Mindar is an AI Bodhisattva: she lives as an incarnation of the most popular Buddhist deity Kannon in the Kodai-ji temple in Kyoto. Kodai-ji was founded by Nene, the widow of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the most important warlords of Japan. Belonging to the Rinzai lineage of Japanese Zen Buddhism, the temple thus bears her nun’s name, Kodai-in.

Zen is a mental discipline with a strong emphasis on radical simplicity, and that a Zen temple realizes the first AI deity seems quite fitting in this respect.

The word „radical“ has its origin in the Latin word radix, the root, so in its neutral interpretation it refers to essentials, to relatively simple foundations from which many things can be developed. The fundamentals are usually simpler than what emerges from them.

Radical simplicity is not an invention of the Far East. For example „Ockham’s Razor“ expresses radical simplicity in the sense of an „economy of thought“, too: “entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem” means very loosely translated: „less is more“, I had chosen it as the first decorative quotation of my doctorate thesis.

The universal genius Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, whose 375th birthday we celebrate this year, also dealt with radically fundamental things, for example the binary number system. A famous quotation by him reads „omnibus ex nihilo ducendis sufficit unum“ (to produce everything from nothing (zero), one is sufficient).

Saint-Exupery calls for maximum simplification as a condition for perfection, which „is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.“ Thus sometimes perfection lies in imperfection, which is expressed in the Japanese term wabi sabi. One of the most famous Japanese Zen gardens at Ryoan-Ji monastery is a successful union of both principles:

Ryan-Ji also belongs to the Rinzai Zen school, which differs from the other great school „Soto“ in that it deals intensively with paradoxes in order to free the mind.

In Zen, one tries to achieve a simple, unadulterated perception, so to speak an integration of thinking and feeling, whereby creative performance and intuition improve as a welcome side effect. Zen is thus popular with many creatively active people; a prominent follower, for example, was Steve Jobs. His radically simple design choices were heavily influenced by Zen.

Zen is also an essential part of many traditional Japanese arts that have a DO in their name, so especially martial arts (Judo, Karatedo, Kendo, Kyudo…). “Do” stands for the Zen way.

Especially in martial arts there is a clear hierarchy: technique is valued higher than muscle power, but mind is above technique. For real masters, the command of technique is trivial, the fight is decided c.p. on the mind. While fighting sports focus mainly on muscle power and technique, in traditional Japanese martial arts the focus is mainly on the mental discipline.

A recurring concept in this context is the art of „attacking the 10,000 things in one,“ in other words, a maximum reduction to the essential basic elements of the discipline. This, in turn, also fits surprisingly well with the roots of artificial intelligence: Jürgen Schmidhuber, who is regarded as the father of modern AI, for example, interprets consciousness as a side effect of data compression in the context of problem-solving processes.

Myamoto Musashi was one of Japan’s most famous swordsmen: his “Book of 5 Rings” is still an internationally popular management and strategy reference work, even after 400 years.

In this calligraphy he describes the „spirit of war“, I had chosen it as a decorative quote for the last chapter of my doctorate thesis, in which I dealt with knowledge quality and disinformation in organizations.

While Musashi’s bestseller focused on the Zen mind (the quality of knowledge, so to speak), Sun Tsu’s Art of War emphasizes the importance of information asymmetries in strategy. At two and a half thousand years old, this work is even more influential than Musashi’s Go Rin No Sho.

As a leading topic for my PhD project with a strong cybernetics focus, I chose fractal geometry, which was popular at the time: it deals with dynamic equilibria and very complex systems, which also emerge through a radically simple procedure. Fractals not only fit well with Zen philosophy because of their radically simple, generic rules, but can also be interpreted as expressions of wabi sabi because of their characteristic broken dimension. However, it is their immediately vivid extreme complexity combined with radically simple generic ground rules that I find most fascinating about them.

So in some cases extreme complexity can be radically simple at the same time.

Good generic systems have very high information density, for example with Queneau’s 100,000 billion different poems. These fit on only 10 pages with one sonnet each, where the single lines of a poem can be combined with other lines each. Such a purely symbolic combinatorics is however quite trivial, even considering the „great art“ by Raimundus Lullus: He developed a brilliant system for „generating all the truths of Christianity“. Llull was a 12th century Mallorcan nobleman and is considered the forefather of artificial intelligence.

Only symbolic, combinatorial verbiage is indeed not yet a great art. The most demanding task is to create something empirically effective from a very simple blueprint, i.e. from first principles.

Ideally, one develops generic systems that also cover useful solution potentials that one did not even think of at the time of design.

Such radical approaches have been made very popular by the serial disruptor Elon Musk in recent years, and have made him one of the richest men in the world.

Elon Musk is mainly active in the field of engineering. The fields of application related to the organization of the organization are considerably less spectacular, but by no means less lucrative (and they require significantly fewer ressources):

cyberCortex® is a radically simple technical solution to the fundamental problems of organization.