Thursday, June 14, 2007

Religion for Robots?

If that subject heading perks your interest, then drop by SIGHTINGS (a publication of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School) to read Robert M. Geraci's article titled "Religion for Robots".

I certainly found it intriguing. More than one story idea lurks there.

Of course, it all hinges on a big "what if", that two-word lever that keeps the speculative cosmos in motion:

If robots become conscious, they may desire entrance into our society. This notion was championed by the well-known science fiction author Isaac Asimov, who named such a culture a C-Fe society because it would be made up of human beings (carbon life-forms) and robots (iron life-forms). Asimov held C-Fe society to be both a moral good and beneficial toward our long-term survival in the universe.

But will robots ever be religious? If you asked Richard Dawkins, the current champion of militant atheism, surely he would tell you that if robots get smart enough to hold a conversation, their very intelligence will preclude religious faith. But British AI researcher David Levy asserts exactly the opposite: he expects robots will be Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and more. And Kurzweil — (in)famous for his faith that we will very soon be able to download our minds into machines and thereby live forever — holds a middle ground: robots will be "spiritual" because "being — experiencing, being conscious — is spiritual." However, he makes no mention of gods. Kurzweil's spiritual machines will practice a New Agey kind of Buddhism: they will meditate but they won't become Buddhas, they will have "transcendence" but it won't be Nirvana. Kurzweil's notion of robot spirituality is too whitewashed to count for much among "real" religious folks, who will only shake their heads at the thought that "experiencing" equals spirituality.

Is it possible that robots will practice an authentic form of religion?


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1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the link!