Isaac Asimov, the prolific science fiction writer of over 500 books, wrote in his classic piece, I, Robot: "The Master created humans first as the lowest type, most easily formed. Gradually, he replaced them by robots, the next higher step, and finally, he created me, to take the place of the last humans."
The New Scientist is reporting that researchers at Columbia Engineering have given a robot self-awareness of its location. They define this self-awareness as when a robot can create a model of itself to plan how to move and reach a goal. The robotic arm is powered by artificial intelligence and can contort itself to avoid obstacles.
One of the study’s authors stated, “To me, this is the first time in the history of robotics that a robot has been able to create a mental model of itself… I’ve been working for quite a while on trying to get machines to understand what they are, not by being programmed to assemble a car or vacuum, but to think about themselves.”
The researchers believe that a robot that is fully self-aware, in a human sense, maybe 20 to 30 years away, with ‘full awareness’ taking much longer to achieve. Put another way – robots could be fully self-aware in 20 years, which is a stunning concept.
The advancements in artificial intelligence provide fertile material for us, as followers of Christ, to examine important questions like: What does it mean to be human? To be made in God’s image? Is it wrong for humans to try and ‘create’ machines that replicate humans? Do machines have souls? Can they determine right from wrong? Good from evil?
This new technology contains the power for doing great harm. Take Communist China, for example. Their social credit system sounds like something out of a dystopian science fiction novel. Business Insider reports:
“The "social credit system," first announced in 2014, is "an important component part of the Socialist market economy system and the social governance system" and aims to reinforce the idea that "keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful," according to a 2015 government document.”
Chinese citizens can be punished if they watch too many videos, don’t pay back a load, drive badly, smoke in a non-smoking area, post ‘misinformation’ online or make a frivolous purchase. The score can go up and down and impacts things like being able to travel or throttling your internet speed. A bad social credit score can keep you out of college or prevent you from getting a higher-paying job. While China hasn’t covered the whole country yet, the goal is to make this universal and mandatory. How is all this information gleaned? Through artificial intelligence. Should robots monitor human behavior?
In I, Robot, Asimov has one of his characters say, “To you, a robot is gears and metal. But they're a cleaner better breed than we are." I disagree. Robots are reflective of their creator, having the capacity for good or evil, just like us. But, unlike us, robots will never know what it means to be set free from sin and death.
Those are my thoughts. I’m Janet Parshall
The battle for life is far from over as was exemplified by a decision made earlier this week by the High Court. Let me tell you more and allow me to share some thoughts—straight from the heart.
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Janet Parshall has been broadcasting from the nation's capital for over two decades. Her passion is to "equip the saints" through intelligent conversation based on biblical truth. When she is not behind her microphone, Janet is speaking across the country on issues impacting Christians. She has authored several books, including her latest, Buyer Beware: Finding Truth in the Marketplace of Ideas. Parshall and her husband, Craig, live in Virginia, and have four children and six grandchildren.
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