A Victory for Atheism?
The war of religous ideologies is reaching it’s tipping point in the era of Robotics. There’s growing evidence that we can teach machines to not only be human, but be better at being human than ourselves. There was a time when all arguments for human superiority boiled down to our ‘soul’ – emotion, empathy, altruism, art – qualities that a machine can NEVER have.
Till we created machines that can do all of the above.
Let’s begin with Emily Howell, the program that composed this original piece after examining the works of every single classical composer. It’s irrelevant that Emily “analyzed” music – human composers do the same thing but we call it inspiration – because the fact is that a program created by man produced an original work of art.
The Swiss have already proven that Robots evolve altruism (link) in the same manner as biological organisms. But there is also Adam, the robot-scientist who discovered a new gene entirely on his own – meaning that he discovered new information as opposed to being an expert of existing body of knowledge fed to him. And if that isn’t enough, we’ve finally built a robot that is SELF AWARE - although it’s creators assure us it’s only at the level of a cat. Yeah, maybe for now.
Leaving behind the obvious robots vs humans war scenarios, what does all this say about the nature of life? Clearly we can manufacture the magical ingredients we considered uniquely our own. Add a few more decades of R&D, some live tissue on a robotic skeleton and you have an Android that can grow, learn, empathize, age and possibly die. Conspiracy theorists who suggest that we too are biological robots created by an advanced alien civilization (as the Sumerians claimed a few millenia ago) start to seem a lot less crazy. It even makes a little sense – maybe these aliens realized that they were better off 1) giving us soft vulnerable organic parts that can be hurt and will eventually die instead of metal that can last much longer and is far more durable, and 2) putting us on a separate planet altogether so we don’t pose any threat to them at all.
If this holds true, an atheist victory will ring a little hollow. No matter how pragmatic or realistic you are, there is little joy in the idea that all our progress, our victories and our memories are just the outcome of biological programming. I’ve never been accused of being religious, but I sure hope this isn’t the only alternative.