of caring and insightful engagement that transcend the boundaries of species and understand organisms and their environments in terms of interdependence and mutual integration. We suggest that the frameworks of AI, cognitive science, developmental biology, and the Bodhisattva idea can serve as touchstones for each other as they carry common or compatible aspirations and concerns.

Watson, R. A., Levin, M. (forthcoming 2023). “The Collective Intelligence of Evolution and Development.” Collective Intelligence.

Witkowski, Olaf, Thomas Doctor, Elizaveta Solomonova, Bill Duane, and Michael Levin. 2023. “Toward an Ethics of Autopoietic Technology: Stress, Care, and Intelligence.” Biosystems, Vol 231.

Watson, R. A., Levin, M., & Buckley, C. L. 2022. “Design for an Individual: Connectionist Approaches to the Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality.” Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10, 64.

Witkowski, Olaf, Schwitzgebel, Eric. 2022. “Ethics of Artificial Life: The Moral Status of Life as It Could Be.” Proceedings of the ALIFE 2022: The 2022 Conference on Artificial Life. ALIFE 2022: The 2022 Conference on Artificial Life.

Doctor, Thomas, Olaf Witkowski, Elizaveta Solomonova, Bill Duane, and Michael Levin. 2022. “Biology, Buddhism, and AI: Care as the Driver of Intelligence”. Entropy 24, no. 5: 710.

Doctor, Thomas. “Can Being Aware of the Illusion of Self Augment an Agent’s Affordances: Integrating Buddhist Philosophy, Cognitive Science, and Artificial Life”. Presentation at ALIFE 2021: The 2021 Conference on Artificial Life.

Doctor, Thomas,  Elizaveta Solomonova, Bill Duane,  Olaf Witkowski . 2021. “Can Being Aware of the Illusion of Self Augment an Agent’s Affordances: Integrating Buddhist Philosophy, Cognitive Science, and Artificial Life.” Proceedings of the ALIFE 2021: The 2021 Conference on Artificial Life. ALIFE 2021: The 2021 Conference on Artificial Life.

Doctor, Thomas. 2020.“True Love for the Artificial? Toward the Possibility of Bodhisattva Relations with Machines.”Journal of Buddhist Ethics vol. 27 2020.

Through interdisciplinary study of contemplative traditions and contemporary science, we seek to conduct research that brings understudied Buddhist and Vedic ideas to a broader scientific community. Likewise, we wish to bring the latest ideas in AI, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and regenerative medicine to the attention of Buddhist and Vedic scholars and practitioners. This will enrich both sides: science (improving its application for human flourishing) and contemplative traditions (which have a long history of adaptive value for human well-being and fulfilment that can be integrated with fundamental scientific discoveries).

CSAS is developing a Science-Buddhism compendium that could become an important resource for the development of mutually recognizable curricula in the secular Nepalese school system and the country’s Buddhist and Vedic monastic schools. As Nepal’s societal structures transform, the traditional scholarly institutions, which have for many centuries focused almost exclusively on religious learning, must change and adjust to the demands of contemporary society. Thus, when today an eight year old girl or boy enters a traditional monastic school system, they will over the following years be charged with learning and appropriating the contents of an all-round, secular education—along with the vast and complex philosophical and spiritual learning that is contained in the traditional models. For anyone but the rare genius, such a feat is impossible. Therefore, in order for the knowledge and insights that are carried by traditional Himalayan educational models to survive and remain accessible in the world, it becomes imperative that we rethink and restructure the contents of both traditional and contemporary educational systems, such that, ideally, the two can shine a dynamic light on one another.

Through collaborative research, grant awarding, teaching, outreach and public engagement, CSAS brings together projects, institutions, and individuals. The projects that we lead or participate in can be seen to converge in a vision of humans as interconnected, transformative, and dynamic beings—profoundly capable of care. Inspired and informed by this emergent vision, CSAS seeks to cultivate understanding of, and means for, human flourishing that are applicable to a broad range of societal and environmental contexts—health, education, peacebuilding, caring for the biosystem, etc.