Episode 77: Buddhism and Technology with Dr. David Kittay

Dr. David Kittay, Columbia University Professor of philosophy, technology and Buddhism

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Professor David Kittay spoke with us on a vast array of incredibly interesting questions about Buddhism and technology: Is technologically assisted enlightenment possible? What is the nature of time? Have our phones and our social media accounts become part of ourselves? And how do we deal with tech addiction?

Scott Snibbe: Dr. David Kittay teaches philosophy, religion and technology at Columbia University, where his students call his courses “life-changing.” Dr. Kittay is also an author, a translator and a Tibet House board member. His latest publication is the Vajra Rosary Tantra, available from Wisdom Publications.

Dr. David Kittay, thanks for joining me today to talk about Buddhism and technology.

Dr. David Kittay: Great to be here.

Scott Snibbe: I’d love it if you could start out telling us just a little bit about yourself and how you came to become a professor of Buddhism and philosophy.

Dr. David Kittay: I was always interested in why things were the way they were. And then when I was about 16, I read Daisetz Suzuki’s book called Essays in Zen Buddhism, which was a real entry, along with The Way of Zen, the Alan Watts book.

So I read that book and in the introduction, Suzuki talks about when you fall in love for the first time, there’s a split in your ego, because you finally found something that means more to you than your own self. I was 16 years old and he got me with that because I’m very romantic. And then, Chogyam Trungpa had just come over to the United States and I started hitchhiking up to his place in Vermont called Tail of the Tiger. At that time, there were only five or 10 people there, and that was wonderful. 

Then I ended up going to England and Turkey to hang out with the Sufis. I started meditating around the same time and when I would meditate –now, here, I’m about 20, 21 — the whole sky would open up. It was very, in a way, easy to get to another state of consciousness. 

But then I asked myself, I said but you’re just 20 years old. You’re so superficial. How can you understand anything? So I decided it was time for me to learn about the dark side, to get into the world. I remembered that a tutor that I had had when I was studying Turkish and Russian, Zekiye Eglar, she had said to me, you should be a lawyer. And then I say, okay, I could be a lawyer. Words, that’s okay. And dark side, yes. That would be really great entrance to the dark side. 

So I did it. I went to law school. I met my still-wife, Jan, in the library when I was in my third year of law school. We got married after knowing each other for three weeks after that, over a period of nine months, very impulsive. And then I became a lawyer. I worked on Wall Street and we had kids. And then I was in my late forties and I said okay, I have really experienced the dark side. 

So I emailed Bob Thurman, who — I had read a couple of his books, I didn’t know him. I said I would like to learn Tibetan as a way of figuring out if the Tibetans really know anything. And he sent me to Lozang Jamspal, a Ladakhi, former monk, and said he guides out beginners, which I was. And so I went to see Jamspal. And that was about 30 years ago. And we started translating after he taught me the alphabet  and then we’ve been translating ever since.     

As a way of accelerating my learning, I applied to Columbia. Somehow they took me, I became a doctoral student. I got my dissertation done. And then I’ve been hanging around ever since, teaching courses, which evolved into a lot of courses about technology and Buddhism and Dharma and hermeneutics, which I define as trying to see the water we swim in.

So that’s basically how it happened.

Scott Snibbe: A wonderful life divided into two different parts. You had a spiritual seed early on in your life. I got a chance to take your class, a version of your class that they offered at Tibet House, and I loved it.   

So most of the questions here are drawn from that class, and in offering your students the opportunity to really participate in constructing the answers to these questions. I wanted to emphasize that because you’re very humble in your source of wisdom. 

Dr. David Kittay: It’s really not humility so much. It’s that I really don’t know a heck of a lot about technology, and I really don’t know a heck of a lot about science. These questions are really broad and really complicated. And I find that when a group of us get together, really no matter who the group consists of, we get so much deeper because the human experience is so varied. And I want to also thank you, Scott for doing this. This is so great. And A Skeptic’s Path, that’s so great because yes, skepticism!

What’s the role of skepticism in Buddhism?

Scott Snibbe: Let’s start off with a question about skepticism then, because, as you and I know having studied Buddhism, the Buddha taught us to be skeptical, even of everything he taught. Can you talk a little bit about the role of skepticism in Buddhism today and especially the provocative question of whether there are aspects of Buddhism that were taught at his time, that we might no longer be able to accept, given our current understanding of the universe?

Dr. David Kittay: The thing about Buddhism is that it changed wherever it went anywhere.

For instance, it got to Japan, and then we had the Kami who were the kind of nature protectors, and then they all converted to Buddhism. So Japanese Buddhism has that. In Tibet, we have the protector deities, etc.

And of course, when it gets to California, it’s going to change. I remember Lama Yeshe in his book, Introduction to Tantra, he wrote about how, wow, Buddhist tantra is great for Westerners because it gives us instant results. I’ve often thought about Buddhism really using the analogy of Buddha as doctor; that Buddhism is just a collection of therapeutic methods, mental and physical and spiritual, for the different sorts of people. And there’s so many different sorts of people. 

In one sense, Buddhism is deeply skeptical. You have the Heart Sutra, which is probably the most chanted and repeated sutra there is in Buddhism, which is the most skeptical thing imaginable. There’s no ear, there’s no eye, there’s no suffering, there’s no origin of suffering, there’s no attainment. There’s even no non-attainment. Okay you’re playing with me, aren’t you, Buddha? So in that sense, deeply skeptical. 

And the thing is about Buddhism that on the one hand it’s skeptical: no this, no that. And the Madhyamikas in their philosophy they won’t give a thesis, just like Socrates. What they’ll do is they’ll undermine everybody else’s thesis, which gives rise to this great opening when we get away from conceptuality and our own ideas and biases.

It’s a way of getting some wiggle room. But, on the other hand, Buddhism is a religion. Buddha also taught ethics and karma. So we have in Buddhism a conundrum which reflects life and how could it not, right?

Dr. David Kittay: Is life totally logical, Scott?

Scott Snibbe: It doesn’t make any sense. 

Dr. David Kittay: It doesn’t make any sense. So if you had a really good doctor who wanted to help you understand life, part of it wouldn’t be strictly logical.

Scott Snibbe: Yeah.

Dr. David Kittay: And that’s why the last of the four reliances is relying on wisdom; not conceptuality, not just ideas. So yes, Buddha did teach us to be skeptical, but even to be skeptical about skepticism. If you don’t like dogma, then you can’t be dogmatic about it. But, also because Buddha was such a savant about life and people, he also didn’t take things too far. He was deeply concerned with each person and what they needed, what would help them suffer less or be happier. So thank you, Buddha.

How is face-to-face Buddhism different from Buddhism on Zoom?

Scott Snibbe: As Buddhism comes into this 21st century, you quoted Marshall McLuhan’s famous statement that, “The medium is the message,” as you talked about how different it is to learn Buddhism from a book or a teacher or the internet. And I wondered if you could talk a little bit about the traditional view of the medium we learn Buddhism from, that face-to-face relationship with a teacher, and how that compares to learning Buddhism from our iPhone or our Kindle or our Zoom or virtual reality?

Dr. David Kittay: Well, I could just speak, of course, from my own experience. And being a skeptic, after all, I was a lawyer for a long time. But being a skeptic, I was always very skeptical about Guru Yoga, which of course is so important in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Before we say, I go to refuge, to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The first thing we say is, I go to a refuge to the Lama, to the guru.

Scott Snibbe: Yes, in Tibetan Buddhism.

Dr. David Kittay: And, of course, that’s given rise to all kinds of problems when credulous Westerners do everything that imperfect people tell them to do. Because it’s different for us. Traditionally—for instance, in Tibet or in ancient India—yes, the Rinpoche or the Guru was there, but lived in town and everybody knew very well who he or she was: the foibles, the strengths, the weaknesses. So that was a different thing. For me, though, being so skeptical about this Guru Yoga, it’s part of my egotism. I just hate when people tell me what to do, it makes nuts. I should get over that.

So I had started studying with Jamspal and he was—now he’s in Thailand at the International Buddhist College and we Skype twice a week, but for decades we were together. We would live together sometimes, he would come and stay with us. And then I would go to his place and we would just hang out a lot.

So years and years ago, I had to get an MRI. They put you into that, it’s like a coffin. And they slide you in there and then the metal sheathing around you makes a lot of noise. I remember when they did that to me decades ago, I thought I was going to just die and I had a really hard time with it.

Many decades later, I had to get another MRI and I didn’t think about it. I figured I’m sure the technology is different. They can’t slide you into that thing anymore, no way. I got there and they slid me in and I freaked out.

I said to the tech, Could you please get me out of here? And the tech tried to sweet talk me, didn’t do any good. I said, get me out. They slid me out. And then he said, Maybe you can just think about something else? And then I thought to myself, What would Jamspal’s mind be like? And I said, put me back in. And I was fine. 

Now, the reason I knew what would Jamspal’s mind be like was because we had spent so much time together. And I had seen him process how he related with the world, with people. We talk about the guru absorbs through the top of your head and all of that in the practice. Somehow that happened. 

Dr. David Kittay's teacher, Lozang Jamspal.
Dr. David Kittay’s teacher, Lozang Jamspal. (Photo Credit: 84000.com)

That was my first understanding many years later of Guru Yoga and it had to do with actual close observation over a long period of time, which actually is consistent with the Buddha’s teaching that you shouldn’t really do any deep teachings with a teacher until you know each other well, both ways, over the course of 12 years. Kind of makes sense. 

So yes, I think there’s a tremendous difference between doing something in person and doing it episodically over Zoom. Now that’s not to say that a podcast or a movie is valueless. No way. There’s so much great stuff out there now through media that it also gives us unimagined opportunities to connect with people like the Dalai Lama and others. So the technology, I like to think of it as having tremendous benefits, but also there’s some downsides. And I also think of being in person, just having tremendous benefits also. So we can have the best of both worlds today.

Is technologically-assisted enlightenment possible?

Scott Snibbe: You bring up this question of whether technologically-assisted or a technologically-created enlightenment is possible. And what you’ve just said brings up I think a little bit of doubt about that. What have you and your students thought about this question: enlightenment through technology?

Dr. David Kittay: When you learn about the major and minor marks of a Buddha, right? A Buddha has a crown protrusion on its head. He’s got webbed fingers and wheels and all of this science fiction stuff. Sounds a lot like virtual reality, doesn’t it?

So could technology assist in enlightenment? Maybe. The technology that we have today is mostly digital technology. The students at Columbia, we get together and we discuss all this, half of them are engineers and computer scientists. So, the perspective and learning that comes from them is fantastic. 

But technology, especially digital technology, is about zeros and ones, it’s about bits. And so there’s a binary logic at play. And I have to say that I’ve always been very skeptical about binary logic: that it’s either gotta be A or not A. And I remember looking into this and finding that there was a thread through Indian philosophy, through Mandana Misra who was a Advita Vedanta teacher; and also through Ibn Arabi, the great Sufi; and of course, through Nagarjuna and the Madhyamikas that doesn’t necessarily subscribe to, it’s gotta be either A or not A. 

Now I know that in Buddhist logic, when you do the meditation on emptiness, you have to say if I can’t find the self in A, or not A, or both A and B or et cetera, et cetera, that there is binary logic at play in that. But that’s okay. Because once again, we get back to the fact that yes, we do live in the world and that’s what the Buddhists call conventional truth. But also there’s something that is not conventional truth, which we call emptiness, which is something else.

So again, the distinction between conceptual wisdom and this non-conceptual wisdom is very important. So the question being, how could technology bring us to enlightenment? My own conclusion is that it can help, but can’t get us all the way there. Because at this point, and it was certainly true for Buddha, a good part of us is mammal, as in animal, and animals are not just about zeroes and ones. They’re not even just about quantum mechanics, where you have the superposition of zeros and ones. We’re also about bodies and that wonderful combination of body and mind. So I think it can help. 

Scott Snibbe: I hadn’t heard that before and I find it very powerful that digital technology is like the ultimate dualism. It collapses everything to the duality of either a one or a zero. But then you made that nice analogy to asking a dualistic question: even in the ultimate contemplation of the nature of reality and the contemplation of that dualistic view knocks you out of it somehow.

Dr. David Kittay: It’s really quite wonderful. It’s like life.

Scott Snibbe: Yes.

Dr. David Kittay: Right? You can come to a logical conclusion about life, but you’re missing something. 

How does the modern view of information relate to the Buddhist view of mind?

Scott Snibbe: The other aspect of technology is this emphasis on information. And quantum physics too, seems to say that we live in an information-based reality. Scientists talk very solidly about information being real and perhaps the most real thing that we understand now. How does information relate, perhaps to the Buddhist view of mind?

Dr. David Kittay: Yeah first of all, not being a physicist and so the best I can do is read a lot. But I come back to Erwin Schrodinger, who was one of the progenitors of quantum mechanics. He was also a scholar of classical Greek. And he wrote about how the knowledge in just one field, no matter what it is, doesn’t mean anything unless it’s combined with all the other fields of knowledge. Right? Which is also why the Dalai Lama’s discussions on mind where all these people are brought together is so great. And also is why I love seminars, where we can get people with different expertises together.  

But you asked the question, I’ll do my best to answer it. So John Wheeler, one of the great physicists of the 20th century. He had a theory, he called it, “It from Bit.” In other words, physical reality came from bits, from information. And there are other theorists who say, yes, it’s really all about information. Max Tegmark, the great mathematician who’s at MIT, he says it’s all about mathematics.

Could the universe not just be described by math, but be math? Max Tegmark thinks this may be the case.

Being a skeptic, I can’t help it but think, that, Wow, gee, a mathematician thinks it’s all about mathematics. That’s interesting. To a carpenter, everything is a nail. So I have to be skeptical about “It’s all information.”

Now, certainly the notion that measurement or observation determines the nature of reality, or at least the nature of what we think reality is, puts a great premium on the observing mind. Which is like Buddhist Yogacara, mind only theory. And it’s no surprise that the Buddhist meditators came to that conclusion, which is a similar conclusion that great physicists come to when they also think about things deeply, like Einstein or the discovery of the double helix, for example.

So this notion that information is primary can be very helpful in liberating us from a view of the world where everything is material, everything is about physical reality. But if you’re not hung up on physical reality, then going for information as being everything is probably not going to help you. In other words, if you’re a computer geek who already thinks it’s information, and then you have a theory that, Oh, everything’s information, then you just feel great and it becomes an ego-reinforcing dogmatism. Even with my very rudimentary understanding of quantum mechanics, which, no one understands, so Come on, boomer, what are you talking about? 

So all of these things are our nature, our desire to figure things out so we can feel a little better. Nothing wrong with that.

Scott Snibbe: So be skeptical of an information-only, or mind-only extreme.

Dr. David Kittay: Well, yeah, we have to be skeptical by everything, including skepticism. 

How is the Internet like Indra’s Net?

Scott Snibbe: You make another parallel between Eastern and contemporary views, contemporary technology, when you talk about Indra’s Net in the same sentence as the internet, can you talk a little bit about that parallel?

Dr. David Kittay: Yeah, of course. Indra’s Net is a vision that you have that comes out of India. In the realm of the God Indra, there’s this net that stretches out infinitely in all directions. And each jewel of the net reflects all the other jewels. And so there’s just this kind of infinite reflection. And whatever affects one jewel would through reflection, affect them all. And wow, sounds a lot like the internet. In fact, some people call it the Indra-net.   

It’s a great analogy to seeing why the Buddhists talk about wisdom and compassion inseparable. Because if the wisdom of emptiness is right, and I like to explain this as nothing having an overdone or underdone nature, everything just is the way it is. So everything, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, inter-exists. Obviously Scott, you and me and anyone who listens to this, we’re all inter-existing. We’re like little jewels in Indra’s net. 

And the Buddhist theory is that if you see things like that, how there’s cause and effect all over the place, without any artificial barriers, you’ll feel compassionate. And I think that has to do with our mammalian nature, actually. I’ve been thinking about this lately. Our animal nature isn’t all bad. And our egocentricity as humans, we say, Oh, we’ve gone beyond the animals.  But there’s something quite wonderful about being a mammal and cuddling. 

So yes, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about inter-existing, inter-being, which is so wonderful. And that’s really what Indra’s Net is all about. That’s what the positive part of social media and the internet are all about. Of course, we get carried away with them, but…

Scott Snibbe: Yeah. And those were the original motivations of the internet and still so much of the benefits. 

Dr. David Kittay: Yeah. What I was thinking is if, when we tuned into social media, we thought to ourselves just for an instant, Wow, I’m entering Indra’s Net, which we’re all in all the time anyway. But if we thought about it that way, that might change our perspective on social media. Can you imagine that? That it would become a practice?

Scott Snibbe: Yeah. In some ways, aesthetics really matter so much because in movies there’s always a really good intro sequence, right? As you go into the thing. And I think those aesthetics really matter because that happens in our meditation practice too. There’s always a very important introductory sequence that gets you in the mindset and just flipping on your laptop or your phone, it doesn’t have that cool intro sequence, maybe just a really cool intro sequence would make us more compassionate and interconnected.

Dr. David Kittay: And I think that’s part of being a mammal, right? If you are an advanced AI then maybe you don’t need that intro sequence because you’re immediately training on 143 billion points of data. But as mammals, we like dinner and a movie. You know, it’s okay. 

Scott Snibbe: Yes, Love and compassion

Dr. David Kittay: Yeah. 

Technological Addiction

Scott Snibbe: I was very surprised at first to see you bring up technological addiction as such a big part of your course. Of course it’s a big part of our reality today. Could you talk a little bit about why technological addiction has a relationship to this topic of Buddhism and technology?

Dr. David Kittay: There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of engineers working assiduously on what will get Scott to click. And they pretty much know what will get Scott to click. As the CEO of Google said, and this was back in 2010, We pretty much know what you’re thinking. 

So we have this advent of what Shoshana Zuboff calls surveillance capitalism, where really, it’s a form of capitalism. It’s engineers figuring out how to make you buy stuff. And the way to do that is to addict you. 

We have a very powerful manipulation going on. And of course, this applies if your interest is Buddhism just like anything else. If you click on things that have to do with Buddhism, they’ll figure out how to draw you further in and eventually make you buy stuff.

And we know about addiction. We know what it’s like. We see all of us sitting around and all of a sudden before you know it, everybody’s looking at their phone instead of looking at each other. Now, sometimes it’s fine to look at your phone. That’s all right. But then Buddhism taught about addiction.

Buddhism is all about addiction. I remember Bob Thurman’s preferred translation for what most call affliction is addiction.

Technology addiction in the modern world can be addressed by ancient Buddhist teachings that are all about addiction.

So this is true. And we find that there’s CDC studies that show tremendously elevated rates of bad things happening to people, especially teenagers, who spend a lot of hours on their phones.

But Buddhism teaches us how to get rid of addiction. And so we’re lucky having stumbled upon something having to do with Buddhism. Of course, Buddhism isn’t the only thing that teaches us how to get rid of addiction, Buddha would be the first to say. 

And in fact, the Tibetan psychiatric tradition embraces this, that it’s not just meditation. It can be a psychoactive or psychotropic medication, which is widely used in Tibet through herbs, et cetera. 

So yes, addiction can be very powerful. And with students of all ages, it’s great. Because when you have a seminar, everyone can talk about their experience. And so all of a sudden, it’s not just what you think about it. It’s through indirect relationships of Indra’s Net, again; you can get a great sample of what’s really going on.  

Scott Snibbe: Can you talk about those antidotes to addiction and is tech addiction different than food or sex or work or power addiction?

Dr. David Kittay: On the one hand those other addictions, food, power, et cetera, they tend to come from our mammal side. That’s not to say that food isn’t manipulated.  You have food combined with technology, so you have advertising, you have a lot of kids eating junk all over the world.

You mentioned sex addiction. Pornography is one of the leading industries everywhere and that’s just designed to encourage a certain kind of relationship with sexuality. 

And then you have power. Well, think about how men have used power over centuries in just about every social setting there is to increase and maintain their power over women. All these things become much more powerful though with technology. It may be because instead of a larger cultural trend that just plays itself out in a Darwinian way, now we have these really smart engineers figuring out exactly how to manipulate us. That’s something that’s new.

Scott Snibbe: Do your students ever ask for help?  Especially younger people I see, feeling almost helpless in the face of that power and their conditioning with their technology. Are there ever any cries for help in your courses? And what do people come up with to help deal with those addictions?

Dr. David Kittay: It’s interesting. I’m very optimistic because what I see — lately I’ve been teaching in three forms: at Columbia, and then I also have been teaching for the past decade or so a humanities program in Harlem. And then of course there’s Tibet House and teachings like this. The reason I’m optimistic is because I see healthier attitudes toward technology in my students and also  in the folks in the Harlem Clemente course. 

It’s really interesting to me how it is easier for younger people, at least for a lot of people these days, to focus on the positive aspects of tech and turn off their social media. Many of my students are doing that. 

But it does come up. For example, one woman was addicted totally to her Fitbit and how much she was sleeping, whether she was sleeping deeply. And after we read about surveillance capitalism she got rid of it and felt much better.

Does our digital self merge with our biological and mental self?

Scott Snibbe: The principle of emptiness or interdependence tells us that we aren’t separate from the people and the world and the ideas around us. And added to that list today is our technological reality, our phones, the internet. So what role do our phones and the internet play in our modern sense of self?

Dr. David Kittay: They become parts of ourselves. So when you’re holding onto your cell phone, what is it? Is it a part of yourself? Is it an extension of yourself? I mean, this was one of Marshall McLuhan’s big points, back when, that technologies are extensions of ourselves. And I like to do a little meditation sometimes with my phone where okay, here’s my phone. So I’ll look at it and if I concentrate on my whole self in three dimensions then as I hold my phone it certainly seems it’s just an extension of myself. But then if I concentrate on the phone itself, just the phone, then it takes on a different identity so that I see that my mind’s inclination toward it can shift. But mostly I think that we do think of our phones in the same way that we think of our senses. If someone sends us a text, yes we perceive it with our eyes, we may hear a little ding from our phone if we set that horrible sound notification. But doesn’t it –I think it feels internal to us. And soon of course they’ll be internal. So yeah I think they really are integrated with our sense of self.

Scott Snibbe: What about this digital self that we’ve each constructed? Are these more or less real than our biological self? Or a third type of self beyond the body and mind?

Dr. David Kittay: Well It depends who’s answering the question, right? Are they more or less real? To whom? To a technologist, they’re really real. To a video game fanatic, they may be all there is. To a philosopher, to an environmentalist? It’s hard to say which is more real. 

Now the Buddhist view would be that they’re all like illusion and it’s easier to think of technology as being like an illusion because we know what happens when you lose power. It’s just gone. Yeah I have a hard time saying more is one more real than the other.  

The Buddhist notion of time

Scott Snibbe: In addition to the self you also bring up this great question about time, you know, how our sense of time has changed in the modern world, gradually through the introduction of clocks and time zones and train schedules, and now the quantum physics based notions of time. Can you tell us a little bit about the Buddhist view of time and how that relates to our changing notions of modern time?

Dr. David Kittay: The Buddhist notion of time, as usual, has to do with the Buddhist doctrine of two truths, which says that there’s a conventional truth, which is how things appear in the world. As Shantarakshita said, “Beautiful without examination.” In other words you’re just looking around, Yeah it’s all here, It’s all fine. And time is like that.

But the other truth of course is the ultimate truth, which is the truth of emptiness, which is things inter-exist, that nothing exists the way we think it does, like the Heart Sutra says. And so from that point of view, time does not exist at all. 

The great Japanese Buddhist, Dogen, he said, “Time is a Golden Buddha.” In other words there is no separate time. Time is just the things that are happening. Then he added, but you have to get it right in these 24 hours. So he’s looking at the ultimate truth where there is no time and the conventional truth where you damn well better get there by 9:30 or you’ll be late and saying both of those are true. 

Now science is really interesting on this because there are generally two views. One is space time, four dimensions, is this big box, If you can imagine a box four dimensions. I can’t imagine it but I think there are probably architects out there who can. And the line in which we exist is here so that in a sense those times which we call past, they still exist. They’re in the box somewhere. 

Or the other view is the relational, which is just basically there is no time, time just describes the relationship between things. There’s no extra element called time. 

So this is all very interesting to think about. I know now they’re starting to do scientific experiments where they’ve actually seen time go backwards. Time travel has been a great dream for people. 

One of the things I like to do in our classes is look at the water that we swim in, which arises from David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon where he talked about the two fish swimming along. One fish says to other fish, “How’s the water?” And the other fish says, “What water?” We’re always swimming in water. And time is really part of our water. In other words, we think that time is passing, there is no time, that I have no time to do this or that. But we never look at that. 

And when we look at that, especially for inquiring minds, it gives us a little wiggle room. Maybe we’re not so trapped by time. I like Willy Wonka, what he said about time. He said, “So much time, so little to do.” And that’s a great antidote. 

And that’s part of the Buddhist path and also part of psychotherapeutic path. In other words, just chill, accept things, accept yourself the way you are, accept the world the way it is. That’s the only way to transcend what you’re worried about. 

And so, if we take something like time, which we take as such a given and we start looking at that more closely, we also take into account what the great physicist Rovelli said, that time is just a function of entropy, the tendency of things to dissipate and spread out. And that we happen to be in a part of the multi-verse where there is entropy. And were it at not for entropy, there would be no time. He also points out that all the physical laws are time- invariant, which means they work fine in either direction. And again you’ll have to talk to a real physicist for this. But basically that’s another way of deconstructing time. It’s not this universal thing. And we might get a little freedom from that.

Scott Snibbe: Thanks for joining us in this conversation with Dr. David Kittay. Our next episode continues this interview with discussions about whether reality is a simulation and whether artificial intelligence might be capable of enlightenment. 

Credits

Hosted by Scott Snibbe
Produced by Tara Anderson
Audio mastering by Christian Parry and Chris Boulton
Theme music by Bradley Parsons of Train Sound Studio

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