Where Selves Are Mere Appearance: A Translation of Being, Agency, and Ethics in AI and Buddhism

  • TWCF Number:


  • Project Duration:

    March 1, 2020 - August 1, 2022

  • Core Funding Area:

    Big Questions

  • Priority:

    Diverse Intelligences

  • Region:


  • Amount Awarded:


  • Grant DOI*:


  • *A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Director: Thomas Doctor

Institution: Rangjung Yeshe Institute Foundation, Inc.

The Buddhist doctrine of no-self is a key Buddhist concept. According to Buddhist beliefs, all causal entities exist by virtue of their relations, as opposed to having an enduring essence. On the surface, this concept appears orthogonal to the pressing needs of AI implementation. But a closer look shows something else.

By revealing how deeply interconnected we all are, Buddhism provides a system of moral reasoning and practices to inform decisions aimed at well-being and happiness. This Diverse Intelligences project will apply Buddhist concepts of interconnected networks of sentient agency to AI issues. 

The Center for the Study of Apparent Selves seeks to create an academically rigorous translational handbook that pairs key concepts in Buddhism with real-world AI issues. These include moral decisions, unexpected consequences, and human flourishing. This initiative, directed by Thomas Doctor, aims to incorporate the models and wisdom of Buddhism in a practical, effective way. 

The resulting model will be communicated and tested via workshops and publications.


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