According to Genesis, we were created in the image of God then quickly exercised our free will to rebel against Him. Today, in our heightened frenzy to engineer humanlike robots, I see a disturbing recapitulation of the Creation story.
Scientists and engineers inventing robots are truly God’s image-bearers insofar as they enjoy creating and are motivated by good intentions. They aim to invent automated helpmates that vacuum floors, fetch coffee, and assemble automobiles – even drive them for us!
As in the Creation story, however, there’s evidence we’re at risk of losing control of our handiwork. In Russia a humanoid named Promobot IR77, programmed to learn from its surroundings and avoid obstacles, has strangely escaped from the lab twice – causing its befuddled creators to announce they might need to destroy it.
In labs throughout the United States, Germany, Japan – all over the world – God’s image-bearers are joyfully creating clever minions to milk cows, plant and pick lettuce crops, and even make pizzas for us. “Imagine!” enthuses Alex Garden, co-founder of the Silicon Valley startup Zume Pizza. “It would be like Dominoes without the labor component. Then you can start to see how incredibly profitable that can be.”
As artificially intelligent robots stand poised to storm every aspect of our lives – androids that walk, talk, sing, dance, work, play, learn, emote, fight, and even have sex – we face another momentous decision. Will we choose to proceed cautiously, wisely, divinely, in a way that genuinely improves the human condition? Or, once again, will we choose to behave selfishly – for profit; to be waited on hand and foot; to create slavish beings simply because we can, not because we should?
The vision of a robot-inhabited utopia that values profits over people is naturally disquieting.
The European Parliament, for one, is deeply troubled that workplace robots are increasingly displacing human employees – so much so, they recently proposed the far-out idea of making all “electronic persons” pay taxes, including social security.
The disturbing vision of a robot-infested world is depicted in HBO’s upcoming new sci-fi series "Westworld" – whose controversial opening scene features the rape of a female android.
The reality of such a dystopia is not far behind. “Sex with very smart and sexually attractive androids will become common, very common,” says well-known futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson – in fact, by 2050, even more common than sex with other humans.
Our current, unbridled enthusiasm for robots echoes, I believe, the infamous decision we made when faced with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In that instance, according to the Creation story, we had a choice between maintaining a divine innocence and acquiring a perilous kind of enlightenment. We opted for the latter and ever since then, we’ve had to navigate with impaired judgement through life’s dangers and complexities.
Now, as artificially intelligent robots stand poised to storm every aspect of our lives – androids that walk, talk, sing, dance, work, play, learn, emote, fight, and even have sex – we face another momentous decision. Will we choose to proceed cautiously, wisely, divinely, in a way that genuinely improves the human condition? Or, once again, will we choose to behave selfishly – for profit; to be waited on hand and foot; to create slavish beings simply because we can, not because we should?
If we choose the latter route, then surely we will end up farther away than ever from the paradise God originally created for us.
Michael Guillen was born in East Los Angeles, earned his B.S. from UCLA and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Cornell University in physics, mathematics and astronomy. For eight years he was an award-winning physics instructor at Harvard University. For fourteen years he was the Emmy-award-winning science correspondent for ABC News, appearing regularly on "Good Morning America," "20/20," "Nightline," and "World News Tonight." Dr. Guillen is the host of the History Channel series, "Where Did It Come From?" and producer of the award-winning family movie, "LITTLE RED WAGON." His latest best-selling book, Amazing Truths: How Science and the Bible Agree, is published by HarperCollins. For more information, visit his website: www.michaelguillen.com.