Episode 43: Neuroscience and The Enlightenment Machine
In this episode we spoke with neuroscientist and Buddhist meditator Daniel Rizzuto. Vince and he discussed a number of topics including the link between contemplative and scientific methodologies, some of the potential technologies that could emerge for the neuroscientific research, including Daniel's favorite, an empathic training device. Daniel also shared some of the meditation research he was aware of, including Dr. Sara Lazar's research out of harvard where she found that meditation actually affected the structural basis of the brain (check out the study here) as well as some of the recent meditation research that was conducted using EEG devices.
We then discussed the possibility of constructing a neural map that describes a practitioners evolution, and the potential that such a map could be used to help create a device—a so called "enlightenment machine"—that could actually accelerate that process. The question soon emerged, how might this machine impact one's ethical understanding? Can someone actually go through the process without a revolution in their ethical understanding? The Buddhist tradition often describes the inseparability of insight and ethical understanding or the unity of Emptiness and Compassion. Daniel proposed that a sub-field of neuroscience, neuroethics is an attempt at understanding the neural correlates of one's ethical choices, such that this information could be built into a device even if it weren't a by-product of the process of spiritual maturation.