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Zen and the art of computers

Paper Exhibition

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I Wanted to Have a Computer do Zazen

Training a machine in the way of Zen

There is no "hesitation" in a computer. The scheduled communications proceed as if the machine knows exactly what it is doing. However, human consciousness, language and judgment are qualities that always hesitate. They are constantly wavering.

Buddhism and Daoism hover at the base of Eastern philosophy and Japanese culture, where the rhythm of a haiku and the design of a kimono flutter freely. Within that setting, ideas indeterminate or ambiguous are not destroyed, but preserved - they bide their time on the bench until a more resonant feeling emerges. When this resolution is finally reached, they rise from the bench and rush to the playing field.

With the ZENetic Computer, I focused on the "hesitation" lurking within human consciousness and unconsciousness, as the Zen ascetic explores the Zen Dialogues led by a Zen master. We projected this Eastern, Japanese sensibility onto a computer screen and built an interface so that the users could enter the world of a Japanese Sansui ink painting.

Regarding the development of this project, I provided scenographic images of Eastern philosophy, and Dr. Naoko Tosa, having an exceptional artistic sense, transformed these images into interactive technology. We then reviewed the results together many times. We strived especially for the outflow of "subtractive" aesthetic sense and the formulation of a margin of judgment that skirts the threshold of consciousness. Also, in order to make this variable process more dynamic, we included in our system the successes of Dr. Peter Davis' chaos engine research.

Clouds of consciousness and rivers of a narrative never before experienced are flowing through the ZENetic Computer. This is an endeavor wherein we have tried to train a machine in the way of Zen. Please abandon all former ways of thinking and enjoy playing with this experiment.

Prof. Seigo Matsuoka
Director, Editorial Engineering Laboratory
Professor, Tezukayama University