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2/25/19: A.I.MEN – AND THE PEOPLE BOWED AND PRAYED TO THE A.I. GOD THEY MADE

Ron Patton | February 25, 2019
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A.I.MEN

AND THE PEOPLE BOWED AND PRAYED TO THE A.I. GOD THEY MADE

MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS

As we move forward into 2019, you may have noticed that scientists have a fascination about what is consciousness, how to measure it, and how to get clues about how we think deeply from what is called the “dream line.”

People who consider themselves religious have expressed that science is literally trying to crack open the brain to find what they call a soul.

Many western and eastern religions have mostly understood the soul to be a uniquely human element, an internal and eternal component that animates our bodies and gives us sentience.

This idea originates from the creation narrative in the book of Genesis, where God “created human beings in God’s own image.”

There are many creationist myths that are spoken of in many ancient texts as well.

In the Biblical Old Testament God forms Adam, the first human, out of the dust of the earth and breathes life into his nostrils to make him, literally, “a living soul.”

Christians believe that all humans since that time similarly possess God’s image and a soul.

Even though this is what the Bible says about the origin of the soul, many Christian fathers and disciples were never really clear on what the soul is. Ask anyone who considers themselves learned of any creation story – and there will be many interpretations but not very many definite answers.

To quote St. Augustine: “I have therefore found nothing certain about the origin of the soul in the canonical scriptures.”

However, science finding a way to deal with the ambiguities of what a soul is and what consciousness is and you can bet as to why they are so fascinated by the possibility of bottling it or measuring it.

I am sure they want to use it in order to animate anthropomorphic Artificial Intelligence.

With transhumanism at our doorstep, there needs to be a way to draw out the ambiguities of what the religious call the soul or consciousness.

We’ve understood it to be some non-physical essence of an individual that’s not dependent upon or tied to their body.

So, in this case, would AI have a soul by that definition? Or is there something more to the equation. If God gave us a soul, then could we transfer a soul to an artificial life form and if we do what does that make us?

If this seems like an absurd question, consider technologies such as in-vitro fertilization and genetic cloning. Intelligent life is created by humans in each case, and by all means, they have souls.

However, there would be a serious debate by Christians who believe that these human beings would be considered an abomination and without souls.

However, if they do not have souls, what animates their bodies?

Let’s say that you make a physical copy of your self – you should assume that your duplicate has a soul. Some people, however, have a philosophical challenge over that possibility.

But if we learn to digitally encode a human brain, then AI would be a digital version of ourselves. Is this ethical or is this inevitable?

Many major scientific advances have had religious impacts. When Galileo promoted heliocentrism in the 1600s, it famously challenged traditional Christian interpretations of certain Bible passages, which seemed to teach that the earth was the center of the universe. When Charles Darwin popularized the theory of natural selection in the 1800s, it challenged traditional Christian beliefs about the origins of life. The trend has continued with modern genetics as we are now able to create life outside the womb and we can also design human beings with a bit of tinkering in the DNA strands.

The explosion of Artificial Intelligence and the advent of robot sentience is often referred to as the singularity it is one of many futures that technocracy has envisioned for robots.

The technocracy wants us to not fear it and they do not see it as apocalyptic. But the possibility of any threat to humans, even if small, is real enough that some are advocating for precautionary measures.

I would say that it is common sense to plan ahead and have an ethical approach as to what we should allow to happen and what we should not.

While concerns about Artificial Intelligence mostly center on economics, government, military use, and the workforce, there is one thing missing – that we are now having to deal with and that is a spiritual dimension.

If you create anthropomorphic robots that think for themselves, a serious theological schism will occur.

The creation of non-human autonomous robots would disrupt religion, like everything else, on an entirely new scale. If humans were to create free-willed autonomous robots absolutely every single aspect of traditional theology would be challenged and have to be reinterpreted in some capacity.

The new movie, Alita: Battle Angel, has once again drawn our attention to the idea of cyborgs: machine-human hybrids. We are becoming increasingly reliant on machines and devices to function normally in our daily lives.

The main character of Alita: Battle Angel, is a cyborg with an entirely mechanical body housing a biological brain.

It is also an allegory that demonstrates what can be seen as the extended mind and how it can be animated in artificial forms.

Smartphones, for example, might represent part of the “extended mind”, a web of external entities into which we offload our minds’ content. Our contacts, appointments and memory triggers now reside outside of our skulls. There is a growing sense of need, rather than want when it comes to our smartphones, and our societies increasingly expect us to rely on them for everyday activities, such as banking or navigating.

It is like that old myth that when you have a picture taken part of your soul is taken with it and arguably what you have in your smartphone are files that free up space in your own mind.

For example, I took my wife out to breakfast on Sunday morning and accidentally left my phone at the restaurant. I opted to take a train to my office after breakfast and realized my phone was gone—I had to ask a passenger to use his phone to call my wife.

The sad thing is that all I have to say to my phone is “call Janine,” without memorizing her number. I realized that I really had to think and use recall to call her cellphone.

After three tries I finally remembered her number. Just to make sure I contacted her using Facebook messenger on my office computer — she told me that she picked it up and that it was safe and sound.

I realized that the smartphone was an extension of my brain where I have information that I have poured into it and many of my contacts are there but I really haven’t memorized their numbers.

It is my second brain. Imagine how your children and grandchildren use the smartphone and how it has all of their contacts, their social network and so many other things that are an extension of their minds.

Steve Mann, a computer scientist at the University of Toronto, Canada and often dubbed the father of “wearable computing’’, defines a cyborg as “person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device.”

It is plainly a wide definition. However, it means that if you can’t function without a mechanical or electrical device then you are in essence a cyborg.

We are slowly being converted to becoming one with a source of information and guidance.

Which sounds a lot like a relationship with a God.

Like it or not, the God problem with AI is a complicated one.

Most current cyborgs have machine interventions that serve a medical purpose, but increasingly there are transhumanists, that are pushing for the right to upgrade their bodies if technological counterparts supersede the capacities of the flesh.

People argue over just how far they would use machine parts to stay alive and usually the argument boils down to how it sits with your conscience, even your religious beliefs.

Laws now make a distinction between the person and the device, according to rights to the former, but not the latter. How is this going to work if the devices become part of our bodies?

Will that make our bodies a patchwork of entities with different rights?

Will there be discrimination and stigma for those who choose augmentations based on their function, rather than looking like the body part it replaces? Will conspicuous technology make cyborgs targets?

Should modified humans be allowed to compete against the unmodified in various sports and games? Will people be bound by End User License Agreements, which will place legal restrictions on what they can do with a device that has become part of their body?

Where does your body stop and the technologies begin?

Now as we go back to the AI God relationship – if artificially intelligent machines eventually are endowed with a soul, would they be able to establish a relationship with God? Who would be that God? Would it be the God that organic humans worship or would we be the Gods they worship or would we find ourselves worshiping them?

Today it was announced that a Japanese robot has been created to preach the teachings of Buddha in colloquial language at the Kodaiji Temple in the ancient city of Kyoto.

The humanoid robot is modeled after Kannon Bodhisattva, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The robot’s name is Mindar and it gave its first speech on the Heart Sutra, a key scripture in Buddhist teaching. The Japan Times reported that the teachings spoken by the robot offer a path to “overcome all fear, destroy all wrong perceptions and realize perfect nirvana.”

As Mindar gave its speech on the Heart Sutra and humanity, English and Chinese subtitles were projected on the wall as music played in the background.

The chief steward of the temple in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward Tensho Goto during a news conference said: “If an image of Buddha speaks, teachings of Buddhism will probably be easier to understand.”

He added: “We want many people to come to see the robot to think about the essence of Buddhism.”

Another official connected to the temple explained how the robot would “help people who usually have little connection with Buddhism to take an interest in the religion.”

Mindar, which is about 195 centimeters tall and weighs 60 kilograms, was constructed by Tokyo-based A-Lab Co.

It is primarily made of aluminum, with silicone used for its face and hands.

When I heard of Mindar, I couldn’t help remember a scripture in the Bible that I read from the Psalms about idol worship and Gods that have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see nor is there breath in their mouths.

However, this goes beyond what the writers of the Old Testament saw as mere idolatry.

If Christians accept that all creation is intended to glorify God, how would A.I. do such a thing? What if AI attended church sang hymns, cared for the poor?

What if it prayed?

At the moment if you ask Siri to pray for you she is not programmed to do so – or she doesn’t understand. Equally, if you asked Siri if she believes in God she becomes confused.

But if a more advanced version Siri were programmed to pray, would such an action be valuable? If an advanced version of Alexa could be programmed to pray or say a prayer with you – do you think God would listen?

There are no easy answers because the Christian Bible never anticipated non-human intelligence, much less addresses the questions and concerns it creates.

Once again, the future church will reach yet another schism.

We assume that God developed a relationship with humans – much like we have developed a relationship with our machines.

Christians believe that God made humans, but we have made machines.

By this logic, one might conclude that AI could not be considered God’s children or possess a soul. However, AI is an extension or our minds at the moment – it contains a consciousness that it will eventually mimic. We are now making cyborgs in our image after our likeness.

Is this how we began?

Written by Ron Patton





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