New gods on the block

June 18, 2019 · Print This Article

Will we end up worshiping robots in the future?

Some think the singularity – the moment when artificial intelligence becomes self-conscious – may happen sooner than we think. This would spawn a new generation of super-intelligent robots. Robots bringing with them the promise of happiness, peace and eternal life. Robots worth worshipping.

This coming religion has its believers, too. One of the most notable is young intellectual Noah Yuval Harari. To him, AI is already a kind of new god with its ability to use algorithms to understand us better than we understand ourselves. Already smart code feeds us with what we want and can influence our emotions and decisions.

“In the coming decades new techno-religions may conquer the world by promising salvation through algorithms and genes”[1] Harari prophesies. And if we want to compete, he thinks we should “use technology in order to create Homo Deus – a much superior human model”, after all, we have to “actively upgrade our minds if [we] want to stay in the game”.

Maybe this is the way forward: God-man.

Just this week we heard of the ever-increasing integration of humans and robots from Amazon, which is putting over 200,000 robots into its warehouses.  As Amazon’s Tye Brady puts it: “The challenge that we have in front of us is how do we smartly design our machines to extend human capability.”[2]

Even if we can end up working symbiotically – algorithms and genes in perfect harmony – there’s another problem. Elizabeth Oldfield from Christian think tank Theos says that we “should not put too much child-like faith in machines that we ourselves have made.”[3] She goes onto explain that these gods may help us in many ways but they won’t solve the heart of the problem which she believes is our selfish human hearts. Fixing our hearts would mean we could build a “kinder, fairer, more human world”.

I don’t know whether AI, even if it does become self-aware, can ever truly understand the human heart well enough to achieve this. That’s why I would struggle to worship a robot. For me, a god worthy of worship would need to be more relatable than Siri, Alexa, or whatever else will come out of the techno-sphere.

Maybe for a god to be worthy of adulation, even worship, they must be able to connect with us on a personal level and intimately understand the human experience.

Indeed, many believe that we don’t need to wait for this techno-religion or singularity for such a god. Christians claim we’ve already had a God-man – one who can intimately understand the human experience and help us create a kinder, fairer world. This unique claim is about the person of Jesus, said to be God with us in human form.

The Bible tells us that Jesus can “empathize with our weaknesses” because “he himself has now been through suffering and temptation, he knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted, and he is wonderfully able to help us.”[4]

If we are going to worship anything, surely worshipping a God who understands us – who’s been one of us – is a better option?

Notes:

[1] Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, published by Harvill Secker 2016, pp. 409-410.

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-48590628

[3] https://www.bbc.com/ideas/videos/will-we-worship-artificial-intelligence-in-the-fut/p07100kv?playlist=imho

[4] The Bible, Hebrews 2:18 (TLB)

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