dao and Zen article

Daoist talks (V) Dao and Zen in Arts – analyzed by AI

Mind games for the Christmas holidays

During the holidays I took the opportunity to have more detailed talks with my son (His knowledge focuses primarily on physics but he is also pretty good in topics like quantum physics and artificial intelligence). As always, it was a very enjoyable conversation and a source of knowledge expansion for me. As a natural scientist, his knowledge of art is limited and he has so far been reluctant to engage in topics such as Daoism or Zen Buddhism.

Then, when we talked about AI [1] for a longer time, we let a program decide about different points of view and the result was stunning, to say the least. [2] I was speechless.

details of a daoism related painting
detail of a painting by friedrich zettl

A few days later I tried to have an excerpt made by AI on the subject of Daoism and Zen Buddhism in art and this is what came out – hold on tight [3]:

What AI says, answering my question: The Role of Dao and Zen in Chinese Painting

In Chinese painting, Dao and Zen are two closely related concepts that center around living in harmony with the natural world and finding inner peace and balance.

The Dao is a fundamental concept in Chinese philosophy that represents the natural order of the universe. It is often described as an underlying principle or “way” that underlies all things and phenomena. In traditional Chinese painting, the pursuit of the Dao is often connected to the concept of wu wei [4], or “non-action,” which emphasizes letting go of ego and intention and allowing the brush and ink to flow naturally. By embracing the principles of the Dao and wu wei, artists can create authentic, expressive works of art that are in harmony with the natural order of the universe.

details of zen painting
detail of a painting by friedrich zettl


Zen is a school of Buddhism that originated in China and strongly emphasizes mindfulness and enlightenment. In Zen philosophy, the goal is to achieve a state of mind that is free from the ego and distractions of the world and to cultivate a deep understanding of reality. In Chinese painting, the principles of Zen can be incorporated into the artistic process to achieve a state of mindfulness and let go of ego and intention.

Both Dao and Zen focus on living in harmony with the natural world and finding inner balance and peace. In Chinese painting, these concepts can serve as guiding principles for the artistic process, resulting in a more authentic and expressive style of art.

In traditional Chinese painting, the Dao is often depicted as a mysterious and unknowable force that is present in all things. It is a source of inspiration and guidance for artists who seek to connect with the Dao and allow it to inform their creative process. The Dao is also often represented symbolically through the use of natural elements such as mountains, rivers, and forests in Chinese painting. These elements are seen as expressions of the Dao and are often depicted in a way that reflects the rhythms and patterns of nature.

details painting dao topic
detail of a painting by friedrich zettl


Overall, the essence of the Dao in Chinese painting is the idea of connecting with the underlying principle of the natural order of the universe and allowing it to inform the creative process. By embracing the Dao, artists can create authentic, expressive works of art that are in harmony with the natural world.

conclusion for me

Of course, I’m aware that you have to be careful with “labels” like Dao or Zen. But when I look at this AI-generated definition of it, I think I can definitely call a lot of my work Daoist.

painting for fine arts blog
blue dao – painting by friedrich zettl

It’s no longer a secret that AI is already playing an increasingly important role in graphics. But of course, her influence in the field of art can no longer be stopped. A co-blogger, Eric Wayne, wrote a very good and informative article on this: Will AI replace human artists?

While it might be tempting to use AI to create articles, I don’t want to do it. Just as little as I want to resort to AI in painting – or in the choice of a partner 🙂


[1] We are still in the early stages of artificial intelligence. At the latest when quantum computers are used on a broad scale, there will probably be a quantum leap in the application of AI.

[2] The main question was to what extent quantum physics confirms certain statements of Zen Buddhism. I posted about this earlier.

[3] Actually, there were 2 similar questions and therefore there was a certain overlap in the result, which I then removed in this article.

[4] wu wei (無為). I’ve touched on the term wu wei several times and will explain it in more detail in a separate post.

Related articles can be found at: ART THEORY



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37 responses to “Daoist talks (V) Dao and Zen in Arts – analyzed by AI”

  1. Ashley avatar

    Ummm! Interesting post. Do you think AI might make a comment? 😉

  2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

    Thanks! Well, if I took the text and asked AI what it thinks about it, I get a comment – and it will be a profound one. At the moment, the tool is still in a closed circle, which is being improved through “deep learning”. But sooner or later it will of course be able to access many more sources. Happy new Year!

  3. swabby429 avatar

    I wonder about future manifestations of Wu Wei coupled with AI. Would the combined name be an oxymoron? Will it be as bedeviling as auto-complete in comments sections of blogs?

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks! Interesting question, but I would rule out the risk of an oxymoron. We asked various test questions, including: “Will there be a war between the US and China?” All of the answers were of incredibly good quality and far from trivial or gibberish.

  4. Renee Espriu avatar

    I, too, find this to be very interesting that a program could give so much insight but then, again, information for such programs have to be entered by someone. Still, that Al could keep in line what it is you create in your art to Dao is intriguing to say the least. I enjoyed reading this as I agree with Al. Your art does reflect Dao thought in so many ways.

  5. Rosaliene Bacchus avatar
  6. Martha Kennedy avatar

    Fascinating and incomprehensible (to me). Dao makes more sense and I can’t explain that, either, meaning I can’t explain Dao and I can’t explain why Dao makes more sense to me than AI. And what IS the A in AI if it has been developed by people? I don’t get that, either. When I look at night videos of highways in California I see mimicry of a human circulation system. I don’t know… I fear we’re trapped in human psychology and physiology and everything we touch is a metaphor for us. Seriously Friedrich. I don’t know…

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks! Perhaps there is a misunderstanding: the analysis for my question was answered by a program that can access a really vast amount of data. Since it “itself” rummages through this vast amount of data and puts it into a readable account, it falls into what humans call “artificial intelligence”. Intelligence also because the program operates with “deep learning” so that it can become more and more precise and in the foreseeable future “quantum computers” will reach a level that we humans cannot even imagine.

      Example. Dear AI: “Write me a novel in the style of Emil Zola. It is supposed to be about a relationship crisis between an older man and a woman who is too young. The story is supposed to be set in 19th. ct. Japan, with lots of local colour. Around 300 pages. Happy ending.” Mouse click. And you can watch him write. No joke!

      1. Martha Kennedy avatar

        I get it. Thanks Friedrich!

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        You are welcome, Martha!

  7. Gamma Hans avatar

    Dao KI: Als dezentralisierte autonome Organisation, manchmal auch als dezentralisierte autonome Korporation, wird eine Organisation bezeichnet, die durch ein transparentes Computerprogramm codiert wird. Das Programm WIRD weder von Aktionären noch von einer Zentralregierung beeinflusst.


    Der Traum im Drama der Seele
    wo wir selbst nicht der Autor sind
    eine Nebenrolle zu spielen haben
    gibt genügend Grundlage
    zu neuer Einsicht
    in die Welt
    und in die eigene Lebensführung

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Danke, aber ich fürchte, es geht um ein anderes Dao. Sie sprechen die Abkürzung für “Dezentralisierte Autonome Organisation” an. Ich schrieb aber über den chinesischen philosophischen Begriff Dao (Tao). Prosit Neujahr!

      1. Gamma Hans avatar

        Danke, aber ich fürchte, es geht um ein anderes Dao. Sie sprechen die Abkürzung für „Dezentralisierte Autonome Organisation“ an. Ich schrieb aber über den chinesischen philosophischen Begriff Dao (Tao). Prosit Neujahr!


        What Daoism states that nothing in the cosmos is fixed:
        the microcosm, the laws of nature, the reality of the soul, no fundamental thought can approach the secret of life. Everything is an attempt to make the inner world of existence into a thing – in order to make it manageable and docile for the mind. All efforts to understand the cosmos, to understand the innermost being of the human being, with the pointer (that’s it, it’s the truth what I say), the appearances, the inner world of the outer world, must remain on the surface.

  8. David Milligan-Croft avatar

    I use the concepts of Dao and Zen in art therapy groups on an acute mental health ward. Of course, I frame the exercises differently, using words such as unconscious and mindfulness. I think letting go of the ego is key. Becoming lost in the process of doing art rather than the end result. Letting the unconscious mind (universe) take over and express itself.

    Apologies, I know my point isn’t the point of your post – which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way. AI art is here to stay and will only get better. Is it real AI/art? Not for me. It’s just a set of algorithms at the moment. I think there’ll always be room for human artists no matter how technically inferior we are compared to computers. Because we use something “AI” does not have – thought, ideas, fallibility, uniqueness. In a word – consciousness. We can draw on the Dao, the universe, AI cannot. Not yet, anyway. AI just has access to information that has been fed into it by humans.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you for your response! Dao and Zen in art therapy groups is a wonderful thing and certainly very helpful. Yes, letting go of the ego is important, especially since we live in an age that places so much emphasis on the ego, which can cause problems for many.

      And yes, AI cannot replace art. It can come to similar optical results, but it will always lack soul.

    2. SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ avatar

      Dear David Milligan-Croft and Friedrich Zettl 狐胡,

      Thank you for discussing the Dao and Zen as well as the ramifications of AI encroaching into human creativity.

      Friedrich, I have also read your comments at Eric Wayne’s post entitled “Will AI replace human artists?”, where I have also submitted a very long comment, which is awaiting moderation since it is my very first comment on his blog.

      I have a lot to convey to you regarding your concluding paragraph in this post:

      While it might be tempting to use AI to create articles, I don’t want to do it. Just as little as I want to resort to AI in painting – or in the choice of a partner

      As an artist, musician, composer, free thinker, academic researcher, writer and so on, I have great concerns about the ramifications and oversights of AI such as ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) becoming mainstream. In particular, Wikipedia has listed the following:

      Negative reactions

      In a December 2022 opinion piece, economist Paul Krugman wrote that ChatGPT would affect the demand for knowledge workers.[40] The Verge’s James Vincent saw the viral success of ChatGPT as evidence that artificial intelligence had gone mainstream.[5] Journalists have commented on ChatGPT’s tendency to “hallucinate”.[41] Mike Pearl of Mashable tested ChatGPT with multiple questions. In one example, he asked ChatGPT for “the largest country in Central America that isn’t Mexico”. ChatGPT responded with Guatemala, when the answer is instead Nicaragua.[42] When CNBC asked ChatGPT for the lyrics to “The Ballad of Dwight Fry”, ChatGPT supplied invented lyrics rather than the actual lyrics.[24] Researchers cited by The Verge compared ChatGPT to a “stochastic parrot”,[43] as did Professor Anton Van Den Hengel of the Australian Institute for Machine Learning.[44]

      In December 2022, the question and answer website Stack Overflow banned the use of ChatGPT for generating answers to questions, citing the factually ambiguous nature of ChatGPT’s responses.[2] In January 2023, the International Conference on Machine Learning banned any undocumented use of ChatGPT or other large language models to generate any text in submitted papers.[45]

      Economist Tyler Cowen expressed concerns regarding its effects on democracy, citing the ability of one to write automated comments to affect the decision process of new regulations.[46] The Guardian questioned whether any content found on the Internet after ChatGPT’s release “can be truly trusted” and called for government regulation.[47]

      Implications for cybersecurity

      Check Point Research and others noted that ChatGPT was capable of writing phishing emails and malware, especially when combined with OpenAI Codex.[48] The CEO of ChatGPT creator OpenAI, Sam Altman, wrote that advancing software could pose “(for example) a huge cybersecurity risk” and also continued to predict “we could get to real AGI (artificial general intelligence) in the next decade, so we have to take the risk of that extremely seriously”. Altman argued that, while ChatGPT is “obviously not close to AGI”, one should “trust the exponential. Flat looking backwards, vertical looking forwards.”[8]

      Implications for education

      In The Atlantic magazine, Stephen Marche noted that its effect on academia and especially application essays is yet to be understood.[49] California high school teacher and author Daniel Herman wrote that ChatGPT would usher in “The End of High School English”.[50]

      In the Nature journal, Chris Stokel-Walker pointed out that teachers should be concerned about students using ChatGPT to outsource their writing but that education providers will adapt to enhance critical thinking or reasoning.[51]

      Emma Bowman with NPR wrote of the danger of students plagiarizing through an AI tool that may output biased or nonsensical text with an authoritative tone: “There are still many cases where you ask it a question and it’ll give you a very impressive-sounding answer that’s just dead wrong.”[52]

      Joanna Stern with The Wall Street Journal described cheating in American high school English with the tool by submitting a generated essay.[53] Professor Darren Hick of Furman University described noticing ChatGPT’s “style” in a paper submitted by a student. An online GPT detector claimed the paper was 99.9% likely to be computer-generated, but Hick had no hard proof. However, the student in question confessed to using GPT when confronted, and as a consequence failed the course.[54] Hick suggested a policy of giving an ad-hoc individual oral exam on the paper topic if a student is strongly suspected of submitting an AI-generated paper.[55] Edward Tian, a senior undergraduate student at Princeton University, claimed that he has created a program, named “GPTZero,” that detects whether an essay is human written or not to combat academic plagiarism.[56][57]

      As of January 4, 2023, the New York City Department of Education has restricted access to ChatGPT from its public school internet and devices.[58][59]

      As far as I am concerned, blurring authorship aside, the validity and reliability of ChatGPT (and for that matter, other AI variants, intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) or intelligent personal assistant (IPA)) as well as the extent to which AI can or should be used or coopted as a research tool, educational tool, authoring tool and/or expert system remain areas requiring urgent attentions and holistic solutions.

      Finally, Happy New Year to both of you!

      Yours sincerely,

      1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Thank you very much for your feedback! We live in exciting times! That’s pretty much how I see it overall. A point that is usually given too little attention: who programs these AI tools? If we briefly recall how Mark Z. was able to influence the US election campaign with his rather outdated tool FB, how much more is possible with AI if certain people or organizations have certain goals?

        Happ New Year too! Sincerely, Friedrich

      2. SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ avatar

        Dear Friedrich Zettl 狐胡,

        You are welcome. I concur with you and would like to inform you that at the end of the section titled “Fact-Checking : An Emerging Market Fraught with Issues” in my post entitled “Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity“, I have discussed in detail the issues and problems of automations and technologies with respect to expert systems and artificial intelligence as championed in technoutopianism. You are invited to read and comment on the section as I would love to know what you will make of it. The direct link is:


        Yours sincerely,

      3. SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ avatar

        Dear Friedrich Zettl 狐胡,

        I have just replied to you by submitting a comment here, and the comment seems to have disappeared. If the comment has been mistakenly identified as spam, please kindly retrieve and approve it from your WordPress spam folder. The said comment begins with “You are welcome. I concur with you and would like to inform you that at the end of the section titled “Fact-Checking : An Emerging Market Fraught with Issues“.

        To access your WordPress spam folder, go to the following URL:

        [insert your blog url here]/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?comment_status=spam

        After unspamming the comment, you will need to approve it by going to the following URL:

        [insert your blog url here]/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?comment_status=all

        Thank you.

        Yours sincerely,

      4. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Done! Yes, this happens from time to time but I check daily. Thanks again!

      5. David Milligan-Croft avatar

        Thank you Sound Eagle for your erudite and intriguing response. It seems, at the moment, people are ‘having fun’ with AI generating solutions to ‘problems’. Whether they be written or illustrated. But, as you point out, one of the problems is people trying to pass this work off as their own. More robust ways of identifying AI generated work are needed.

  9. elvira797mx avatar

    Very interesting post. Thank’s for share, Zetti.
    Happy New Year!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you, Elvira! All the best for 2023! Love, peace and happiness!

      1. elvira797mx avatar

        Always a pleasure Zetti.
        All the best for you and yours too.
        Happy 2023! Love, peace and happiness as well.

  10. Graham Stephen avatar

    Wishing you all the very best for 2023!


    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! The same to you! All the best and most of all good health! Cheers! 🔔🔔🔔

  11. luisa zambrotta avatar

    Happy New Year ❣️

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Happy New Year to you too! May 2023 be one of your best years ever! ❣️

      1. luisa zambrotta avatar

        Thanks a lot 🙂Same for you too ✨

  12. Tokeloshe. avatar

    Should artists be worried about AI Art?

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      I do not think so. AI can do phantastic things but art is more than this. The soul cannot be created.

  13. abbasmehar avatar

    Thank you so much for sharing unique information in your blog post I really like it.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      I thank you!

  14. dog treats avatar

    It’s really a wonderful tool if you use it well

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you! Yes, definitely. And we are just at the beginning.

  15. dog treats avatar

    Beautiful writing

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! Happy Valentines Day!

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