Science fiction has long speculated about the relationships and conflicts of mankind and intelligent machines (just for a few examples, think of Fritz Lang's seminal Metropolis, the Terminator and Matrix franchises, and the recent film Her). But with the snowballing effect of recent computing power and tremendous strides toward true artificial intelligence from companies like Google, the fiction may be fact well within our lifetime.
This raises a host of implications for faith, ministry, and ethics, as machines as companions, soldiers, employees, or even "lovers" is in the realm not of possibility but of probability.
With these coming changes in mind, North Carolina's Southern Evangelical Seminary & Bible College has recently purchased a robot to begin researching the ethical implications of robots integrated into everyday human life.
For the last two weeks, Kevin Staley, associate professor of theology, said the robot has been living at his home and frightening his cat as he tested its mobility and programming capabilities.
"I want students to think about human-to-machine relationships, attachments we form that may cause us to dehumanize other human beings," said Staley.
As to whether Southern's robot will get a biblical name, Staley said the school's hosting a contest to find the right name.
Staley comments on the existing need for thoughtful tech use:
"We've already developed relationships with the devices we use, and we need to be talking about it," he said. "It's already shaped our culture, and we need to take a look at things and be wise instead of carte blanche approval and acceptance to every new technology that comes out."
Copyright © 2014 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
Click here for reprint information on Leadership Journal.