ADVERTISING
 
Tuesday, December 11   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
Media
Do the media in your country usually portray evangelical Christians accurately?



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
 
Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Bulgaria: Evangelicals ask government to protect religious minorities Bulgaria: Evangelicals ask government to protect religious minorities

Christians rallied in Sofia on November 18 to defend their rights. It is the second Sunday of peaceful demonstrations against a new religion draft law that could severely restrict religious freedom and rights of minority faith confessions.

 
Photos: #WalkForFreedom Photos: #WalkForFreedom

Abolitionists marched through 400 cities in 51 countries. Pictures from Valencia (Spain), October 20.

 
Photos: Reaching people with disabilities Photos: Reaching people with disabilities

Seminars, an arts exhibition, discussion and testimonies. The European Disability Network met in Tallinn.

 
Photos: Hope for Europe Photos: Hope for Europe

Unity in Diversity is the theme of the conference. Representatives of Evangelical Alliances and many other church leaders gathered in Tallinn (Estonia).

 
VIDEO Video
 
The Impact of the Reformation on the social  reforms The Impact of the Reformation on the social reforms

David Hilborn, Principal, St. John's College, explains how has the Reformation view of justification led to social and political reforms.

 
Biotechnology: “There is a difference between restoration and enhancement” Biotechnology: “There is a difference between restoration and enhancement”

“We have to understand the times in which we live, and have discernment”, says Doctor Peter J. Saunders.

 
The Manzanas case The Manzanas case

A short documentary about how retired pastors and widows of an evangelical denomination in Spain fight a legal battle for their pensions after the favourable ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.

 
‘Mediterráneo’ ‘Mediterráneo’

“Something will change if you have hunger and thirst for justice”, sings Spanish artist Eva Betoret in a song about the refugee crisis.

 
 
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.