ADVERTISING
 
Thursday, April 26   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
State and Religion
Should religious symbols be displayed in buildings of the public administration?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Charlee New
 

Robots in our image: 3 critical questions

The creation of human-robots can easily become an attempt not only to meet practical needs, but emotional needs too.

JUBILEE CENTRE AUTHOR Charlee New 29 JANUARY 2018 15:33 h GMT+1
Robot Sophia, in a presentation in Beijing, 2016. / Sophiabot.com

Sophia the robot is back in the news at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Convention.



The creation of Hanson Robotics, Sophia is becoming something of a minor celebrity, making headlines last October when it was granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia.



More recently, it’s been given legs and has been reported as having taken its ‘first steps’.



In the increasing discussion around automation and robot ‘personhood’, Sophia provides a sensationalist spectacle—a supposed precursor to the new, artificial ‘people’ to come.



So, what is one to do in the face (literally) of increasingly sophisticated humanoid robots—otherwise known as androids? How do we think biblically about such a high tech issue?



Firstly, naiveté should be avoided. Christians are to be ‘wise as serpents’, discerning and undeceived. This is particularly important when we consider the words of history of technology professor, Melvin Kranzberg: ‘Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.’[1] In other words, ‘the ethical impact of a technology is always subject to the ends of those who implement it.’ Since technology is being developed by some of the most powerful companies in the world, there is a moral imperative to be critical of those who create new technologies (and their motivations) to ensure that they are developed for the common good.



 



An astronaut with the robot ‘TARS’ from Interstellar (2014).



Secondly, it is vital to remember that the development of robots in humanoid form is only one trajectory of future possibilities for our world with robotics and AI. It is entirely possible to advocate the continued development of non-humanoid robots to assist with space exploration, such as the blocky robots TARS and CASE in the 2014 film, Interstellar, whilst turning a critical eye on the desire to create a robot that can ‘pass’ as a human.



Therefore, I propose three critical questions that we can apply to any humanoid robot, as we seek wisdom in the face of a narrative that claims that we can, and should, create people-like robots.



1. What is the purpose of the human-likeness effect?



In many cases, the end goal is empathy with robots, or paving the way for ‘seamless’ social integration. Sophia is listed as having ‘service robotics applications in business, medical/healthcare, and education.’[2] However, the creation of human-robots for these sectors can easily become an attempt not only to meet practical needs, but emotional needs too. For example, android carers for the elderly can more easily be seen as a substitute for human interaction than a non-human robot, potentially leading us to neglect the relational essence of care for older members of society. As Nigel Cameron has commented, it is the youngest and oldest in our society that are most at risk.



2. How is this android constructed?



Because of our own experience as holistic beings, it is very easy for us to observe a robot like Sophia and see it as a complete being. It is, however, a robotic platform for AI. As we begin to think through the components, we see through the ‘smoke and mirrors’ of the robot as a person which are amplified by the emotional effect of a human face (which is, after all, the image of God twice removed). Whether or not robots may one day ‘be conscious’, at the current time they are not and we should be suspicious of any presentation of androids that attempts to suggest otherwise.



3. Why make this specific body?



When we create an artificial body, we make certain choices, particularly regarding race and gender. It’s not a coincidence that ‘helpful’ personal assistants like Siri, Cortana and Alexa are all default female. If Sophia is about empathy, then how does its creation as woman reflect or reinforce cultural assumptions about women? Does it perpetuate a narrative that women are less threatening and more subservient than men? Does it matter that she’s a Caucasian woman? What standard of beauty has she been constructed to? And, returning us to our original question, is there a purpose or application for this specific body’s emotional effect?



We still have a lot of work to do in grappling with the full social and economic consequences of AI and robotics, however Christians should not shy away from seeking wisdom in this area.



Careful questioning, thoughtful prayer and a commitment to separating sensationalism from reality will help us to make a beginning.



Charlee New, Communications and Marketing Officer at the Jubilee Centre.



This article first appeared on the Jubilee Centre website and was republished with permission.



 



[1] Melvin Kranzberg, ‘Introduction: Technological and Cultural Change – Past, Present and Future’, in New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues, ed. Stephen H. Sutcliffe. Research in Technology Studies, vol. 6, Lehigh University Press, 1992, p.100.



[2] http://www.hansonrobotics.com/robot/sophia/


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Robots in our image: 3 critical questions
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Why are Christian leaders particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation? Why are Christian leaders particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation?

“The reasons why somebody might have sex with a prostitute are very different from the reasons why somebody might want to have an affair with a member of their congregation”. An analysis by John Stevens, National Director of FIEC (UK).

 
Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

 
In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.