Religion and Spirituality I think are two different things… for instance I believe it possible that some, perhaps all animals could have some sense of the Spiritual – something greater than themselves that they are somehow a part of, or perhaps connected to/with, but i don’t believe any animals have what we’d call a Religion (But i may be wrong? 🙂 )
Certainly there is a connection between the two, i think you need a sense of spirituality of a world exceeding our own physical one, to allow Religion to exist as a structured thing.
While a strongly approve of the Spiritual concept I’m largely averse to the idea of organised religion, partly because i feel it is such a personal concept that each one of us needs to believe in in their own way rather than slavishly following/conforming to the ideas of others, but also because i believe Religion has frequently been used by men (mostly) as a form of control over populations for less than ‘heavenly’ ideals. Possibly, given human nature being the sometimes violent and destructive thing it is, this might have actually been necessary or of some long-term benefit, but personally i think it stinks. 🙂
Having said that i do agree with the notion of sharing one’s ideas and thoughts of spirituality in a common/formalised understanding – a consensus amongst peoples that could be said to be a structured religion. Because we by-and-large have to live in agreement with others in our society’s we have to have some agreed commonalities of belief and some set of rules to abide by if we are to live in peaceful co-operation, rather than each individual following their own uniques patterns of behaviour or moral code and understandings of right and wrong. One of the big problems i see with organised religion currently is that many adherents ‘cherry-pick’ which rules/ideas they follow and which they choose to largely ignore, making all religions an ideal that has very few true adherents but has a great many who eagerly do what feels good to them and choose to overlook or reluctantly do the bits that involve some form of self-sacrifice.
So, having established my viewpoint, how does this relate to robots, or more generally Artificial Intelligences, that is: ones capable of exceeding human thought, that humans have been developing now for a good few decades at ever faster rates of progress?
It is undeniable that machines now have far better data retention and recall rates than do us humans (I have not yet been replaced by a machine blogger although i expect the first ones may be on line very soon if they are not already). They surpass us in this form of intelligence.
They are also much faster and accurate decision makers than we are – a machine recently serviced 350 000 prescriptions to humans without making a single error in their medication requirements. Few pharmacists could manage such a feat. The world Chess, Jeopardy (a US Game Show) and GO (an Asian board game of strategy) title holders have all been beaten by machines.
Machines can also far surpass our ability to communicate data and ideas to others of our species.
So by these measures of intelligence humans are currently inferior to Artificial Intelligences. They are certainly also at least equal to us in their ability to apply logic to various situations and to predict outcomes on the basis of known information.
Machines are now able to learn for themselves and can teach themselves or deduce things that were not previously programmed into them. They also have the ability to watch and then mimic perfectly and without error almost all human activities, from cooking to riding motorcycles. From spray painting a car to giving directions on the London Underground railway. Their abilities to do what we do only faster and more accurately will only continue to increase. As far as commercial employment is concerned humans are becoming redundant across an ever-increasing range of occupations. It is worth noting that by and large Corporations are happy to replace a human workforce with an artificial one even if the workers would prefer not to lose their jobs.
Intelligence, fortunately for us, involves more than just the above factors, however and artificial machine intelligence still currently is largely dependent upon humans for it’s direction and growth. Factors such as creativity, self-awareness and consciousness are vital components of human intelligence along with an ability to learn new facts, relationships and behaviours. While humans consider these from their own unique perspective they are not exclusive attributes of human-like intelligence and we may already have artificial intelligence with aspects of their ‘minds’that are in some way comparable to those aspects mentioned above in humans.
There are already websites discussing such things as what rights or religions these Artificial intelligences would be entitled to and how they may affect or interact with our own rights and beliefs. Could an artificial form of intelligence eventually prove to us conclusively that there is, or is not, a real God? Would it then also believe in God if it decided in the affirmative?
Could there be a collective of artificial intelligences who believe in their own robot God and religion on the basis of their own self-awareness and logically derived conclusions?
Would that God be us as their ‘Creators’?
Personally, i doubt it.
It will be interesting to see how this develops. As a person of Faith I’m interested to see how God lets this pan out. 🙂