Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Theologian on Robotics

CNET talks to theologian Anne Foerst about why robots are scary - and cool.
The third one is the whole idea of trying to understand ourselves by rebuilding ourselves. Especially through that building of embodied machines, we have learned so much about the body and so much about our capability of empathy and social interactions and stuff. So, that's pretty powerful. Then I think really we have lost--that is now the theologian speaking, obviously--but we have lost our connection to God and we have become a very lonely species, we don't have any partners with whom we can interact, because we stopped interacting with God, and stopped being close to God. So I think building robots in our image is kind of on the same page as searching for extraterrestrial intelligence and trying to understand dolphins and chimps. The whole idea that we want to--at least some of us want to--understand other beings and otherness.
I think what Foerst is trying to say is that the quest for AI is a spiritual one. I agree. I think that's why the strong, disembodied, mathematical AI is so attractive to so many people. If we simply replicate silicon versions of ourselves, we've proven a point, but we haven't created something that we aspire to. This ship of human fools is full enough without robotic counterparts. No, we aspire to have greater intelligence, greater willpower and deeper insights.

Some form of embodiment (even if it's virtual embodiment) is almost certainly going to be required before an AI understands the world as well as we do. It's even possible that some form of emotion will be required to motivate an AI. However, the AI that will truly inspire me will not replicate the imprecision of our thinking.

No comments: