Journal of the Japanese Association for Digital Humanities
Online ISSN : 2188-7276
Buddhist Meditation and the Ethics of Human Augmentation
Stuart Ray Sarbacker
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2020 Volume 5 Issue 2 Pages 61-83


Emergent technologies of “Human Augmentation,” typically associated with the related concepts of “Human Engineering” and “Human Enhancement,” are rapidly changing the nature of human embodiment and have profound social and moral implications. Particularly noteworthy among these are technologies that enhance human physical, sensory, and cognitive capacities, from artificial limbs and visual and hearing aids that expand action and perception, to wearables and implants that provide instant access to vast amounts of data and augment knowledge of, and control over, otherwise autonomous physical processes. A counterpoint to technologies that aim to transform human embodiment are those that aim to transcend embodiment entirely, such as “uploading,” in which human consciousness is moved from the “wetware” of the human body and brain to machine-based “hardware.” Some technologists and enthusiasts view such augmentation as potentially ushering in the transformation of humanity into a different order of being—first, as “transitional humans” or “transhumans,” and second, as “posthumans” that represent a new evolutionary era for humanity, and, perhaps, the building blocks of utopia. This paper will argue that the philosophy and practice of Buddhist meditation (Skt. dhyāna) or meditative cultivation (bhāvanā) provides a paradigm for understanding how Buddhist philosophy and ethics might address issues raised by the augmentation of human capacities. It will also demonstrate how emergent philosophical and religious conceptions of the Transhuman and Posthuman can be compared, critiqued, and re-interpreted in light of Buddhist philosophy and cosmology, both with respect to Buddhist notions of the fluidity of the human-divine boundary and the radical transformation of the awakened Noble Person (āryapudgala).

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© Stuart Ray Sarbacker
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