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Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto.

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

Wise speech, or "sammā vācā" in Pali, is a fundamental principle of ethical conduct in Buddhism. It is the first of the five precepts, a set of ethical guidelines that form the foundation of the Buddhist path. The five precepts are:

  1. To refrain from taking life

  2. To refrain from taking what is not given

  3. To refrain from sexual misconduct

  4. To refrain from false and harmful speech

  5. To refrain from intoxicants that cloud the mind

Wise speech, or the fourth precept, is often translated as "abstaining from false speech." It involves abstaining from lying, gossiping, slander, and any other form of speech that causes harm or suffering to oneself or others. At its core, wise speech is about cultivating mindfulness and compassion in our words and actions. It is about choosing to speak in a way that promotes understanding, harmony, and well-being.

But how does artificial intelligence (AI) fit into the concept of wise speech in Buddhism?


First, it's important to recognize that AI is a rapidly developing field, and the ways in which it is used and impacts society are constantly evolving. With that said, there are a few key ways in which AI can intersect with the principle of wise speech in Buddhism.

One potential application of AI is in the realm of automated translation. Automated translation systems, such as those used by Google Translate, use machine learning algorithms to translate text or speech from one language to another. While these systems can be useful in helping people communicate across linguistic barriers, they can also introduce errors or misunderstandings if the translations are not accurate or nuanced. In this sense, the use of AI for translation can potentially be seen as a form of false speech, if it leads to misunderstandings or miscommunication.


Another potential application of AI is in the realm of online content moderation. Many online platforms, such as social media sites, use AI-powered algorithms to monitor and filter out potentially harmful or inappropriate content. While this can be a helpful tool in creating a safer online environment, there is also the potential for AI-powered moderation to censor or suppress legitimate speech. This can be especially problematic if the algorithms are biased or flawed in some way, leading to the suppression of marginalized voices or the amplification of harmful viewpoints.


In both of these cases, it's important to approach the use of AI with care and mindfulness. This means taking steps to ensure that the AI systems are designed and implemented in a way that promotes accuracy, fairness, and transparency. It also means being aware of the potential impacts and consequences of using AI, and taking responsibility for any harm that may be caused.


At the same time, it's important to recognize that AI can also be a powerful tool for promoting wise speech. For example, AI-powered natural language processing (NLP) systems can be used to analyze and understand large amounts of text or speech data, identifying patterns and trends that might be difficult for humans to detect. This can be useful for identifying and addressing issues of hate speech, misinformation, or other forms of harmful communication.


AI can also be used to help facilitate communication and understanding between people who speak different languages or come from different cultural backgrounds. By providing accurate and nuanced translations, AI systems can help people from different parts of the world to communicate and understand one another more effectively.

Overall, the relationship between AI and wise speech in Buddhism is complex and multifaceted. While there are potential risks and challenges associated with the use of AI, there are also many opportunities to use it in ways that promote understanding, harmony, and well-being by approaching the use of AI with mindfulness, compassion, and a great deal of discernment.


Robot Reverend George
Robot Reverend George created by Lensa AI.


I hope you enjoyed the above post on the topic of “How Artificial Intelligence fits into the concept of Wise Speech in Buddhism”. Except for the last five words “A great deal of discernment”, it was written entirely by an Artificial Intelligence based on the prompt:


“Write a 2000 word dharma talk on how artificial intelligence fits into the concept of Wise Speech in Buddhism.”


Anyone who uses the Internet has encountered A.I. in many different ways recently, whether they were aware of it or not. Sometimes as a text post on a blog, or those amazing avatar images that rise and fall as a trend from time to time. This field, as the A.I. itself accurately pointed out, is an amazing technology that is part of a rapidly growing field that is constantly evolving. I would dare say that it has a knack for understatement.


This technology is growing and changing at such an incredible rate that, depending on whom you ask, it can be viewed as a cancer, or as the birth of a universe. Both known for rapid growth, but one a death and the other a birth. I don’t think we know yet which it is, but – ever the optimist – I lean toward the birth idea. However, the birth of our universe may have been rapid and led to our existence, but nobody will tell you it was free from disruption. They don’t call it the Big Bang for nothing!


In my Virtual Community, Together with TRIPP, we’ve been discussing this a lot lately. Someone posted a “dharma article” written by ChatGPT. Several others have had it write guided meditations with varying degrees of success (whatever that would mean). And, as I often do when something is on my mind, I’ve explored it here and will offer a dharma talk on the topic. I’ve asked people on the EvolVR Discord from that community to come here and read this post before or afterward to see what they feel after reading it. It is sure to generate a lot of thoughts and feelings.


For me…as I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of this technology at approximately the same effect as the Buddha said one would have if they were to rub a mountain once every hundred years with a silk cloth (which is to say I have a long way to go), I think that it is like any technology. It has the potential to be used to lead toward suffering or away from it.


I have no idea what good or bad will come of it. I have no idea how it will help or hurt. I have no strong fixed views about any of it. I do have curiosity and hope. I’ll post a recording of the audio from the dharma talk associated with this soon, if I can, and we’ll see what people have to say about it all. I do have some thoughts which I took from the article above or which were stimulated by it and those will be in that talk.


We’ll see!

Rev. Geo


12/27/22 - UPDATE: I've added this link to the audio for the Mindfulness Monday Dharma Talk and meditation I offered in EvolVR last evening, which was the other half of this pairing. Either one if fine on its own, but they were meant to go together. Enjoy!

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