The Robot Will See You Now

Artificial Intelligence and the Christian Faith

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Pub Date 15 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 14 Jul 2021

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Description

The last decade has seen dramatic advances in artificial intelligence and robotics technology, raising tough questions that need to be addressed. The Robot Will See You Now considers how Christians can respond to these issues – and flourish – in the years ahead.

Contributions from a number of international experts, including editors John Wyatt and Stephen Williams, explore a range of social and ethical issues raised by recent advances in AI and robotics. Considering the role of artificial intelligence in areas such as medicine, employment and security, the book looks at how AI is perceived as well as its actual impact on human interactions and relationships.

Alongside are theological responses from an orthodox Christian perspective. Looking at how artificial intelligence and robotics may be considered in the light of Christian doctrine, The Robot Will See You Now offers a measured, thoughtful view on how Christians can understand and prepare for the challenges posted by the development of AI.

This is a book for anyone who is interested in learning more about how AI and robots have advanced in recent years, and anyone who has wondered how Christian teaching relates to artificial intelligence. Whatever your level of technical knowledge, The Robot Will See You Now will give you a thorough understanding of AI and equip you to respond to the challenges it poses with confidence and faith.

The last decade has seen dramatic advances in artificial intelligence and robotics technology, raising tough questions that need to be addressed. The Robot Will See You Now considers how Christians...


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Featured Reviews

There are some quite interesting and informative books written in and around this subject of Artificial Intelligence and the Christian Faith
2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity by John C. Lennox is probably the best I had come across until I stumbled onto this one.
The open chapters are full of passages and quotes from science fiction books and authors, all of which I have read at some point or other.
This obviously started out as a plus for me. I immediately felt that I was on the same wavelength as the authors.
Drawing on the same initial conclusions as myself on AI before entering the question of faith was paramount before I continued reading.
Mainly because I have read varying different perspectives on AI and its future involvement in mankind's progress. That includes the positivity and negativity that surrounds AI.
Most of your top scientist's disbelieve in a higher being, so they have a blinkered outlook on faith in general. But the question still remains.
The book does not just cover science fiction books as its single form of information. It uses the classics as well as philosophy and science.
It uses extensive material from books that I recommend, including Max Tegmark: Life 3.0 and Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity Is Near.
The chapters finish with ending notes quoting sources, which I think is excellent if you wish to do your own research.
This really is an excellent book and well worth a read.

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What does it mean to be human? In the age of AI, what does it mean to be created in the Image of God? How do Christians respond to the rise of Big Tech? What does it mean to speak of ‘free will’ in the Christian tradition in the shadow of AI?

This book is a collection of essays from a three-year research project at the Faraday Institute, University of Cambridge 2015-18. As such, the responses to the questions above are somewhat mixed. Whilst the editors have attempted to ‘ensure that overlap is minimal’ I found the general tone of the text repetitive, each essay asking something around the questions above.

The introductory essay by Peter Robinson sets the scene over the 20th century, which is much needed. Unfortunately, the next two essays by Lake and Downing approach the question from the perspective of science fiction and cinema through the somewhat unusual lens of Jean Baudrillard’s 1981 Simulacra and Simulation. Perhaps other readers will be more au fait with intense post-modernism, but I felt my eyes glaze over.

Stephen Williams then offers us a background to artificial intelligence and the social-political discourse that led to it. The author also suggested the fascinating possibility that if Turing is the father of AI, then Thomas Hobbes - of Leviathan - is the grandfather.

This is followed by a piece by John Wyatt on humanity in the age of AI, which noted that we have so quickly and easily adopted computerised language to describe our own bodies - we are hardwired, suffering from information overload, we lack bandwidth – all insinuating that our bodies are hardware and our thoughts are merely software, editable and deletable - whilst the truth is more complex. Finally, fascinating research is mentioned that when robots make noises of anguish and pain, we are more hesitant to mistreat them.
The next essay by Ramachandra looks at the Asian response to the rise of AI, and especially at the intersection of Buddhism with technological thought.

It is only in the sixth chapter that the proper theological essays are found, with another essay by Stephen Williams essay asking what it means to be a person in Christian thought. The author begins with the vocation of humanity and the vocation of the individual as being inherently personal and unable to be appropriated by an AI. I was struck by the author's comment that you can be human without being embodied, as indeed all creatures are between death and resurrection.

The next essay by Robert Song take a more direct line - that the Christian view of personhood should not be threatened by robotics and AI, as God's vocation to humanity is indelible in their creation, has been 'renewed' in the work of Christ. The author covers the disenchantment that humanity has suffered in the previous centuries, which felt like the book’s real meat. If humans are simply animals, what is our basis for the high opinion we place on human life? If our sole claim is our mind and comprehension, then that too will soon come under threat by the rise of AI. Moral relativism has very little to say in the presence of AI. "Our concern should be for human dignity, we should not fear the upgrading of robots so much as the downgrading of human beings."
The next essay by Noreen Herzfield sets the rise of AI against the vision of God as creator in Genesis, and covers a wide vista, including the rise of weaponised AI. This piece was very broad and seemed to repeat matter raised in other sections.

Victoria Lorrimar then looks at the rise of AI, and the promised Singularity through the lens of Christian eschatology - 'Christian hope is about discovering what God is doing in creation - for us and with us.' This was one of the meatier essays, which asks the reader to consider the place of God's will in the outworking of time - to what extent do we co-operate with the will of God in his unfolding of events and the completion of all things? Lorrimar considers the classical description of the human vocation towards creation as 'stewardship' and asks if 'craftsmanship' might be a better term, as humanity begins to also act as creator with the advent of robotics and AI.

The essay by Andrew Graystone looks at the use of robotics in the sating of sexual needs. This was one of the more fascinating essays, covering marketisation, simulation, and sacraments. While present generations still distinguish between the virtual and the real, this may be entirely cultural and could conceivably vanish in the coming decades. He points out that the sexualisation of robots - as with all sexual material - limits the user to an orgasm without any connection or context, which is of course far distant from the Christian vision of intimacy.

Nigel Cameron considers the place of labour in Christian thought and what it will mean for robotics to potentially disrupt the labour market. Computerisation has led to fewer and fewer people being employed in some circumstances. He draws the fascinating comparison between Kodak, who once employed 145,00 people, and in 2012 Instagram, which only had 12 employees. Andrez Turkanik considers the use of AI in artistic creation, raising the issue of art as a vocation, and the fact that much great art comes only from having known suffering.

John Wyatt looks at the impact of robotics on healthcare, reminding us that the relationship between human and robot is primarily one of service. These machines are largely programmed in the undertones of Silicon Valley - male, young, white and white single. The author reminds us that much of what we understand as medical care is human solidarity with the suffering, and it seems unlikely that this will be truly emulated by the use of AI in healthcare.

Mldain and Stephen Williams (again) look at the rise of surveillance capitalism and the Christian response to this. I found this the most striking of all the essays, as it began with the comparison of an all-knowing and all-loving God in whose image we are made, with the very real example of the all-knowing 'big data' companies, to which we are just data, which strips us of our human and Christian dignity. The path of big tech leads us to life against 'contentment rather than conspicuous consumption, of deep and genuine connect rather than superficial exchanges, of gratitude instead of envy, of patience rather than instant gratification.' I found this one of the more fascinating essays of the text.

Overall, this was an intriguing read, but a good number of the essays were either too broad, too academic, or too repetitive. The theological content was pretty light. As a set of essays for an academic seminar, it works, but it would not be something I would eagerly commend to the merely interested reader.

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