The magic reality of postmodernity? AI Robot Pastor Takes to the Altar

A new mage named Mindar held a ceremony at Kodaiji, a 400-year-old Buddhist monastery in Kyoto, Japan. Like other clergy, the mage can preach and interact with believers. But Mindar has some unusual features. It is a body made of aluminum and silicon, and yes, Mindar is a robot.

The magic reality of postmodernity? AI Robot Pastor Takes to the Altar

The $1 million machine, designed in the image of Buddhism, aims to inspire faith in a country where religious beliefs are declining.

At present, Mindar does not support AI. It just repeats the pre-programmed sermon sands over and over again. But the robot’s creators say they plan to provide machine learning capabilities so they can tailor feedback to specific spiritual and ethical issues for believers.

“This robot will never die; With artificial intelligence, we hope it will become smarter to help people overcome the most difficult problems. It’s changing Buddhism,” said Tensho Goto, who lives in the temple.

Robots are also changing other religions. In 2017, India unveiled a robot that performs a Hindu river god ritual, moving round and round in front of the gods. In the same year, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the Protestant Church in Germany created a robot called BlessU-2, which provided pre-programmed prayer ceremonies for more than 10,000 people.

Then there’s Santo, a 17-inch-tall robot reminiscent of a Catholic statue of a saint. If you express your concern, it will answer, “According to the Gospel of Matthew, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about yourself.” Every day has its own troubles. “

Robotics expert Gabriele Trovato has designed SanTO to provide mental assistance to older people with limited mobility and limited social contact. Next, he wants to develop the devices for Muslims, and it remains to be seen what form it will take.

As more and more religious communities begin to integrate into robotics – in some cases aD-driven and in others not – it is bound to change the way people experience their beliefs. It may also change the way we engage in moral reasoning and decision-making, which is an important part of religion.

For devout believers, this approach has many positive effects: robots can make uninterested people curious about religion, or allow rituals without a priest. However, robots also pose a risk to religion, for example, by making them too mechanized or homogenized, or by challenging the core purposes of theology. Overall, will the advent of a usa-do religion make us better or worse? The answer depends on how we design and deploy it, and, of course, on who you are asking.

Cultural openness differences

New technology often makes us feel uncomfortable. What we end up with and what we reject is determined by a number of factors, whether it’s how well we know new technologies or our ethical premise.

Japanese worshippers who visit Mindar are reportedly less troubled by the spiritual risks of siliconization. Given that robots are already common in the country, it is understandable to be in the religious sphere.

For years, those who couldn’t afford a priest’s funeral had the option of paying a robot called Pepper to conduct the funeral at a cheaper price. At the Longquan Temple in Beijing, China, a robot monk named Hyun II recites buddhist scriptures and provides guidance on faith issues.

What’s more, the non-binary metaphysical concept of Buddhism is that everything has an inherent “Buddhist” that all beings have the potential to be inspired, which may convince Buddhists to receive spiritual guidance from technology.

“Buddhism is not a faith in God, it follows the path of the Buddha,” Goto said. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a machine, a piece of scrap metal or a tree. “

Natasha Heller, associate professor of Chinese religion at the University of Virginia, said: “Mindar’s metal skeleton is bare, and I think that’s an interesting choice – its creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro, is not trying to make something that looks exactly like humans. “She told me that Mindar’s view is based on the ideal person to be humanized, because the French Book makes it clear that Guanyin can be presented in different forms and resonates with humanity at a given time and place.

Westerners seem to be more troubled by Mindar, comparing it to Frankenstein’s monster. In Western economies, we have not yet incorporated robots into many aspects of life. What we have is a ubiquitous cultural narrative, and all we can think of in the rendering of Hollywood blockbusters is the enslavement of robot overlords.

In addition, Abrahamic religions such as Islam or Judaism tend to be metaphysically binary – sacred and blasphemous. They have more visual concerns about the visual depiction of divinity than Buddhism, so they may question Mindar-style portraits.

They also have different ideas about what makes religious activity effective. For example, Judaism emphasizes intent, while machines do not. When worshippers pray, it’s not just their mouths who say the right thing, it’s also important to have the right intentions.

At the same time, some Buddhists use prayer wheels that contain scrolls with sacred words and believe that rotating wheels has a spiritual effect even if no one recites them aloud. In hospice settings, elderly Buddhists can use devices called “Buddhist machines” – small machines the size of iPhones – to recite the Buddha’s name endlessly, even if there are no wizards around.

Despite the ological differences, it is ironic that many Westerners have subconsciously reacted negatively to robots like Mindar. The dream of creating man-made life dates back to ancient Greece, and as Adrienne Mayor, a classicalist at Stanford University, wrote in her book God and Robot, the ancients actually invented the real anthropomorphic machine and believed that the West had a long tradition of religious robots.

In the Middle Ages, Christians designed automatons to illustrate the mysteries of Easter and Christmas. A primitive robotics expert in the 16th century designed a mechanical monk who, surprisingly, still performs rituals to this day.

In other words, the real novelty is not the use of robots in religion, but the use of artificial intelligence.

How Artificial Intelligence Changed Theology and Ethics

Even if our theology shapes the AI that we create and embrace, AI shapes our theology. This is a two-way path.

Some argue that artificial intelligence will force a really significant change in theology, because if humans create intelligent machines with free will, we will eventually have to question whether they have a function similar to the soul.

“In the future, the free will we have created will will say to us, ‘I believe in God. What am I going to do? ‘At that point, we should have a response,” says Kevin Kelly, Christian co-founder of Wired magazine, who believes we need to develop “the doctrine of robots.”

Others believe that artificial intelligence will replace human priests as the object of worship. Anthony Levandowski, a Silicon Valley engineer who led the Uber/Waymo lawsuit, has built the first artificial intelligence church called Way of the Future. Levandowski’s new religion is dedicated to “achieving, accepting, and worshipping gods through artificial intelligence developed in computer hardware and software.”

Meanwhile, Franciscan sister Ilia Delio says artificial intelligence may also force traditional religions like Catholics to reimagine their sacred understanding and devotion to clergy. She holds two Doctorates and teaches theology at Villanova University.

“The Catholic view would say that priests have changed in their bodies since their appointment. Is it true? She asked. Perhaps the priest is not an esoteric nature, but a programmable feature that can be reflected even by “depraved” creations like robots. “We have these fixed philosophical ideas, and AI challenges them, challenging the transformation of Catholicism into post-human clergy. (She joked that robots might have done better as Protestants.) )

Next is the question of how robotics will change our religious experience. Traditionally, these experiences have been valuable, in part because they make room for spontaneous and surprising, emotional, and even mysterious things. If we mechanize them, that space may be lost.

Another risk relates to how AI priests handle ethical requests and decisions. Robots that learn and summarize algorithms from previous data may drive us to make decisions based on what people have done in the past, progressively homogenize answers, and narrow the scope of our mental imagination.

Heller points out that this risk also exists in the human clergy: “The clergy are also restricted, and even without AI, there are built-in inferences or limiting factors.” “

But AI systems are particularly problematic because they are often more like black boxes. We don’t know which types of bias estos are encoded into it, or what types of human differences and context they can’t understand.

Suppose you tell a robot that you are frustrated by unemployment and bankruptcy, and that the only job you can offer is morally annoying. Perhaps the robot will respond by quoting a verse from Proverbs 14: “All hard work is profitable, but doing nothing can lead to poverty.” “Even if you are not explained, it is already doing hidden interpretation when selecting it.” It analyzes your situation and algorithms to determine the recommendations, in which case it may prompt you to accept the job.

But it might be better for you if the robot quotes the maxim 16: “Give your work to the Lord and then your plan will be built.” Perhaps that verse will prompt you to continue your morally questionable work, and, as a sensitive soul, you will be happy with what you have done in the future. Maybe your depression is so severe that your work problems aren’t the focus, and the key thing is that you seek mental health treatment.

A human pastor who understands your overall situation may collect this information and give you the right advice. An Android pastor may miss the nuances and just respond to the localization questions you’re expressing.

The truth is that the clergy offer more than just answers. They are the anchor stouss of the community, bringing people together. They provide pastoral services, and they provide human connections. When we create robots to do human work cheaply, there is a danger of becoming a luxury.

On the other hand, Delio says, robots can play a prominent social role in some ways, whereas human priests may not. “In the case of the Catholic Church, the clergy are more male-oriented and have a serious problem of child abuse. Do I want a robot priest? Maybe! She said. “Robots can be gender-neutral. It may be able to transcend some of these gaps and strengthen communities in a more liberal way. “

At the end of the day, in the religious and other fields, robots and humans may best understand as non-competitors, but collaborators. Both sides can provide what the other lacks.

As Delio says, “We tend to think in one or more frameworks: whether we are robots or not.” But it is about partnership, not a substitute relationship. As long as we handle it well, they can be symbiotic relationships. “