Monthly Archives: February 2017

You > Technology

Yuval Harari, the author of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, spoke to The Atlantic about humans and what makes them tick.

“[White Americans without a college degree] are a declining class within a declining power. The U.S. is losing power compared to the rest of the world, and within the U.S., the Trump voters are losing their status. Even though they are experiencing better conditions, the narrative self which is dominant in most people tells a story of decline, which says that the future will be worse than the present. And most people’s happiness depends on their expectations, not their conditions.” (emphasis mine)

With the rise of automation follows the predictable rise of a leisure society, with more free time for non work activities.

“Philosophy, once an archaic system, becomes central once we take care of widespread death and misery.”

But, a lack of striving for survival can quickly tip over into dystopian uses for technology that replace thinking; Harari cites theoretical algorithms that tell us what to eat and who to marry.

“The very idea of an individual that exists, which has been so precious to us, is in danger.”

I refute the idea that the true self is so fragile.  Therefore, Harari’s claim that religion (which gives the true self purpose) is not supported by reality fails to understand that the point of relational spirituality is faith whose evidence exists outside the physical realm.

The technology services we create can only do as much for us as we agree to.  In other words, the only humans who stand to lose their humanity must do so voluntarily–and thus are unworthy of the title of human anyway.  One could argue this happens now when people let addictions squander true free will.

I do not share the author’s dim view of the human spirit.  Man exists to search for God, and faith precedes the fulfillment of miracles and guidance–not the other way around. Technology only exacerbates and accelerates any (mis)placements of seeking–be it for video games, sex, food, or drugs.  The only pursuit that cannot be automated is the only safe one–God himself.

Your Robot’s Religion

Artificial intelligence (AI) is developing so rapidly that some believe it will soon be beyond human management.  What if they then become moral beings?  Specifically, is Christ’s redemption–or any other major world religion’s creed–relevant to AI beings?

Pope Francis seemed to welcome alternative humans to the Catholic faith in 2014, when he gave the example of Baptizing extraterrestrial life.

The steep slope of technology means that the question of what it means to be human has perhaps never been more pressing.  There is not a debate about whether test tube babies have souls, even though they are made by humans. But do clones?

Humanity aside, are intelligence and self-awareness enough to qualify something for having an inner life?

If AI has free will, then it can theoretically choose to “sin,” or wrong others, regardless of its programming (like the fictional HAL 9000), especially if we have AI programming other AI.

MC thinks that while all forms of intelligence should be welcomed to worship, only traditional humans are granted certain privileges, such as an afterlife.  This is because of what Christianity calls Original Sin: humans can and will sin without intending to. Part of being human is being incapable of living without flaws, which requires one to choose God for redemption.  Robots that do not make accidents are exempt from this need. So, while AI may surpass us in worldly pursuits of excellence, precision, speed, and reasoning, the human advantage of a flawed soul remains unthreatened.