Marvin Minsky and Alan Watts

Thu, 4 Sep 1997 20:23:30 -0500

I have recently read the autobiography of Alan Watts (IN MY OWN WAY) who
was an interpreter of Zen Buddhism to the hippie generation of the 60s.
I find his concept of the self to be similar to Marvin Minsky's SOCIETY
OF MIND in which the self is illusory.

Watts on page 47 states " the ego named Alan Watts is an illusion, a
social institution, a fabrication of words and symbols without the
slightest substantial reality; that is it will be utterly forgotten
within five hundred years, any that my physical organism will shortly
pass off into dust and ashes. And I have no illusions that some sort of
proprietary and individual soul, spook, or ghost will outlast it."

and on page 197: " Christians hardly ever consider changing
consciousness itself, but assume that the usual feeling of "I" is our
sensation of the soul and not a socially sanctioned hallucination. "

Now if I am interpreting what I read of Minsky's view of an illusory
protagonist that we call our self and Watts view that there is no sort
of "proprietary" and individual soul, spook, or ghost, what would be the
sense of thinking of uploading our wetware to have eternal existence? I
mean, that which is in our brains, that we identify as our proprietary
selves is illusory, consisting of data input over our lifetimes.
According to Minsky and Watts there is no "you".

Perhaps Extropians should be thinking of Moravec's mind children and
instead of seeking eternal individual existence, just merge into the
Matrix what we can contribute.

I found Watts to be prescient on many issues relating to the Cyber
Culture. On page 98 of his autobiography, IN MY OWN WAY, he states
"Chinese is a far better language for mind-training than Latin or Greek
because it is the most highly evolved and sophisticated language least
like our own. Thus the patterns of thought upon which it is based bring
out, by contrast, the implicit and largely unrecognized patterns of
thought which underlie our own tongue-as that "events<" represented by
verbs, must be set in motion by "things," represented by nouns.
Furthermore, anything said in English may be said in half the time in
Chinese, while German and Japanese take twice the time. Some form of
written Chinese would also be a marvelous language for computers,
because it can be read at high speed, and because each character, or
ideogram, is a nonlinear Gestalt, or configuration." Alan Watts wrote
that back in 1972.

Cyber Ed