The ongoing collision of technology and dharma is rife with both promise and pitfalls. So what are we to make of Xian’er, developed by Chinese artificial intelligence experts to, as ShanghaiList reports, “sense his surroundings and answer deep questions about Buddhism?”
Already well-known as an animated character who teaches Buddhist concepts, Xian’er is now firmly in the third dimension, armed with a touch-sensitive tablet device and a social-media account. Plenty of real-life workers have of course lost their jobs to robots, so should Buddhist monks and teachers be worried? Not yet. After all, without Master Xianshu, the monk who “authors” him, all Xian’er can teach us is how to sit—very, very still.