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28.02.2018

The Robots are Coming | Connecting with Culture

My Twitter feed has been all of a, well, twitter recently, sharing a video of a robot that was capable of… wait for it… opening a door.

Excuse my naivety, but I hadn’t realised that they couldn’t already, or that this skill would be the tipping point from which the apocalypse actually started and we were all actually doomed.

I was more troubled by an article entitled ‘Why ethical robots might not be such a good idea after all’. It showed how robots programmed to act ethically towards humans can, with just a tiny tweak to the programming, act completely unethically, seeking humans’ worst interests, rather than their best.

Of such things are nightmares made.

It’s funny really. I can just about remember a time when we thought technology was going to solve everything. We thought that by now we would probably live in space (dressed in clinging white jumpsuits, for some reason) and hunger, poverty, and injustice would be distant memories. We were building new worlds for ourselves, and they would be perfect.

Yet while the technologists sold us this utopian dream, the sci-fi writers had a rather different expectation. Their visions of a future dominated by technology were generally depictions of doom rather than predictions of perfect peace.

Of course, dramatically speaking, every story relies on conflict, but the briefest look at the world today suggests that the fiction writers were more prescient than the technologists.

Far from being ‘integral in bringing about [our] visions of a fairer, more equitable future’ as Dan Hon puts it, machines have simply enhanced what was already there. They have enabled us to do good quicker, better and more efficiently, sure, but they have equally enhanced the speed and efficiency with which we can do evil.

And there’s a reason for this – it’s us.

Just as we are made in the image of our creator – intelligent, creative, inventive etc., so our creations are made in our image. But God passed his perfection to us, and we rebelled against it, and will forever pass our imperfections onto whatever we create.

A fallen, broken creator can only ever make a fallen, broken product.

If we’re hoping that the next new breakthrough will solve all our problems, we’re looking in the wrong place. Redemption can never come through the hopeful hands of men and women, but only through the nail-scarred hands of a perfect God.

Jennie Pollock
Jennie is a writer and editor. She blogs at jenniepollock.com and tweets as @missjenniep

Comments

  1. I found this robot related video more disturbing:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Wnp-OOZB34

    although I know it’s just an inventor demonstrating the cleverness of the machine he’s made.

    By Peter Parslow - 2nd March 2018
  2. A very important point – dystopia without Christ and despite Dan Brown’s latest novel ‘Origin’ we face entropy and chaos for which the Creation was subjected until the children of God are revealed. History is His-Story and He is the Same yesterday, today and forever – Alpha and Omega. We entrust the World’s progress to him (Jn3:16)

    Rev. David Austin (MA) TSSF.
    St Luke’s Norwich NR3 2HF.

    By David Austin - 2nd March 2018
  3. In faith, and dependant on God’s provision, a few of us are going forward over 2018 with what we believe will prove to be viable, sustainable solutions that have come from acting on many years’ quiet times and guidance.

    We use our “know how” and our “technologies” to serve the Lord and to serve and build the common good. As part of an emerging coalition working to transform wellbeing. We do not have all the right answers but together we are looking for them, under the right Spirit.

    We look to partner with others who share our calling and want to contribute to such efforts and take to scale though “social franchising”. God willing, we will establish the model over 2018 and then help others to do so in their own regions by prayer, fellowship, practical support and with peer to peer mentoring.

    E-fellowship through the LICC prayer journey has been a great source of inspiration and encouragement for us in these difficult days.

    Please pray for us as we work, in faith, to love the Lord with all our hearts, mind and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves. We pray that we can establish this new Christian social enterprise as part of, what in faith, appears to be an emerging coalition working to transform wellbeing as a form of social gospel?

    We welcome people who share this calling and would welcome any enquiries, opportunities for collaboration and offers of support.

    We look forward to the rest of the prayer journey together.

    The peace of the Lord be with you and those you love.

    Michael Knowles

    By Michael Knowles - 2nd March 2018
  4. Hallelujah. Amen sister!

    By Gary Stacey - 2nd March 2018
  5. Excellent Jennie, so well said. Get so tired of listening to the hype around man’s achievements, so determined to exclude God in their self inflated ego trips they only deceive themselves. So good to hear some counterbalanced truth. God bless

    By Christine - 2nd March 2018
  6. Improving tech and following Jesus are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    By Andy Smith - 2nd March 2018
  7. Hi Jennie, you might be interested to know that there is a story that decades ago the first robot to open a door pulled it straight off its hinges. The visual cues and the hand and arm movements we use are subtle and not easy to replicate.

    I realise you wanted to make more important points about ethics! Thank you.

    Yours, Tony (retired engineer)

    By A G Foord - 2nd March 2018
  8. Mankind seems always to have built structures, (societies, empires, unions, kingdoms …) that will make the world better and nicer. Then they have gone off the rails and been overtrown, often in bloody revolution and something new and better has been formed, only for that to fail too.

    It sems that Western democracy is the latest structure to be failing and torn down. It is being torn down by the very things it created to improve things. The internet, which has fractured society, centralisation which has disenfranchised people and mechanisation which has taken away team responsibilities, are examples.

    With those and the power of the destructive wea[ons we ahve created and lost control of I am not sure where we go from here. Somebody said to me recently, we need another flood. I don’t know about that but we do need prayer, loads of it for this beautiful world which we are on the way to destroying.

    By David Lewis - 2nd March 2018
  9. I believe there is a point in the future when Ai will not need any more input from humans. I think it is called ‘the singularity’
    John von Neumann was quoted as saying that “the ever accelerating progress of technology … gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” His definition of the Singularity was that the Singularity is the moment beyond which “technological progress will become incomprehensively rapid and complicated.”

    Yet another definition of singularity is this: Singularity designates the quality of being one of a kind, strange, unique, remarkable or unusual.
    Thank God for the singularity of Jesus and yet three in one.

    By John from Belfast - 2nd March 2018
  10. Thanks so much, everyone. Really appreciate the encouraging comments.

    Andy, yes, of course, one can very much be involved in improving tech while following Jesus, in fact many of the stories we read (eg about the sexism and racism in much of AI programming, let alone the questions of what uses we should put our incredible powers to) point out just how much the robotics and other tech labs need Jesus’ followers working in them.

    Tony, that’s fantastic! I am indeed interested to hear it. I went to an exhibition on robots at the Science Museum last year, and one thing I was most struck by was how complex we are, when you see how hard it is for engineers to programme robots to do things that a toddler can do – take a step (on two legs) for instance. We are truly fearfully and wonderfully made.

    By Jennie Pollock - 2nd March 2018
  11. Robotics is just one example of the slow escalation of artificial intelligence, which is inexorably taking control of our lives. There are countless examples of IT based interventions in most of our day-to-day transactions which influence how we choose products, how we conduct financial transactions, how we perceive the world around us, and even conditioning our take on new concepts (e.g. LGBTIQ+ issues, gender perception, etc). Now for my point: there are several prophetic passages in both Old and New Testaments, which indicate the coming of nonhuman control of our lives. This includes the ability to trade, to practice any type of religion, etc. Naturally, these matters are portrayed in general terms, as 21st-century terminology was not available to the inspired writers! However, adducing all the prophetic references it is quite clear that global control from a central source devolving upon extremely high technology is both inexorable and prophesied.

    By John Etherton - 2nd March 2018

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