الرئيسية Theology and Science Spiritual robots: Religion and our scientific view of the natural world
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This article was downloaded by: [University of Liverpool] On: 08 October 2014, At: 13:49 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Theology and Science Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rtas20 Spiritual robots: Religion and our scientific view of the natural world Robert M. Geraci Published online: 30 Nov 2006. To cite this article: Robert M. Geraci (2006) Spiritual robots: Religion and our scientific view of the natural world, Theology and Science, 4:3, 229-246, DOI: 10.1080/14746700600952993 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14746700600952993 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. 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Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tand; fonline.com/page/termsand-conditions Theology and Science, Vol. 4, No. 3, 2006 Spiritual Robots: Religion and Our Scientific View of the Natural World Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 ROBERT M. GERACI Abstract Religion plays a powerful role in the formation of scientific theories. By comparing the goals and practice of robotics and artificial intelligence in the US and Japan, differences between the two countries can be traced to their religious environments. Christian expectations of cosmic purpose and hope for salvation in purified, unearthly bodies leads to US researchers’ preference for artificial intelligence over humanoid robots, a desire to see cosmic meaning in the development of that intelligence, and salvation of human minds in virtual, non-biological bodies. In Japan, robots, which have been the subjects of ritual consecrations and religious transcendence, participate in a fundamental sanctity of the natural world. A positive outlook on being human promotes a preference for humanoid robots and a future in which robots serve human beings, who do not forsake their bodies for virtual lives. Divergent scientific strategies cannot be separated from the religious worlds of their practitioners. Key words: Artificial Intelligence; Buddhism; Christianity; Japan; Religion; Robotics; Science; Shinto Introduction In his early 20th century masterpiece, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Emile Durkheim claims that primitive religion enables human beings to draw connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. This power grounds scientific learning, which relies upon our ability to connect objects within comprehensible systems.1 In the modern world, religion still plays a powerful role in scientists’ interpretations of the natural world. People see nature through religious eyes, even when their lenses are scientific and professed beliefs atheistic. When scientists lack a common religious background, their approaches—even within the same field—will differ. A cross-cultural examination of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI)2 in the United States and Japan shows how research paradigms rely on their religious environments. The long traditions of resurrected salvation and historical purpose advocated by Euro-American Christianity lead to artificial intelligence and misembodied3 information in US robotics. Japanese researchers focus upon robotics engineering and have freely sought to create ISSN 1474-6700 print/ISSN 1474-6719 online/06/030229-18 ª 2006 Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences DOI: 10.1080/14746700600952993 Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 230 Theology and Science humanoid robots because Buddhism and Shinto sanctify the natural world and the place of human beings within it. The split of secular public life and religious private life in the modern West has not eliminated the power of religion in science. The persistence of sacred categories focuses science toward particular outcomes. Just as Christians have looked forward to the eschatological kingdom and have eagerly sought their salvation from earthly matter, many US researchers attach meaning and value to a future of ubiquitous computation, where cyberspace has engulfed the universe in a ‘‘Mind Fire.’’ In the United States—though not exclusively there—the search for cosmic purpose and the promise of salvation justify a focus upon information processes in machines and human beings. Key thinkers such as Hans Moravec and Ray Kurzweil run in the vanguard of this Apocalyptic AI.4 Their popular science publications challenge theologians for cultural authority by promising the dual transcendence of cosmic purpose and individual immortality.5 Shinto and Buddhism have played easily recognized roles in the development of the Japanese robotics industry. For example, engineer Masahiro Mori believes that a robot could someday become a Buddha. He and some of his acolytes believe that a Buddhist appreciation of the world promotes efficient outcomes and have set up an organization to advocate this integration of Buddhism and robotics research. Buddhist and Shinto appreciation for being human makes humanoid robots more appealing than the often-negative response to the human condition in Western traditions.6 The Japanese enjoy the presence of robots in their midst thanks in part to the Shinto perspective that the world is full of kami, sacred entities. The sacred nature of the world includes robots, whose own sanctity makes them natural partners to human beings. Apocalyptic AI: The technological sacred In the US, many researchers’ perspectives stem from a Christian tradition emphasizing the need to transcend human life through the coming of God’s Kingdom and the immortalization of human souls in resurrected bodies purified of their earthly nature.7 Faith in the inevitability and value of mechanical life and the eventual immortalization of human minds in computers mirrors these Christian traditions and plays a powerful role in US research.8 Though criticized by some major figures,9 popular science books describe the future in terms reminiscent of Christian theology: robotics and AI provide history with a purpose and extend salvation to humanity. Apocalyptic AI presumes a trajectory of evolutionary selection toward the fulfillment of ‘‘meaningful computation’’10 done by ubiquitous, immortal mechanical minds (including those of human beings that have been ‘‘downloaded’’ into machines). Purpose and salvation are common aspects of American technology. EuroAmerican technology grew out of the mechanical arts studied in medieval monasteries, from which it absorbed theological tendencies. David F. Noble has convincingly traced the millenarian and redemptive promises of technology from the 10th century through contemporary work in rocketry, atomic weaponry, Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 Spiritual Robots 231 artificial intelligence, and bioengineering.11 According to Noble, centuries of technological tradition have tied salvation and purpose to the development of useful knowledge; this tradition—if anything—grew when it was imported to the United States by the country’s early settlers. For several centuries in the United States, technological progress has been wound together with religious hopes. In America as Second Creation, David E. Nye argues that popular narratives about land use, the axe, transportation, and farming technologies promised the establishment of a Second Eden, the paradise promised by divine providence.12 Each of these technologies came with popular promises of its soteriological destiny, a trend that continued unabated in popular science publications late in the 20th century. By improving upon the New World, white American settlers could ‘‘complete the design latent within [nature].’’13 Just as American settlers sought to create a Second Eden on the new continent, US AI researchers desire a heavenly kingdom in virtual reality (VR). In the introduction to his important volume on cyberspace, architect and software pioneer Michael Benedikt sees the potential for healthy social structures in cyberspace. He believes that the ‘‘image of the Heavenly City is . . . a religious vision of cyberspace.’’14 In his view, cyberspace is an extension of religious desires to escape earthly existence. To attain the Heavenly City, human beings must give up their bodies. Virtual reality holds out the promise of disembodied paradise. Virtual reality pioneers in the 1980s looked forward to their eventual release from the constraints of the human body.15 Among these designers, virtual communities replaced those constrained by geography and age. In the future, say virtual reality advocates, life will be infinitely more interesting. Salvation attained. Computer pioneer Jaron Lanier (who coined the term ‘‘virtual reality’’) deplores the soteriological eschatology drawn up by what he calls ‘‘cybernetic totality.’’ Simultaneously, he recognizes its allure for technologists.16 Lanier believes that the allure of AI eschatology has far too great a reach among his fellow computer scientists and fears that their influence may create a self-fulfilling prophecy. From a technical standpoint, however, he believes that the fragility of software will never live up to the promises of eschatological dreams. From a moral standpoint, he emphasizes the need to establish and maintain a sense of compassionate community. The hope for disembodied salvation in cyberspace can be traced to the separation of software and hardware under John von Neumann and the early cyberneticists. Von Neumann architecture in computers treats programs as data (according to some, erasing the distinction between the two) and stores the programs in the computer’s memory. Earlier computers required rewiring and restructuring in order to instantiate a new program (this can be seen today in most pocket calculators, which are not programmable by their users); in the architecture made famous by von Neumann, reprogramming a computer can be done without any changes to the computer’s hardware. This approach was greatly aided by contributions from information theory, notably those of Claude Shannon, who successfully divorced meaning and information. Shannon’s mathematical approach to information sought to find only efficient modes of transporting information without regard for the context into which it was put. What was for Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 232 Theology and Science Shannon a mathematical simplification, however, became the definitive description of the world for others.17 Information needs no body.18 Eliminating the context of information has important technical ramifications, necessary to the success of modern computing, but when reified it promotes a distorted view of the world. As former MIT computer scientist, Joseph Weizenbaum points out, forgetting that the words come from a nervous teenager asking for his first date does great damage to the question, ‘‘Will you come to dinner with me this evening?’’19 If the same words were spoken by a college student to his roommate, the meaning would be quite different! The disembodiment of information has been critiqued20 but remains influential in US robotics and AI. This disembodiment cannot be separated from the US emphasis upon AI over robotics. In the US, the engineering required for robotics advancement (joints, power supplies, etc.) lags behind progress in software development and faster computation speeds. US researchers have proven far more adept at artificial intelligence and artificial life programming than at building functional imitations of human activity. They believe that to make machines human-like means to make machines compute a lot of information. Aside from notable exceptions such as Rodney Brooks and his students at MIT, US roboticists pay little attention to physically humanoid robots. The general disregard for humanoid bodies has not stopped comparison between human beings and machines, particularly the vast intelligences to be made possible by advances in AI. Surveying the growth of their fields, Moravec (a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon) and Kurzweil (an award-winning AI innovator) examine the impact of Moore’s Law21 on the creation of intelligent mechanical life. Both authors rest their futuristic predictions on the improvement of computational speed while resisting the need to describe how the ‘‘mundane’’ elements of engineering bodies will occur. While other authors22 point toward the technological difficulties of autonomous robots, Moravec and Kurzweil elide these problems, arguing that increasingly sophisticated programming will accompany advancing computational speeds to make intelligent robots inevitable. Focus upon computing speeds comes at the expense of demonstrable materials, joints, actuators, power supplies, etc. Disinterest in non-computational engineering advances echoes the VR pioneers’ desire to escape the human body. Kurzweil dedicates little time to the physical nature of future AIs, not caring how his intellect is embodied so long as it is no longer human and no longer subject to the limitations of being human. In The Age of Spiritual Machines, Kurzweil anticipates an increasingly virtual life in which the bodily presence of human beings becomes irrelevant. Moravec, however, describes the fantastic bodies of the future’s intelligent robots, who will affect their environment on a nanoscale. His ‘‘robot bush’’ will possess almost magical powers in its ability to create nearly anything it desires.23 The superior bodies available to robots in the future reflect the impressive computational power that Moravec expects them to wield. When their computational speeds far outstrip human thought, the robots will control their physical environments in amazing new ways. At no time, however, does Moravec analyze the engineering requisite for such amazing creatures; he simply Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 Spiritual Robots 233 assumes that as computers speed up, producing such bodies will come easily. As a robot bush or as a free-floating piece of software, neither Moravec nor Kurzweil intends to keep his human body; both anticipate transporting their ‘‘minds’’ into machines that will enable them to live a superior existence. The salvific promises of Apocalyptic AI shy away from the human body, which is considered irrelevant to the authentic human being.24 Instead of biological bodies, the minds of the future will possess virtual bodies. All meaningful life will take place in cyberspace, occupied by virtual bodies. Even Moravec’s magical robot bushes will go the way of the dinosaur as the Mind Fire sweeps across the cosmos. Just like the immortal and imperishable bodies that will inherit God’s Kingdom in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, the virtual bodies of Apocalyptic AI will be purified of their earthliness and its accompanying limitations. Though the body—as context for information—appears irrelevant in Apocalyptic AI, Weizenbaum shows how this impoverishes our notion of the human person. Weizenbaum wonders how a computer, which lacks the intuition of an unconscious mind25 and the cultural construction of human life,26 could possibly mirror any human concerns. The distinctions between information and its body, between software and hardware, are important elements in the drive toward Apocalyptic AI but they are subject to substantial critique. Apocalyptic AI is a powerful force in US research, though some roboticists criticize its basic assumptions. Rodney Brooks, of the M.I.T. AI Lab, argues that in order for robots to interact intelligently in a human world they must be embodied in the same basic form as humans.27 Cog and Kismet, two robots in his research group, share basic characteristics with human heads and (in the case of Cog) torsos. The robots crane their necks and make eye contact with objects and people. Brooks believes that social interaction is key to intelligent behavior in robots. He is constantly aware, however, that his opinion does not capture the imagination of most US researchers.28 Other major US AI projects, such as Douglas Lenat’s Cyc computer, focus upon mental cognition independent of the nature of the hardware. In this view, knowledge resembles the old mind-in-a-vat; the intellect knows the world without bodily experiencing it. Lenat hopes to program Cyc with enough common sense knowledge of the world that the computer will eventually succeed in advancing its own learning,29 which will not depend upon its material embodiment. Lenat believes, like much of the US AI community,30 that intelligence has nothing to do with the body that houses it. By Moravec’s account, the computational power of machines will lead to bodies superior to those of human beings, thus he reflects a widespread American prejudice that AI development is far more important than robotic hardware—a feeling common even among the roboticists! Despite accolades for his contributions to robotics, MIT’s Marvin Minsky, for example, believes that building actual robots is irrelevant; only the software requires designing.31 In the only English language survey of Japanese robotics, Frederik L. Schodt argues that the primary difference between US and Japanese robotics in the 1980s was in the development of software and hardware.32 Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 234 Theology and Science While it would be absurd to suggest that all roboticists and AI researchers in the US depend upon Christian categories to define their research agendas, powerful figures in the fields do so and their voices can be heard in both technoscientific and lay circles. The loudest such voices belong to Moravec and Kurzweil, both of whom have written multiple ‘‘popular science’’ books that aim to spread their hopes for salvation throughout English speaking culture. Although neither affiliates himself with Christianity, both authors make promises tightly interwoven with traditional Euro-American Christian hopes. Moravec and Kurzweil are the loudest voices in a community that includes VR pioneers, ‘‘brain builders,’’ AI researchers, and roboticists. They believe that evolution leads inexorably toward the spread of artificial intelligences throughout the universe and that human beings will upload their minds into machines to join their mechanical progeny. Turmoil may bridge the present and the future,33 just as it does in Christian millennial expectations of the Antichrist’s return, but for the Apocalyptic AI community (just as for Christians), that very mayhem is progress. Like the pains of childbirth, trial inaugurates the new world. In Apocalyptic AI, Moore’s Law justifies the belief that evolutionary natural selection will favor artificial intelligence over human intelligence.34 Foregoing the competition for resources that drives Darwin’s conception of natural selection, however, Moravec and Kurzweil subtly replace Christian teleology in evolutionary history.35 Without any clear resource at stake between human beings and artificial intelligences, the evolutionary extinction of the human species requires some other justification. The shift away from properly Darwinian thought requires that values replace resources as the driving evolutionary force. In the future, ‘‘every tiniest mote will be part of a relevant computation or storing a significant datum.’’36 Eventually, machine intelligence will become so powerful that the AIs will have nothing to do but seek further knowledge.37 By assigning values such as ‘‘relevance,’’ ‘‘significance’’ and ‘‘meaning’’ to the computation of future AIs, Moravec gives purpose to the cosmos: the development and spread of AI. For Kurzweil, as for Moravec, this spread is ‘‘inexorable’’38 and the development of AI of ‘‘greater import’’ than anything in human history.39 The future these thinkers envision cannot be easily distinguished from Christian eschatology, in which the activity of the saved might be considered ‘‘meaningful prayer.’’ Moravec’s Mind Fire, in which ‘‘physical law loses its primacy to purposes, goals, interpretations, and God knows what else’’ 40 is the point when evolution reaches its final stage. Through sleight of hand, Moravec and Kurzweil swap ‘‘survival of the fittest’’ with ‘‘survival of the smartest,’’ as justified by the supposed need for every atom in the universe to compute at ‘‘meaningful’’ problems.41 Fortunately, while the universe belongs to the superhuman computers to come, human life will benefit from the emergence of AI. Human beings will first become wealthy owners of robot corporations, which exist solely to serve human beings.42 Eventually, all human problems will be solved and life will be far better when human beings download themselves into machines; people will be happier,43 their sex lives better,44 their needs vanquished,45 and—best of all—their immortality assured.46 Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 Spiritual Robots 235 Robotic technology might save earthly life, turning the planet into a paradise for humanity47 but it also forecasts the eventual end to this saintly millennium in the ultimate salvation of the immortal mind. Artificial intelligence gives the universe a cosmic purpose, while the technology that supports it gives salvation to human beings. Kurzweil and Moravec propose that when scientists can perfectly ‘‘see’’ the information pattern stored in a human brain, they will be able to replicate it in a machine, thus instantiating that personality within the mechanical hardware. Having become machines, the former human beings will join the AIs in their inevitable spread throughout the cosmos. Our new selves will be infinitely replicable, allowing them to escape the finality of death. Just as God will dole out new bodies (or raise up the old) to house the souls of Christians in heaven,48 Moravec and Kurzweil propose that we get newer, better, less human bodies to house our immortal minds.49 Immortalizing ourselves in machine housing will guarantee our place in the virtual kingdom come at the right hand of our mechanical sons.50 If we cannot download our minds into machines, at least we might add machines to our minds. Kevin Warwick,51 initially concerned that machines will inevitably take over the world, displacing humankind,52 has more recently suggested that man-machine cyborgs might do the job instead. Cyborgs will share many of the features that make machine intelligence powerful (particularly the ability to network and share computational power)53 while retaining some semblance of humanity. The remaining flesh and bones might make a cyborg future more palatable than one of ‘‘pure’’ machine dominance, but it does little to change the eschatological vision of Moravec and Kurzweil. Warwick allows that the future will see a radical divide after which cyborgs will rule the planet through their advanced intellects, accomplishing feats impossible for human beings. With their new bodies, new values will arise, values that share little with those of humanity.54 The presence of cosmic purpose (in the form of ubiquitous and meaningful computation) and salvation (as Edenic life on Earth and immortal individual mind) demonstrate the continuing relevance of sacred Christian categories in contemporary technoscience. Even the temporary Eden corresponds to a faith in Jesus’ reign upon Earth, after which the world must be destroyed in preparation for the new one to come.55 The goals of many US roboticists and AI researchers filter through these categories. Industrial religion in Japanese robotics Buddhism and Shinto56 afford sanctity to robots: robots are blessed, take part in cosmic salvation history, and they are accordingly welcome in Japanese society. The sacred significance of the natural world in Shinto and the positive outlook on human life provided by Buddhism help explain the Japanese acceptance of robots in their midst and—especially—their quest to engineer humanoid machines. Much as in Western culture, the sacred persists in Japan despite the claims of many people, who believe that religion has disappeared from their lives. Ian Reader describes his repeated experience as a scholar of Japanese religion: the Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 236 Theology and Science Japanese people whom he meets assure him that no such thing as Japanese religion exists anymore! Nevertheless, he argues that ‘‘religious ideas, concepts and activities are socially and culturally imbibed without necessarily being explicitly recognised [sic] as religious by the performers.’’57 The continued presence of Shinto and Buddhism in Japanese robotics exemplifies this persistence. The connection between humanity and nature is one aspect of Japanese popular religious life. Basic Shinto principles advocate harmony with nature, which is considered sacred. Unlike in the Augustinian tradition of Christianity (which puts the natural world further from God, and thus less sacred, than human beings), Shinto advocates the equality of gods, nature and human beings.58 The fundamental unit of the sacred in Shinto is the kami. Kami can be the entities of mythology, the objects of shrine worship, aspects and objects of the natural world, and even human beings.59 All that which stands out, which inspires awe, is kami. In the modern world, even if industrialization has polluted it, the natural world remains worthy of reverence60 and the human being remains a part of that world. Although modern Japanese may not label themselves as ‘‘Shintoist’’ the religion appears in their closeness to nature.61 Shinto faith allowed the Japanese to integrate the earliest robots into their society. Robots fit into the natural world as easily as any other object. ‘‘In Japan . . . where the native religion sees kami . . . in all the myriad manifestations of nature, it follows naturally that a robot would have a spirit as well.’’62 The robots’ spiritual presence required ritual consecrations and naming in the earliest phases of their introduction to manufacturing. Shinto priests were employed in many factories to perform rituals over the new machines.63 The dual presence of engineering and the sanctity so marvelously demonstrated by the ritual consecration of industrial robots differs substantially from the common Western conception of a divide between nature, religion and science.64 According to H. Neill McFarland, ‘‘Shinto acknowledges no necessary contradiction between animism and modern scientism.’’65 Even where the three are believed to ‘‘get along’’ in the West, they are often considered necessarily distinct. In Shinto, they belong together. Officials at Kawasaki, however, claim that the consecration of robots no longer occurs, nor do coworkers name the robots or leave flowers by them as they once did. As one plant manager says, ‘‘we have too many to name now.’’66 While the consecration and naming was common in the late 1970s and early 1980s, by late in the decade such behavior had faded into anachronism. When the newness and exoticness of the robots wore off, ‘‘animism’’ disappeared from the workplace.67 Though the industrial robot was first developed by Joseph Engelberger in the US, the country has never been as eager in its reception of robots as Japan. For example, in response to Henry Scott Stokes’s 1982 New York Times article ‘‘Japan’s Love Affair with the Robot’’ one reader wrote the Times to express the American reluctance to integrate industrial robots into the economy.68 The sanctity afforded industrial robots by Shinto made them less threatening and more awe-inspiring than in the West. The demise of sacred practices in industrial robotics does not mean that Shinto never had a real place in the factory. The disappearance of sacred behavior should Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 Spiritual Robots 237 have been expected. Max Weber argues that charisma diminishes once it becomes routine. In particular, the construction of a monetary economy that regulates the behavior of the charismatic leader de facto eliminates charisma.69 The shift of industrial robot from object of admiration and worship, which leads the Japanese people to a new world, to a function of the industrial economy, a factor in greater production, destroyed its charismatic presence and resulted in the abandonment of sacred practices. The inherent instability of charisma70 means that as the industrial robot became increasingly a member of the factory team and decreasingly an outside source of power and provision, it lost its aura. That Japanese factory workers stopped showering robots with gifts should come as no surprise; rather, we should be surprised if the industrial robot could take its place among the standard economic operators of the factory without losing its charismatic appeal. Although industrial robots no longer receive the attention they once did, robotics and the robots themselves remain closely tied to the sacred. While the robots working in manufacturing plants may no longer be consecrated, roboticists at Junji Furusho’s lab at the Osaka University Department of ComputerControlled Mechanical systems drape a demon mask over the head of their biped robot.71 Shinto priests no longer receive invitations to a robot’s first day of work but a robot at the Central Cemetery in Yokohama, Japan does its own consecrating. Shaped like a human, the machine is lowered into the prayer hall every morning to chant Buddhist prayers on behalf of human beings.72 If a robot can build merit for human beings, perhaps one day it will earn merit for itself; engineer Masahiro Mori believes that ‘‘robots have the Buddha-nature within them—that is, the potential for attaining buddhahood.’’73 Technological objects have a history of sacred activity in Japanese Buddhism. Just as Shinto priests officiated at the sanctification of industrial robots, Buddhist monks lead consecrations at the demise of everyday objects.74 Annual rituals exist, for example, for discarded dolls and printing blocks, both of which possess life and the potential for buddhahood.75 These objects share their ‘‘life’’ with humanity and their memorialization promotes their peaceful integration into the cosmic Buddha. Mori, like the ritualists who memorialize dolls and printing blocks, demonstrates the integration of religion and technology in Japanese culture. In 1970, Mori founded the Jizai Kenkyujo (Mukta Research Institute), a group dedicated to using Buddhist principles as the spur for creativity in the robotics industry. Group members chant Buddhist scriptures and meditate to find new ways of designing and building robots. For example, Sueo Matsubara, chairman of Automax, used Buddhist texts on purification and cleanliness as the philosophical foundation for a robot that operates inside crude oil tanks. The robot turns refuse into a resource by stirring up the sludge at the bottom of the tanks and recycling it as usable oil.76 Not all of Japanese robotics is about utility, however. While Toyota claims that their trumpet playing robots have been designed with helping the elderly in mind77 and Honda’s Asimo may one day end up helping in the home,78 the electronics firm Sony has steadfastly rejected making a useful robot in favor of a useless entertainment robot, Qrio. It ‘‘offers something transcending usefulness Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 238 Theology and Science that strikes a chord in the human heart.’’79 The Japanese seek a greater, more real experience of life in Qrio, a delight that cannot be reduced to simplified workloads or higher Gross National Product. As the promise of the world to come, Qrio possesses the charisma that the marketplace stripped away from industrial robots. Although Qrio never received Shinto blessings, it is the locus of robotic transcendence in Japan today. Qrio fires the imagination, it allows the Japanese to see themselves in their best light: as technologically innovative, as creators of a new form of life. Qrio shows the Japanese as parents and gods. The life attributed to Qrio as it dances to Japanese pop music foreshadows the hope of the true robot person to come. Qrio borrows against that future robot, possessing a charisma based upon the creative apotheosis of the Japanese people. The Japanese possess a nearly unshakable faith in the power of technology to benefit human life,80 which leads to their welcome of both industrial81 and entertainment machines. Qrio’s endearing antics demonstrate the potential of humanoid robots; when Qrio or Asimo makes a public appearance in Japan, thousands of visitors flock to greet it. The Japanese are excited by their humanoid robots in a way that few others share, leading to a ten year Humanoid Robotics Project in the 1990s and 2000s. The Japanese comfortably share space with robots and eagerly await each new device on the commercial market, from Sony’s AIBO dog to house-sitting robots. The popularity of the humanoid robots (Qrio, Asimo, Toyota’s trumpeter, etc.) demonstrates the Japanese fondness for humanity; there is no trace of the disdain so prevalent in the soteriological promises of US robotics. In the US, researchers have generally avoided making robots that look like humans but the Japanese public and their roboticists have made them a top priority. The sacralization of robots enabled by both Shinto and Buddhist faith contributes to their acceptability in Japan but does not explain the Japanese desire to build humanoid robots. Frequently, writers and engineers both have attributed such projects to the influence of Tetsuwan Atomu (‘‘Mighty Atom;’’ known in the United States as ‘‘Astro Boy’’).82 Astro Boy was a popular comic character in the 1950s and subsequently became an international television character. But while Astro Boy no doubt introduced humanoid robots to some children, he does not explain the overall welcome that Japanese culture has afforded to humanoid robotics. After all, Astro Boy only begs the question: why do the Japanese have an affinity for him in the first place? Why do Japanese adults fondly reminisce over him while he is all but forgotten in the US? The Japanese attitude toward partner robots may have ‘‘manifested early on . . . in Astro Boy’’83 but it did not likely spring up as a result of Astro Boy or similar comics. Valorization of being human in Shinto and Buddhism explains the Japanese preference for humanoid robots. In Shinto, human beings can become kami. The possibility of sanctity rests in human beings as human beings, not—as we see in the some traditions of Christianity—in their ability to transcend the human condition. Buddhism, allows that all of existence can be transformed for the good84 and positions human life at the centre of the universe.85 Indeed, while the Japanese people rarely portray kami with humanoid form, doing so for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is commonplace.86 The preference Japanese Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 Spiritual Robots 239 people show for Buddhas in human form and the power of human beings to become kami demonstrate the sanctity of human existence. Although Buddhists aim to transcend the world of rebirths, they recognize the value of human life. A human birth offers great potential for progress on the path to enlightenment whereas other births (be they lower, as in animals, or greater, as in gods) have more limited potential. As a result, Buddhism generally lacks the aversion to human life often observed in Western thought. While US roboticists have followed a common Christian trend to escape earthly life, Japanese roboticists have reveled in it. The value placed on the human in Japanese robotics contrasts with the Western roboticists’ desire to transcend the body. In Japanese religion and philosophy, the body cannot be separated from the mind; therefore, the body is not to be discarded in favor of mental salvation common in the West. In Japanese thought, the mind and body are in an internal relationship, which means that one ‘‘cannot be what it is without the other.’’87 To think of the mind without the body cannot be done; the mind is inherently connected to the body. Owing to this, ‘‘the Japanese do not recognize the mindbody problem at all.’’88 Japanese concerns over Western discomfort with humanoid robots led Honda to send a representative (Katustoshi Tagami, then chief of Honda’s Wako Research Center) to the Vatican to consult with Reverend Joseph Pittau (then rector of Pontifical Gregorian University) in 1996; reassured that the Vatican did not oppose the work, Tagami returned home confident.89 Though the Vatican did not criticize Honda’s effort, humanoid robots have been frequently categorized with Frankenstein’s monster in Western culture,90 representing the potentially disastrous effects of uninhibited technology. Science fiction author Isaac Asimov has repeatedly blamed the ‘‘Frankenstein complex’’ for the unpopularity of robots in the West. Such fears are sufficiently common that Daniel Wilson, a Ph.D. candidate at Carnegie Mellon, recently published a humorous introduction to robotics entitled: How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself against the Coming Rebellion.91 The Japanese, on the contrary, enthusiastically seek humanoid robots and their eagerness has paid off in technological innovation. Asimo, Qrio, and others demonstrate Japanese engineering prowess. Japanese roboticists take little notice of the potentially disastrous affects of robotic technology.92 One of Japan’s most eminent researchers, Fumio Hara, believes that if ‘‘you are a good, kind person to the robot, the robot will become kind in return’’93 while the highly influential Shigeo Hirose believes that robots ‘‘can be saints—intelligent and unselfish.’’94 Japanese commentators look toward the robotic future without fear that robots will disenfranchise human workers or seek to overthrow their human creators. Japanese emphasis upon human needs permits the popular thrill at a robotic future in Japan. US researchers, on the other hand, decry the technological ‘‘armageddonism’’ that casts aspersions on their work. US scientists try to shift attention away from Frankenstein’s monster toward more positive perspectives but do not always succeed in their aims. Moravec, for example, claims that the robots of the future will be our ‘‘mind children’’ but there is a difference between his approach and that of the Japanese. The latter believe that human beings and 240 Theology and Science Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 robots will form a partnership in which human needs are primary; Moravec places the ‘‘needs’’ of the robots before the needs of earthly human beings.95 Already today, human workers experience pressure to accommodate the needs and skills of their machines, rather than vice-versa; this—should software code be more stable in the future—might be the first step toward machine domination of the planet.96 Hugo de Garis goes even further than Moravec. De Garis considers cosmically intelligent computers worthy of religious worship.97 For him, the machines are so much more valuable than humanity that he is willing to sacrifice the entire human race if our extinction results from the development of such computers, which he calls Artilects. De Garis serves the Artilects, Asimo serves humanity. This difference is perhaps the reason why so many Western critics fear the power of robotics and AI. Conclusion Religious environments affect our view of the natural world and thereby direct scientific practice; when we see the world differently, we practice science differently.98 Disparate approaches to robotics and AI in the US and Japan demonstrate how a scientific field can diverge based upon the religious worlds of its practitioners. The persistence of cosmic purpose and the search for salvation in a purified, transcendent body lead US researchers to focus upon AI development and the means by which the human body can be discarded forever. Sacralization of the natural world and human technology in Shinto and the positive spin given to human life in Shinto and Buddhism promote the development of robotic engineering and the glorification of the humanoid robot in Japan. Popular science publications provide an excellent opportunity to examine the relationship between science, our view of the natural world, and religion. Just as robot stories are ‘‘interfaces between culture and science,’’99 scientific robot publications mediate between our view of the natural world and our culture. In their accounts of robotics and AI research, scientists express the religious worlds that contribute to the direction of their paradigms. While many of the individuals are agnostic or even atheist, religion maintains some power over their work. No amount of materialist scientific practice will eliminate the cultural grounds of the human person; the religious environment in which one is raised and trained contributes to the ways in which the person will see the natural world and practice science. Endnotes 1 Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, trans. Karen Fields (New York: The Free Press, 1995), 239 – 241. 2 Although robotics and artificial intelligence refer to separate fields (the one dealing with design and fabrication of robots, the other with the development of intelligent programming in computers), I will simplify the matter by collapsing them into one broader scientific community on the basis of their scientific and cultural links. As one Spiritual Robots 3 4 Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 241 eminent roboticist puts it: ‘‘Although the fields of computer vision, robotics, and AI have their fairly separate conferences and specialty journals, an implicit intellectual pact between them has developed over the years.’’ Rodney Brooks, ‘‘New Approaches to Robotics,’’ Science, 253:5025 (13 September, 1991): 1227 – 1232, 1227. By the term ‘misembodied’ I want to point toward the odd nature of embodiment in AI. The immortal salvation of the future requires a kind of embodiment (some computer housing for the informational self) but the human body, itself, becomes irrelevant. In particular, a virtual body becomes more significant than a human body. Misembodiment refers to the move toward a purified body; purified, in this case, of its humanness. For a full comparison of eschatological apocalypticism in Christianity and the views of Apocalyptic AI advocates, see Geraci, ‘‘Apocalpytic AI: Religion and the Promise of Artificial Intelligence,’’ in progress. Robert M. Geraci, The Cultural History of Religions and the Ethics of Progress: Building the Human in 20th Century Religion, Science, and Art (Santa Barbara: University of California, 2005), doctoral dissertation, 96 – 148. Thanks to original sin, being human must be considered a spiritual hindrance in Christianity. While Buddhists consider the human body to be an illusion, they likewise consider the human mind to be an illusion. Being human allows greater spiritual growth than other births in Buddhism, promoting a more appreciative perspective on our physical condition. Apocalyptic AI is not limited to the United States. Close allies to US apocalypticists include Kevin Warwick and Hugo de Garis, neither of whom were born in the US (the latter now teaches at Utah State University, though). While I will not generalize this paper’s thesis to include all of Euro-American culture, there is no question as to whether the apocalyptic trends are common to researchers in both the US and Europe. Though it takes us away from the religious aspects of robotics and AI research, we should note that rather than focusing their efforts on industrial or humanoid robots, U.S. roboticists have approached robotics as the fulfillment of military goals in order to acquire funding from the Department’s of Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) or the Office of Naval Research. The infiltration of military objectives into research programs bears as important weight as religion in the progression of technoscientific paradigms but to weigh their respective contributions against one another would require far more space than this paper allows. While Japanese robotics funding comes almost exclusively from corporations, US funding comes primarily from DARPA. For example, see Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us (New York: Pantheon, 2002), 186 – 187. Hans Moravec, ‘‘Pigs in Cyberspace,’’ in Thinking Robots, An Aware Internet, and Cyberpunk Librarians: The 1992 LITA President’s Program, eds. R. Bruce Miller and Milton T. Wolf (Chicago: Library and Information Technology Association, 1992), 15 – 21, 15. David F. Noble, The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention (New York: Penguin, 1997). David E. Nye, America as Second Creation: Technology and Narratives of New Beginning (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2003). Nye, America as Second Creation, 10. Michael Benedikt, ed., ‘‘Introduction,’’ in Cyberspace: First Steps (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1991), 1 – 26, 16. Allucquere Rosanne Stone, ‘‘Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?: Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures,’’ in Cyberspace: First Steps, 81 – 118. Jaron Lanier, ‘‘One Half of a Manifesto,’’ Edge, 11 November 2000: http:// www.edge.org/3rd_culture/lanier/lanier_index.html. N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 54. Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 242 Theology and Science 18 The disembodiment of information further benefited from the neurological modeling of Warren McCulloch, whose work with Walter Pitts offered a model of human neuron activity that could be abstracted away from the brain in representations commensurate with those of machine information (Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, 50 – 63). 19 Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1976), 200. 20 See Hayles, How We Became Posthuman; Mary Midgley, Science as Salvation (New York: Routledge, 1992); Noble, The Religion of Technology. 21 Moore’s Law predicts that computational speed will double every year at least through 2018 via the ability to double the number of transistors per inch on an integrated circuit. Recently, the doubling of computation has taken closer to eighteen than twelve months but it is still considered a valid rule of thumb. 22 For example, see Mark E. Rosheim, Robot Evolution: The Development of Anthrobotics (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1994). 23 Hans Moravec, Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1988), 107 – 108. 24 The body counts for nothing in the Apocalyptic AI community. For example, in his discussion of the ethical questions raised by cyborg technologies, Kevin Warwick believes that physical enhancements to the body make no difference. ‘‘Essentially it is not so much the physical enhancements or repairs that should be our cause for concern,’’ he writes, ‘‘but where the nature of an individual is changed by the linking of human and machine mental functioning.’’ (Kevin Warwick, ‘‘Cyborg morals, cyborg values, cyborg ethics,’’ Ethics and Information Technology 5:3 (2003): 131 – 137, 131.) That is, the body is irrelevant to considerations of what it really means to be human; only the mind counts. 25 Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason, 222. 26 Ibid., 223 – 225. Weizenbaum points out that just as differing cultural environments lead to different kinds of people, the growth and development of children into adults will clearly distinguish them from computers, which undergo no such process. Moreover, the problems that help define a human being as such will be incomprehensible to computers (even those whose intelligences were once instantiated in human bodies) so the divide between humanity and machines will be unbridgeable. 27 Brooks, Flesh and Machines. 28 Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, Robo sapiens: evolution of a new species (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2000), 58 – 61. 29 Justin Mullins, New Scientist, 186:2496 (23 – 29 April 2005): 32 – 37. 30 Lenat and the Apocalyptic AI advocates are members of the ‘‘Strong AI’’ crowd, which believes that computers will someday equal and/or surpass human intelligence. Many researchers, labeled ‘‘Weak AI’’ advocates, have more modest goals. Weak AI advocates argue that computers, however efficient at solving problems, are not truly conscious (nor will they become so). Many in the Weak AI crowd focus their efforts on software that solves specific problems (such as an aircraft autopilot system) rather than seeking the general knowledge with which Lenat hopes to infuse Cyc. The difference between Weak and Strong AI is philosophical, having to do with the presence of consciousness, but it often plays out in the research agendas of the individual scientists. 31 Menzel and D’Aluisio, Robo sapiens, 31. 32 Frederik L. Schodt, Inside the Robot Kingdom: Japan, Mechatronics, and the Coming Robotopia (New York: Kodansha International, 1988), 37. For a long time, this devotion to AI technology meant that the US was undisputed leader of robotic software technology, but a growing awareness of European and Japanese excellence in some fields of AI has challenged US hegemony (Bjorn Carey, ‘‘US Losing Robotics Edge,’’ LiveScience, September 12, 2005: http://www.livescience.com 33 Hugo de Garis, an Australian AI researcher based in Utah, predicts that a war will emerge between those who support building powerful AIs and those who oppose it. Spiritual Robots 34 Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 243 In the end, perhaps the AIs will be the only ones left. See, de Garis, The Artilect War: Cosmists vs. Terrans: A Bitter Controversy Concerning Whether Humanity Should Build Godlike Massively Intelligent Machines (ETC Publications, 2005). Warwick suspects that violence could erupt between human beings and machines, but places little value upon the victory of the latter. Moravec, Mind Children, 158 – 159; idem, Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind (New York: Oxford University, 1999), 165; Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (New York: Viking, 1999), 41 – 42. Geraci, The Cultural History of Religions and the Ethics of Progress, 117. Moravec, Robot, 166. Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines, 258. Ibid., 7. See also Hugo de Garis, The Artilect War, 175. De Garis speculates that the rise of ‘‘Artilects,’’ or ‘‘massively intelligent godlike computers’’ might be necessitated by the laws of physics. Ibid., 5. Moravec, Robot, 14. It is worth noting that Warwick believes that machines will become the Earth’s dominant species as they become more intelligent than human beings. Warwick does not believe they will serve humanity but, rather, that humanity will be made into the machines’ slaves. See Warwick, March of the Machines: The Breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence (Chicago: University of Illinois,  2004), 261. Warwick believes that machine species will be superior but places no clear value judgment upon that, perhaps because he does not expect downloading our consciousness into machines will work. His more recent work casts some doubt upon the inevitability of ‘‘pure’’ machine dominance, however, as shall be discussed later. Ibid., 121. Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines, 236. Ibid., 148, 206. Ibid., 248; Moravec, Robot, 137. Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines, 128 – 129; Moravec, Mind Children, 4, 112. There is a deeply ambiguous moral position in the utopian claims of Moravec and Kurzweil. Both assure us that the advent of robots will lead to a superior society. Moravec believes that the plethora of intelligent robots will ‘‘force’’ human beings up the social ladder into a universal class of wealthy owners (Robot, 128) without regard for the possibility that some people will simply become disenfranchised and left out of the kingdom come. His position matches some of the rhetoric in industrial robotics (Kanji Yonemoto, Japan’s Robotics Industry: Its Short History and Future Prospect (Tokyo: Japan External Trade Organization, 1982)), where the presence of industrial robots is assumed to improve production and eventually create more white-collar work. Kurzweil claims that there will likely be an underclass but that it will be ‘‘politically neutralized’’ (The Age of Spiritual Machines, 196). Kurzweil is clearly the more realistic—especially given that the advent of industrial robotics has tended toward a large net decrease in available employment (D. A. Bell, Employment in the Age of Drastic Change: The Future with Robots (Kent, England: Abacus Press, 1984))—but his position suffers from equally atrocious moral reasoning insofar as he simply refuses to engage the ethical situation he presents. In contrast, systematic theologian Antje Jackelén believes that some sort of care must be taken for the needs of the poor in her analysis of AI (‘‘The Image of God as Techno Sapiens,’’ Zygon, vol. 37, no. 2 (2002): 289 – 302, 294). 1 Cor 15:42 – 44, 15:51 – 53. The Christian (especially Puritan) focus upon individual salvation might be operative in the competitive, individualistic approach to US robotics. While collaborative ventures occur, they are far less frequent than in Japan, where industry focuses upon the power of the group, not the ability of any one ‘‘superman’’ (Schodt, Inside the Robot Kingdom, 206). Admittedly, with fewer funding opportunities collaboration is less of a luxury and more 244 Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 Theology and Science of a necessity than in the US but Asakura Reiji believes that cooperation among companies specializing in integrated circuits, software development, and mechanical engineering makes Japanese robotics something special (‘‘The Androids Are Coming,’’ Japan Echo 30:4 (August 2003): 13 – 18, 17). The individualism of American culture, nourished by Puritanism in the colonial days may account for some reluctance on the part of American individuals and groups to work together in robotics. In contrast to this individualistic spiritual path, Ian Reader demonstrates that Japanese religion provides the basis for social cohesion and harmony, even where the spiritual path in question emphasizes the role of individuals (Ian Reader and George J. Tanabe, Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1991), 107)! The use of the masculine ‘‘son,’’ refers, of course, to the Biblical narrative but also to the frequently misogynist perspective of some of these writers. For analyses of the masculine bias in AI and robotics, see the appendix to Noble’s Religion and Technology. Warwick is not an American; he lives in the UK. Despite this, he merits attention in this paper because his position closely resembles that of the US apocalypticists. Warwick, March of the Machines. Warwick, ‘‘Cyborg Morals, Cyborg Values, Cyborg Ethics,’’ 133. Ibid., 136. Rev 21:1; Moravec, Robot, 167. Unlike in the West—in which Christianity dominates—in Japan, Shinto and Buddhism (and perhaps other religions) form a seamless unit. As a result, beliefs and practices from both religions intertwine to influence Japanese robotics. The Japanese ‘‘do not seem to differentiate much, if at all, between the two major religious traditions in Japan, Shinto and Buddhism’’ (Reader and Tanabe, Practically Religious, 2). Practitioners of one faith are likely to be practitioners of the other. Often the contributions of one religion or the other can be seen in specific beliefs and practices of robotics but one must never lose sight of the religions’ integration, Reader and Tanabe, Practically Religious, 12. H. Byron Earheart, Japanese Religion: Unity and Diversity (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1982), 7 – 8. Ibid., 8. Ibid., 195. H. Neill McFarland, Rush Hour of the Gods: A Study of New Religious Movements in Japan (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 20. Reiji, ‘‘The Androids are Coming,’’ 18. Schodt, Inside the Robot Kingdom, 196; Henry Scott Stokes, ‘‘Japan’s Love Affair With the Robot,’’ New York Times (10 January 1982). On the divide between nature, religion, and science see James D. Proctor, ‘‘Resolving Multiple Visions of Nature, Science, and Religion,’’ Zygon, vol. 39, no. 3 (2004): 637 – 657. McFarland, Rush Hour of the Gods, 26. Quoted in Schodt, Inside the Robot Kingdom, 197. Schodt, Inside the Robot Kingdom, 197. Harry W. Clifford, ‘‘Japan’s Robot Revolution,’’ New York Times (14 February 1982). Max Weber, On Charisma and Institution Building: Selected Papers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), 20 – 21. Ibid., 22 – 23. Menzel and D’Aluisio, Robo sapiens, 48. Aside from a general desire for increasing anthropomorphic appearance, there may be a link between this demon mask and the Shinto practice of placing clothes and sunglasses on statues in commemoration of the dead (e.g. see Earheart, Japanese Religion, 9). ‘‘The Buddhist Monk Machine,’’ Colors: A Magazine about the Rest of the World 8 (June 1994), 33. Admittedly, the ‘‘monk machine’’ is not a robot by many definitions of the Spiritual Robots 73 74 75 Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 245 term. It does not, for example, respond in any way to its environment. Its approximation of the human form and human powers (prayer), however, make it an apt example. Masahiro Mori, The Buddha in the Robot: A Robot Engineer’s Thoughts on Science and Religion, trans. Charles S. Terry (Tokyo: Kosei,  1999), 13. Often in Japan, Shinto priests are responsible for birth rites while Buddhist monks officiate at funerals. Interestingly, this same dynamic appears here in the sanctification of technology. Reader and Tanabe, Practically Religious, 46. While the authors offer no interpretation of these rituals, I speculate that the dolls and the printing blocks—in particular—acquire sacred significance thanks to their contribution to human growth (the one by helping children become adults, the other by instantiating thoughts as words, allowing the dissemination of information and bringing society to ‘‘maturity’’). Schodt, Inside the Robot Kingdom, 210 – 211 James B. Treece, ‘‘Toyota’s New Model Blows a Mean Trumpet; A Robotic Star is Born: Can It Stay in Step with Honda’s Asimo?,’’ Automotive News, 78: 6085 (22 March 2004): 44. Yuzo Yamaguchi, ‘‘All Too Human: Honda’s Walking, Talking Robot, Asimo, Leads Automaker into Uncharted Territory, Engineers Ponder Potential for Sharing Technology,’’ Automotive News, 76: 5968 (28 January 2002): 100 – 103, 100. Reiji, ‘‘The Androids are Coming,’’ 15. Kondo Motohiro, ‘‘Japanese Creativity: Robots and Anime,’’ Japan Echo, 30:4 (August 2003): 6 – 8, 7. Then executive director of the Japan Industrial Robot Association Kanji Yonemoto expressed in Japan’s Robotics Industry: Its Short History and Future Prospect that the application of robots to industry would counter the dehumanizing influence of the conveyor production system (12). Interestingly, he recognizes that industrial technologies have been painful at best for some members of the population while simultaneously presenting later technologies as the answer to the problems created by industry in the first place. Economic growth slips into the role of social betterment in this analysis without defending its new role. For example, see Bob Johnstone ‘‘Japan’s Friendly Robots,’’ Technology Review (May/ June 1999) and Menzel and D’Aluisio, Robo sapiens, 196. Motohiro, ‘‘Japanese Creativity,’’ 7. Reader and Tanabe, Practically Religious, 34. Ibid., 46. Ibid., 35. Thomas P. Kasulis, ‘‘The Body—Japanese Style,’’ Self as Body in Asian Theory and Practice, ed. Thomas P. Kasulis, with Roger T. Ames and Wimal Dissanayake (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York, 1993): 299 – 320, 305. Ibid., 301. Yamaguchi, ‘‘All Too Human,’’ 101. Schodt, Inside the Robot Kingdom, 198 – 199; Stokes, ‘‘Japan’s Love Affair with Robots;’’ Johnstone, ‘‘Japan’s Friendly Robots.’’ In the US, intelligent, particularly humanoid, robots are subject to deeply ambiguous feelings. While they promise a life of leisure and perhaps immortality, they likewise threaten humanity with obsolescence and death. For a lengthier account of how US culture perceives intelligent robots and the connection between them and theological questions of the Image of God and human dignity, see Geraci, ‘‘Theological Implications of Artificial Intelligence: What Science Fiction Tells Us About Robotic Technology,’’ Zygon, vol. 41 (2006), forthcoming. New York: Bloomsbury, 2005. Many Western roboticists laud the coming of a robot age but their expectations have been universally accompanied by critics who decry the dangerous potential of technology. Bill Joy, Sun Microsystems’ former Chief Scientist, for example, is well known for his criticism of unfettered robotic research (Bill Joy, ‘‘Why the Future Doesn’t 246 Downloaded by [University of Liverpool] at 13:49 08 October 2014 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 Theology and Science Need Us,’’ Wired 8.04 (April 2000). Jaron Lanier criticizes the salvific promises of Apocalyptic AI but also the doom and gloom scenario cast by Joy (Joel Garreau, Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies—and What It Means To Be Human (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 196 – 200). He thinks that software coding will always limit the development of AI but that profound cultural changes (for the better) might be wrought through scientific advancement (‘‘One Half of a Manifesto’’). Other eminent researchers, such as Hugo de Garis and Kevin Warwick, while fervently anticipating the eschatological days to come, also recognize that human beings may come to regret the changes they have wrought (Menzel and D’Aluisio, Robo sapiens, 32). Menzel and D’Aluisio, Robo sapiens, 76. Ibid., 89. Unlike most Japanese roboticists, Hirose opposes the effort to create a humanoid robot (on engineering, not metaphysical, grounds). Despite his aversion to humanoid robots, Hirose has little in common with Western researchers. While Moravec, Kurzweil and their US compatriots argue that AI and robotics will immortalize human minds, Hirose rejects the idea that even a robot should be immortal (Menzel and D’Aluisio, Robo sapiens, 89); his position recalls the Buddhist emphasis upon the impermanence of all things. Lanier also decries the asymmetry of needs between human beings and machines in US robotics and AI. He does not believe that future machines’ needs should be more important than those of human beings (‘‘One Half of a Manifesto: Response to the Reality Club,’’ Edge, 11 November 2000: http://www.edge.org/discourse/jaron_ answer.html. Warwick, March of the Machines, 128. Warwick apparently opposes this reversal of control. De Garis. The Artilect War, 104. The practice of science has drawn upon its religious environment in all cultures and will likely do so in all times. Although this paper’s scope is mainly confined to late 20th and early 21st century US and Japanese robotics, its broader implications include the greater history of science. Sena Hideaki, ‘‘Astro Boy Was Born on April 7, 2003,’’ Japan Echo 30:4 (August 2003): 9 – 12, 11. Biographical Notes Robert M. Geraci is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College. He has authored several essays in the field of religion and science. Research funding for this paper was provided by the New Visions of Nature, Science and Religion program at the University of California, Santa Barbara.