Computation and Consciousness

Spring 2018 quarter

Taught by

computer science
Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies, East-West psychology, philosophy of consciousness
mathematics, computer science
  • UG

One historic purpose of a liberal arts education is to discover the nature of human life. A consequence of research in artificial intelligence and cognitive science is that some of the things we thought were uniquely human are shared by machines on the one hand and (other) animals on the other. A unifying theme of this program is what it means to be human in light of these recent developments in science. The goals of this program are to learn what mindfulness is and how to apply it to programming, as well as how to solve complex cognitive problems with a computer.

Mindfulness is the ability to fully attend to what is at hand and be in the present moment. Mindfulness can be applied to a variety of fields, including mathematical and computational thinking. The practice of mindfulness can increase our individual and collective resiliency to respond to changing personal and global situations in adaptive and creative ways.

The program will be organized around these content areas: artificial intelligence systems and artificial life; computability; general problem-solving; and mindfulness. We will explore these topics through lectures, programming and robotics labs, workshops, writing and seminars, and mindfulness practice logs. Students will be expected to read primary sources in computer science and cognitive as well as contemplative science. The mindfulness component will include theory, practice, and application in relation to computational and algorithmic thinking. Questions to be explored include how mindfulness can be integrated with the study of computing.

The program is broken down into two parts: the application of mindfulness to computer science and the study of mindfulness itself. The study of mindfulness will take place in five all-day sessions on alternating Saturdays. Applications to computer science will take place Monday through Thursday during the day.

Program Details

Fields of Study

computer science consciousness studies

Preparatory For

computer science and consciousness studies


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered

Day and Weekend

Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online