Buddhism and Technology to Take Center Stage at Seattle Conference in May

By Justin Whitaker
Buddhistdoor Global | 2019-04-09 |
Last year’s conference was held in Shenzhen and focused on dialogue with life sciences. Photo from woodenfish.orgLast year’s conference was held in Shenzhen and focused on dialogue with life sciences. Photo from

The Woodenfish Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in California with activities across the US and in China, will host its third annual Buddhism, Science, and Future conference on 45 May this year, on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle. Key themes of the conference include artificial intelligence, meditation apps and wearable technology, and the science of happiness.

Presenters from diverse backgrounds, showcasing expertise in emerging technologies, neuroscience, genetics, humanities, and modern and ancient meditation practices will explore how innovation is shaping our personal and spiritual lives: our happiness, our well-being, our enlightenment.

“The goal of the event is to explore a dialog between the scientific discipline and Buddhism. Both are tasked with the pursuit and exploration of understanding reality, yet each uses a distinct language,” Samuel Gorman, director of operations for the Woodenfish Foundation, told Buddhistdoor Global. “We are excited to have a platform to bring really interesting folks togetherfrom vastly different backgroundsto discuss in an interdisciplinary way. Our intention is not to solve any problems, or even to answer any questions. We are hoping to inspire further conversation, bring interesting ideas to the table, and inspire folks to continue thinking in an expansive way.”

Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Paul Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Photo by John Vicory. From seattlebusinessmag.comOren Etzioni, CEO of the Paul Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Photo by John Vicory. From

The keynote speaker will be Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence, professor of computer science at the University of Washington, and author of the articles “A Hippocratic Oath for artificial intelligence practitioners” (TechCrunch) and “How to Regulate Artificial Intelligence” (New York Times). Spanning the technology-human divide is David Barash, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington. Barash is a leading thinker on the intersection of Buddhism and biology, and author of the book Buddhist Biology: Ancient Eastern Wisdom Meets Modern Western Science (Oxford University Press 2014).

Etzioni, Barash, and other experts in various fields of technology will be paired with scholars and practitioners of Buddhism, including Woodenfish Foundation founder Venerable Yifa. After earning a law degree from National Taiwan University and a PhD in religious studies from Yale University, Ven. Yifa has spent her career empowering women in Buddhism and educating people from around the world about Buddhism in China. 

Venerable Yifa of Hsi Lai Temple at Meditate NYC in 2008. From wikipedia.orgVenerable Yifa of Hsi Lai Temple at Meditate NYC in 2008. From

Bonnie Duran, a professor in the schools of social work and public health at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and a member of the leadership team at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, will also offer a presentation. Duran has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1982 and is a graduate of the the Insight Meditation Society/Spirit Rock Meditation Center retreat teacher-training program and is a teacher at both of those organizations.

The two-day interactive conference will be broken into sections to focus on different aspects of the confluence of Buddhism and technology. Section one, titled “Beyond the Brain,” will explore what religious traditions have offered to our understanding of the parts of human experience that potentially go beyond the brain. Next, “Beyond the Body” will focus on scientific studies and technological devices that have been used to gain insight on how to enhance our human experience. Finally, the third section, “Gone Beyond,” will look at the ways that we can synthesize the insights from science, technology, and spiritual traditions to craft a harmonious future.

Tickets are available through the Woodenfish Foundation conference webpage. 

See more

A Hippocratic Oath for artificial intelligence practitioners (TechCrunch)
How to Regulate Artificial Intelligence (New York Times)
Buddhism, Technology and Future 2019 Conference (Woodenfish)

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Buddhistdoor Global Special Issue 2019

Buddhism and Tech

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