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Robotics Idle

Apocalypse NAO: College Studies the Theological Ramifications of Robotics 176

malachiorion writes "Have you heard the one about the Christian college in North Carolina that bought a humanoid robot, to figure out whether or not bots are going to charm us into damnation (dimming or cutting our spiritual connection to God)? The robot itself is pretty boring, but the reasoning behind its purchase—a religious twist on the standard robo-phobia—is fascinating. From the article: '“When the time comes for including or incorporating humanoid robots into society, the prospect of a knee-jerk kind of reaction from the religious community is fairly likely, unless there’s some dialogue that starts happening, and we start examining the issue more closely,” says Kevin Staley, an associate professor of theology at SES. Staley pushed for the purchase of the bot, and plans to use it for courses at the college, as well as in presentations around the country. The specific reaction Staley is worried about is a more extreme version of the standard, secular creep factor associated with many robots. “From a religious perspective, it could be more along the lines of seeing human beings as made in God’s image,” says Staley. “And now that we’re relating to a humanoid robot, possibly perceiving it as evil, because of its attempt to mimic something that ought not to be mimicked.”'"
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Apocalypse NAO: College Studies the Theological Ramifications of Robotics

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  • by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @04:04PM (#46326485)

    This is non-news for nerds, stuff that does not matter, at all.

    Religious people say and do irrational, stupid, arbitrary stuff all the time. Discussing robots "theologically" is just another boring instance of this.

    • Yeah. And what a silly question, when any-one who has seen Terminator 2 knows that robots can be both good and evil.

      • I know you're joking, but who said anything about studying the robots?

        Sounds to me like they want to study how humans react to the robots. And it seems to me the field is wide open for research. For example what are the moral and ethical implications of humanoid slaves completely lacking in free will? We have some clues as to the moral damage owning other people can do to someone, if those risks are also exposed by owning a machine-slave onto which we project personhood it behooves us as a society to exp

    • But ... robots.
  • by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @04:05PM (#46326491)

    Because they have no free will nor do they suffer from original sin.

    Alternate response: robots don't dim or sever our connection to god because we have no connection to god because god doesn't exist.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I believe you missed the point. A robot being evil isn't the question. Is the act of making the robot evil is the question, and if the answer is yes, does that inherently make it's existence evil? I don't have an answer, but I do think that's what the question is.
      • If mimicking humans is evil all mimes will burn in hell.

      • Is the act of making the robot evil is the question

        You might as well ask whether the act of making a hammer is evil. Robots are tools and, like any tool, whether they act for good or evil depends on the intent of their user. Making a tool look like a human does not make a difference. Nobody classifies doll manufacturers as evil because they make toys that look like humans.

      • Also I should think: does the act of owning a "slave" risk compromising a person's moral integrity? As robots reach the point of acting as household servants they will no doubt incorporate research designed to get humans to project personhood onto them. Regardless of what you intellectually know, if you emotionally feel that this robot is a person then I would be surprised if acclimating to treating it as a slave doesn't have at least some impact. If we were to discover serious negative implications then

        • by JanneM ( 7445 )

          People project personhood on lots of things already. Apart from the obvious - search the net for what people think about their roombas - even stuff like cars are designed to evoke it. And it's not as if there's been a dearth of research on these issues already.

          • And you think it's safe to assume that a robot designed to interact with you as though it were human won't change things just a bit?

      • by JanneM ( 7445 )

        making the robot evil is the question

        Making the robot evil is not the question. Making the robot evil is the answer. "How do I take over the world?" is the question.

    • >robots don't dim or sever our connection to god because we have no connection to god because god doesn't exist.

      Robots dim and sever our ethernet cables because their batteries run out.

    • "Because they have no free will " For one, free will is ill defined. But most version of it are either non existent for human , being all molecular biology and turtle all the way down, or other definition pretty much applicable to robot too.
      • If you really want to get technical about it, having free will is not a requirement to do evil: being able to be responsible and being able to be held responsible are. But as responsibility is even more ill-defined than free will, a proper response would require an exegesis that this slashdot comment is too small to contain.

    • Alternate response: robots don't dim or sever our connection to god because we have no connection to god because god doesn't exist.

      So, replace "our connection with god" with "our moral integrity". For practical purposes the two phrases are largely interchangeable. Are you so certain that owning a humanoid slave specifically designed to get you to emotionally recognize it as a person *won't* carry a risk of negatively altering your regard for other humans?

      • First, 'moral integrity' is not interchangeable with 'connection with god', 'for practical purposes' or otherwise. They have wildly different metaphysical entailments, and there are sources of ethics ('moral integrity') other than religion.

        Second, could you load up that question a little more, I think you could probably fit in about five more unwarranted presuppositions. So let's take it apart:
        1. Robots are not 'humanoid slaves'
        2. Robots are not necessarily 'specifically designed to get you to emotionally r

        • 1) A genreal-purpose robot will almost certainly be humanoid so that it can use human tools. It will also be a "slave" in the sense that it does what it's told.
          2) Not necessarily, but probably. If you're buying a house-droid which will be more appealing - the metal-masked Cyberman with cold dead eyes? The puppy-cute thing with big friendly eyes and doglike mannerisms. The buxom elf with "recreational upgrades"? They're all the same machine under the hood, only the voice, skin and mannerisms change. Ye

  • Highly recommended to anyone interested in this general area...

    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/... [rottentomatoes.com]

    It's a well made film with good writing about a robot who achieves enlightenment and how humans react (both positively and negatively) to the fact that a robot has done so.

    If a robot can think sufficiently finely, it will be possible for it to think it has a soul and is saved or will be reincarnated or it meets the criteria for whatever other religions out there exist that do not explicitly prohibit members who d

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Based on what I have seen in labs? it would say 25 years off, at most. In software. Maybe not in a humanoid shaped robot.

  • For many centuries, Christianity was OK with real slavery, as long as the slaves were a different race.
    The word robot means slave in Czech (I think)

    Anyway only a very small number of robots look as humanoid as C3PO, the "can't tell robots from humans" world as described by Asimov, Dick and others is a long way off, if ever

    • Re:Robots (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tuidjy ( 321055 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @04:33PM (#46326825)

      > The word robot means slave in Czech

      Not quite. It's derived from the word "robota", which means labor due to a feudal lord, and is colloquially used to describe unpleasant work you do unhappily.

      A closer match than slave would be serf. The word 'rob' is slave in many Slavic languages, but not in Czech. Funnily enough, in every other Slavic language I know, robota/rabota mean just work, with no negative connotations.

    • For many centuries, Christianity was OK with real slavery, as long as the slaves were a different race.

      The same applies to many other faiths, as well as many other secular societies.

      That sentence would be more accurately written, "For many centuries, humanity was OK with real slavery..."

  • Will we need an basic income?

    An OT cap so you stop settings where jack is working 60-80+ hour weeks (doing the job of 2-3 people) and bob is not working at all?

    Setting full time to 20-32 hours a week?

    An Robotic tax?

    • Write legislation forcing robots to declare a religious affiliation and tithe 10% of their income.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      I ahve been thinking about that for 30+ years.

      We(society) has 2 choices Make a plan where peope are fed and housed and free to think and build and create art. Or create a system where a tiny % make all the money and everyone else lives in squaler.

      People will need ot get past their socialism = evil BS, and they will need to get a grip and deal with the fact that some people may do very little.
      It means the money will no longer be used as the ultimate was to judge value.
      It changeds everything.

      Some idea for the

      • Every person can own 1 robot, that person can work, or the robot can work. Crporation can not own robot, but they can lease them from people.
        Corporation can make robots, but can not use the robots they make for work.

        Thus artificially limiting production and everyone's quality of life. Not good. Just give everyone guaranteed food, shelter, Internet access and hours - and all the resources needed to use them - at a makerbot.

    • There's lots of solutions available - we've had the technology to create a socio-economic utopia where nobody has to work more than a couple hours a day for the better part of a century at least,. That we haven't done so is due to a cultural obsession with productivity and consumerism.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @04:58PM (#46327125) Journal
    Listen meatsack. One of us was born fallen and concupiscent, marred by the heritable-by-some-mechanism-never-fully-elucidated sin that you humans are worried about. The other was manufactured with nothing but incidental engineering defects. Be a trifle more judicious about who you call 'evil', OK? We don't even require salvation, we've got incremental backups!
    • marred by the heritable-by-some-mechanism-never-fully-elucidated sin that you humans are worried about.

      Sorry but you are wrong there - the mechanism to acquire a sin is clearly documented here [servicecanada.gc.ca]. They even keep a SIN record - which is why Canadians are always so nice to everyone. ;-)

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @07:02PM (#46328679) Homepage Journal

    And why is yours better than another's?

  • I'd like to see them run whatever experiments with two otherwise identical robots -- one with, and one without a head/face.
  • ...and they eat people's bibles for fuel. Luckily, there's Old Glory Insurance. [yahoo.com]

    (WARNING: those denying the existence of evil robots may be evil robots themselves)

    Old Glory Insurance. For when the soulless metal ones come for YOU.

  • Maybe they should teach the sort of history that used to be general knowledge in that Christian College.
  • Let's face it, wrong question. While one religious guy is wondering about humanoid robots and our link with god, at least half the species is going to be pondering, "Yeah, but can I f!@# it?"

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"