As people engage with technology in new ways, the study of ethics in human-robot relationships and in all manner of relationships between man and machine is becoming more significant.
In an effort to understand the relationship between Christian ethics and technology, the Christians Southern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College in Matthews, N.C., has purchased a humanoid NAO robot:
Schools such as MIT, University of Tokyo, and Carnegie Mellon are experimenting with NAO robots as personal assistants. They can be used to feed pets, dance and help children with autism.
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.
For Southern Evangelical, incorporating a NAO robot in classes was about being on the cutting edge of ethical arguments, according to Richard Land, the school’s new president and former leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The full article is available here.
In the face of radically transformative technologies and the possibility that humans have the ability to design our own successor, the American Academy of Religion has developed a Transhumanism and Religion working group:
“Transhumanism” or “human enhancement” refers to an intellectual and cultural movement that advocates the use of a variety of emerging technologies. The convergence of these technologies may make it possible to take control of human evolution, providing for the enhancement of human mental and physical abilities deemed desirable and the amelioration of aspects of the human condition regarded as undesirable. These enhancements include the radical extension of healthy human life. If these enhancements become widely available, it would arguably have a more radical impact than any other development in human history — one need only reflect briefly on the economic, political, and social implications of some of the extreme enhancement possibilities. The implications for religion and the religious dimensions of human enhancement technologies are enormous and are addressed in our Group. We are interested in encouraging and providing a forum for a broad array of input from scholars, including Asian and feminist perspectives.
As Christians who believe that human beings are created in the Image of God, how do we understand our life in Christ as we continue to “enhance” this image through technology? Given the promise of technology for our life together, how do we understand salvation and embrace our finitude so that we can realize the image of God perfected in the Incarnation? As we continue to evolve and integrate with technology, will Christian theology and ethics rise to the challenges we face in this age?