[FRIAM] serious AI question

Prof David West profwest at fastmail.fm
Sat Jan 28 18:10:08 EST 2023

This is a serious question albeit one in a realm that many would dismiss as non-serious. First, some background.

Rinzai Zen is the "sudden enlightenment" school that asserts the possibility of a single event serving as a 'trigger' that evokes/instills-in-the-mind a state of enlightenment. The trigger might be a closed fist of your guru striking your ear, or—as was the case with Hui Neng (illiterate peasant who became the Sixth Patriarch) overhearing a fragment of the Diamond Sutra spoken by a passerby of the fish market where he was working.

This kind of "evocative trigger" is analogous to your nose detecting the scent of cinnamon as you walk past a bakery and your mind instantly filled with a complete memory of grandmother's kitchen, all the scents and sounds, and emotions, an activities, in complete detail.

A 'Zen evocative trigger' would, by analogy, fill your mind with—put your mind in a state of—Enlightenment. This might be ephemeral, satori with a lower case 's', or permanent, Satori with an upper case 'S'.

There is a large body of art (calligraphy, painting, poetry, ceramics, ...) that embodies exactly this kind of trigger; one that can be 'sensed' even if its sensing does not trigger (S)satori.

So the question: is it possible to construct a self-learning AI with a training set of such art and, once trained, turn it loose on the Google image base to find other examples of art with evocative triggers?

Of course, there is a hidden assertion: whatever the quality or characteristic of the art that embodies the 'trigger' is ineffable; which means, in this case, it has no "representation" (word, symbol, brush stroke, etc.).


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