Computation and Mindfulness: An Exploration of Consciousness

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Spring 2018 quarter

Taught by

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

This program explores the concepts of mind and learning from the computational and human perspectives.  If we look at learning from the human perspective, we can identify three major modes: analytical reasoning, non-conceptual awareness (experiential learning and perception), and reliable resources, e.g. peer-reviewed journals.  From the computational perspective, learning is formulated as a function approximation problem, and we will study computational techniques in supervised and unsupervised learning.  Students will be able to apply machine learning frameworks to basic learning problems. The program integrates several threads: an overview of machine learning, Buddhist philosophy of mind, and the application of mindfulness to the study of computer science. 

For the last 30 plus years, research studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of mindfulness approaches for treating many clinical conditions.  They have also found them to be effective as a method for broadening positive human qualities. This program will emphasize the mindfulness approach to knowing and learning about the mind/emotions.  All students will learn theory, practice and application of mindfulness.  Specifically, the learning objectives are to able to apply it to learning programming and solving complex computational problems.

The program will be organized around these content areas: machine learning; general problem-solving; and mindfulness. We will explore these topics through lectures, programming labs, workshops, writing (a research paper) 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 students can register for 16 credits (the whole program), 12 credits of cognitive and computer science (which does not include the application of mindfulness), or 4 credits of the application of mindfulness. No prior experience is required for the 4-credit course on mindfulness, which meets on Saturdays.

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


2018-02-124-credit section added (in addition to 16-credit and 12-credit).
2018-02-05Description has been updated.
2018-02-05Title updated (formerly Computation and Consciousness)
2017-10-02Adam King has left the teaching team.