Volume 1, Issue 3
3rd Quarter, 2006

Macro-Bushido: A Geoethical Consciousness
for an Info-Cultural Age

Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D.

In this article, Martine Rothblatt, a "geoethical samurai", introduces Macro-Bushido, a set of ethical guidelines for the modern Info-Cultural Age. Macro-Bushido is based on Bushido, the unwritten code of ethics that guided Japan's samurai until about one hundred years ago. The seven principles of Bushido are: Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Politeness, Veracity, Honor and Loyalty. Rothblatt dissects each principle and explains how it could be applied to the modern world and in particular, to emerging cyberconsciousness. Rothblatt argues that upholding Macro-Bushido in today's world will result in many benefits, among them that humans may be saved from the consequences of shortsightedness by refocusing their attention on loyalty to a higher goal. In addition, a class of modern samurai may emerge to help keep humanity loyal to the objectives of diversity, unity and immortality. These ideals are invaluable as we arrive at personal cyberconsciousness within humanity's quest for survival.

Bushido (pronounced boo-shee-do) is the unwritten code of ethics that guided Japanese samurai. The samurai were a warrior class sponsored by Japan’s hereditary aristocracy to protect its interests.

Japanese Samurai
Figure 1: Japanese samurai in armor, 1860s. Photograph by Felice Beato (from Wikipedia.com).

The sponsorship endured for most of Japan’s feudal period, from approximately one thousand years ago until a little more than one hundred years ago. When Japan entered its industrial age, support for the samurai ended and the samurai class rapidly disappeared. Nevertheless, the samurai were held in such high esteem and their exploits so disproportionately populated Japan’s art and literature, that it is said the Bushido passed into the country’s soul.

Today, Japan and most other countries are transforming into Info-Cultural Age societies. In such societies, the principal activity is to compound information, memory and data processing capability. In retrospect, it is easy to see the industrial age as a brief interregnum between Agri-Cultural and Info-Cultural societies, each of which lasting for millennia. Alternatively, the industrial age may have just been the leading edge of Info-Culture because its machines were simply early ways of executing stored information programs. The inventor Ray Kurzweil[1] has described how all history is a story of compound growth of information processing capability, and that today’s Info-Cultural society is merely the sixth – and ultimate – epoch of such growth.

The question for this essay is what is the role for Bushido in an Info-Cultural Age? This question is especially important to Japan for two reasons. First, Japan possesses, at least in its cultural memory, the Bushido code of ethics. Second, it is in the vanguard of much of information technology. She nurtures some of the fastest computers, almost all of the humanoid robots and many of the most personalized information technology applications.

The question of Bushido’s role in the Info-Cultural Age is also important for the entire world. As the second largest economy in the world, with only over one-third of America’s and only two percent of humanity, Japan is responsible for much of the world’s produced value. Are there lessons in Bushido that could help the rest of the world become as productive as Japan? If so, that could greatly elevate worldwide standards of living. Also, experts have observed that there are many commonalities between Bushido and written codes of ethics developed by religions and civil authorities throughout history. Indeed, Bushido represents a kind of “natural ethics” insofar as it arose organically from a warrior segment of society without the potential artificialities or constructions that arise from ordained written codes. Hence, the role of Bushido in the Info-Cultural Age is important for all humanity because the values of Bushido are very likely nested in the nature of all humanity.

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Ray Kurzweil was the principal developer of the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.
http://www.kurzweiltech.com/aboutray.html  May 25, 2006 3:35PM EST (back to top)

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