Written in 2016
In the world of artificial intelligence, things that our grandparents would have found hard to even imagine have already become a reality and the pace of progress in the field “is close to exponential”, according to billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Humanoid robots are a reality today. They can be made to look lifelike, respond to stimuli and can “learn” in order to change their responses to changing situations – much as a robotic vacuum cleaner can change its path when the dog lies in the way.
They are already able to read the news, dance, do all your household tasks and beat the best human geniuses at chess and Jeopardy. There are nations considering replacing their armies with killer robots, and sex robots are predicted to be in demand and available soon.
According to statements made in January by U.S. Army General Robert Cone, robots could replace one-fourth of all U.S. combat soldiers by 2030. It’s an effort by the U.S. Army to become “a smaller, more lethal, deployable and agile force”. The robots may be able to do everything from dismantling land mines to engaging in front-line combat.
And soldiering is just one of an estimated 70 percent of jobs today that are predicted be replaced by robots by the end of this century. Others include doctors, architects, pharmacists, farmers, paralegals, housekeepers, tailors, bank tellers, drivers, astronauts, rescue workers, store and mailroom clerks, and accountants.
Now, according to Sputniknews.com, Google is about to develop robot clones of dead loved ones and celebrities! (March 17, 2016)
The same article says that since 2010, the Terasem Movement Foundation, a research institute in Vermont, whose stated mission is to “transfer human consciousness to computers and robots”, has created thousands of highly detailed “mind clones,” logging the memories, values and attitudes of specific people. The Foundation director Bruce Duncan explained: “It’s like when people stuff a pet cat or dog. We don’t stuff humans, but this is a way of ‘stuffing’ their information, their personality and mannerisms.”
Would that fool you? A robotic doppelganger of your loved one? Even if it spoke the same way, looked like the person and responded as that person would, remembering that person’s past – would it be enough?
I’m sure we would all say “no”. That we would agree that who we are and who other people are, is more than the sum of our appearance, memories, facial expressions and responses. There is an “essence” inside, intangible yet undeniable, that makes each one of us unique.
It is evidenced by our ability to love sacrificially, to yearn and hope for something more than the world we see around us, to make moral choices, to be in relationships, to ask existential questions and to worship.
In the creation account in the Bible, it tells us that God breathed into the first man Adam and he became a living being (Genesis 2:7), and it says that when we die this God-breath will return to the God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
In fact the Bible talks about there being two parts to our inner uniqueness. The one part is our soul, our personality and personhood; and the other is our spirit, that eternal spark of God that died when Adam and Eve sinned against God and can only be “born again” in each of us individually when we accept the life-giving, sin-atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
And that is the strange paradox of Christianity: while AI specialists are working to preserve the outer, interacting “us” forever, the Bible says that the only way to ensure that the true, internal “us” lives forever, is to “die” to ourselves and live for God.
Jesus explained it like this: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38.
And Jesus also promises those who do acknowledge Him and live for Him in this life, that in the next they will get new incorruptible bodies that do not get sick and die. Now that seems to me to be a much better bet than being “stuffed” into a robot!