"Disembedded" Buddhism in a Techno-Global Cosmology: The Case of Spike Jonze’s Film Her (2013)
Keywords:Alan Watts, artificial intelligence, Buddhist cosmologies, Buddhist modernism, Her, Spike Jonze
This essay explores the subtle but key influence of Buddhist ideas in Spike Jonze’s highly successful 2013 film Her, which reflects the currents of disembedded Buddhism woven through ostensibly non-Buddhist cultural spaces and texts, engaging with contemporary social concerns. In Her they manifest most surprisingly in the character of Samantha, an artificially-intelligent consciousness that transcends the limitations of ego-based thought. Like the Buddha, Samantha has capacities that extend beyond the reach of ordinary humans, and by imagining these extraordinary powers of thought we are provided a glimpse of an absolute reality beyond our experience of the everyday. In this sense Her’s techno-global cosmology parallels miraculous aspects of the Buddha that are embedded in premodern cosmologies.
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