Exploring Buddhist Ethics for New Technologies

Susantha Goonatilake

Abstract


Ongoing developments in information, bio- and nano-technology are reorderingevolution, and transforming our very physical and mental bases. An examination of theliterature indicates that the dominant, Eurocentric ethical systems for these newtechnologies are derived from Christianity, Judaism or Islam (“Abrahamaic” religions)or from presumably "secular" roots. The ethical system in the Abrahamaic religions is“revealed” by “God”, but the new developments challenge some of the coreAbrahamaic ethical assumptions. Western "secular ethics" are ultimately derived fromthe idea of "humanity”, a Eurocentric concept of humans as “sacred” which probablyderives from the ideas of the Renaissance Humanists. But, in an increasingly nonhumanand “post-human” world, humanity has to be transcended in search of ethics. Asthe production, consumption and creative bases of the world increasingly shift to Asia,Asian thought could provide answers to these culture impregnated issues. A majortrans-Asian approach, Buddhism, is not revealed, and has a strong core of observationsand philosophy. Buddhist approaches with change and process as its core have directrelevance to a future where both the human and his environment are constructed andreconstructed.

The paper explores the literature of the core Buddhist position on the humanbody and mind, as well as the environment he operates in, as not given or sacred butconstructed and changing.

The paper concludes that an orientation from this core Buddhist perspective ofcontinuous change, no permanent self and both human and nature as constructed wouldfit better as a cultural orientation to examine and live in a future where humans andnature are continuously reinvented and reconstructed. Buddhist ethics from such aperspective may better fit the emerging world.

Key words: New technologies, Ethics, Eurocentrism, Buddhism

 


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