The Implications Of Robots Replacing Men
by Tom Olago
We are all quite used to, and at ease with the benefits of robots: they automate tasks that are repetitive, delicate, and dangerous for humans, or too labor intensive to be economical. They are now quite commonplace, especially in manufacturing plants where cars are assembled, in hospitals to assist in various surgical procedures, rescue missions, in military attacks and even research where human intervention is known to be inadequate or unsafe. NASA and other outer space related agencies, for example have been known to use robots to routinely explore the surface of the moon and the planet Mars.
There is therefore no doubt just how useful robots can be – their potential is already historically and currently proven. A notable development is that Google’s humanoid robot, Atlas, is “wowing techies everywhere with its new moves—able to flex its virtual muscles in sync better than even some humans can”, according to a recent report published in Charisma News.com. The report concurs that although this might not seem like a groundbreaking advance to most, the technology, programming, algorithms and software necessary to make a robot move just like a human definitely have scientific, technological and ethical implications.
According to the Charisma report, IHMC Robotics (one of the groups using Atlas at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge) came in second in 2013 by proving the robot could accomplish many of the same tasks as first responders in emergencies and disasters. However, the usage of robots now seems to be breaking into new territory: intelligent and ethical decision-making. On this aspect, Dr. Richard Land, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary, voiced some ethical concerns:
“That God has given man intelligence to create and advance these technological wonders is certainly a blessing. But we must be mindful of the power that technology can exert over our everyday lives….For example, humans regularly make moral determinations in carrying out tasks. With whose ‘morality’ will robots be programmed? These are questions that deserve answers, and our faculty and students are delving into these considerations from the basis of God’s eternal and unchanging truth.”
Last winter, SES (Southern Evangelical Seminary) unveiled its own NAO humanoid robot, D.A.V.I.D.—”Digitally Advanced Virtual Intelligence Device”—which is being used by faculty and students on the SES campus to explore the ethical questions surrounding the use of technology in our everyday lives. Research leader Dr. Kevin Staley, associate professor of Theology and an expert in the application of a biblical worldview to moral issues involving advanced technologies was quoted, stating in part: … is it ethical to allow our electronic devices, from our phones to our tablets, to make decisions for us, interact for us and do work for us? Likewise, is it ethical for robots to perform the tasks once assigned to human beings, and if so, how far should we allow those robots to go?”
One may well imagine that as far as robots go, there can’t be very much to worry about concerning their capabilities – are they not after all, created and programmed by human beings? In the minds of many, a robot cannot possibly attain greater intelligence than its creators, or act outside of its set boundaries since its intelligence is artificial and limited rather than intrinsic – as it is in the case of humans.
Not so, according to Ray Kurzweil, Google’s chief on artificial intelligence(AI). Kurzweil is also considered by many to be the world’s leading expert on AI. He was quoted earlier this year by the Mirror that the Turing test – the moment at which a computer will exhibit intelligent behavior equal to, or indistinguishable from that of a human – will be passed in 2029. Kurzweil’s previous predictions included giving a computer eight years to beat a world chess champion (it took seven), driverless cars which Google has almost perfected, and ‘Iron Man’ style body armor for injured soldiers, as currently being trialed by the US military. The report further states that “…In echoes of 1980s hit movie The Terminator, when robots rise to wipe out mankind, Kurzweil predicts once ‘the singularity’ has been reached, machine intelligence will be a billion times more powerful than all human brain power combined.”
Pretty scary – especially if these robots will have been programmed with ethical “thought” processes that are evil and anti-Christ in essence. Imagine such robots being programmed with the mentality and inclinations of a murderer, rapist, pedophile, abortionist, racist, Satanist, LGTB (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) proponent, secular humanist etc. – and then let loose onto society with all their superhuman capabilities. Certainly everyone should be wary of any object or system that is infiltrated with the evil and depraved ethics of sinful, fallen mankind. The issue of whose ethics or moral principles would determine robotic choices is indeed critical.
This train of thought (where robots can make ethically based choices) is by no means isolated. Rather, it seems to be gaining traction especially within the transhumanist worldview. A recent article published by New Hampshire Public Radio asks the question: ‘Should science end humankind?’ The article quotes Paul Horn, former executive director of research at IBM on his topic called “The Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines.” Horn’s main argument was that, in the near future, we will build machines surpassing us in intelligence. What the machines — those machines — then build will surpass their own creator’s intelligence. This process will rapidly continue until, very soon, it yields a new force on the planet — superintelligence. This runaway process is often called the “singularity” — and Horn’s main job was to argue that, given current trends in technology, something more or less like it is coming.
That “something more or less” like it may very well take other forms that the artificial intelligence flag-bearer and transhumanist may not currently envisage. It seems very far-fetched, as Kurzweil, Horn and others would have us believe, that anyone could create something more intelligent than itself. More efficient versions perhaps, such as computers are today; but every computer program or component still has its source in the inventions and ideas that originally came from a God-given human brain.
The Bible warns of evil spirits called demons, capable of inhabiting human beings and objects. These spirits, normally invisible to the human eye, are also known to be superior to human beings in both intelligence and power (except when faced with the power of God working through true servants of Jesus Christ). In the book of Revelation, we are told that just such a scenario will eventually unfold: a robotic but lifeless form of “beast” will be given the breath of life and become a living soul, so to speak:
“He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:13-17).
This living machine will have the power to speak, to kill or order killings, and will be endowed with the very intelligence and ethics of Satan himself. What the transhumanist dreams about today will eventually turn into mankind’s worst ever nightmare.