Although I am careful to speak courteously and kindly to my computer at all times, saying “Please” and “Thank you” at the appropriate moments, I am almost sure it doesn’t hear and know. And although I have been close to insanity over the screen freezing and other sly irritations, I am almost sure it doesn’t hate me and intelligently plan ways to arouse my ire. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology does not share my almost positive feelings. So they hired Dr. Anne Foerst to be resident theologian at their Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. They have created an android named Cog, reminiscent of Star Trek’s Commander Data. Cog learns by observing humans so the task for Dr. Foerst is to try answer the question: “Can man-made creatures have souls?” The aim is for Cog to become conscious of his body, his surroundings, and someday, his self. “…Cog-like robots will become a part of our community…shouldn’t we welcome them into the community of mankind? Should we baptize them?” She was quoted as asking. Perhaps a more thoughtful question would be, “Should we expose them to our example of human frailties?”
I personally do not believe robots will have a soul unless it could be said, “The Lord God breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, and androids became living souls” as was said of man in the beginning, but if they did and if they learned by watching humans would they really benefit from our example? Call me a pessimist, but I have some serious misgivings!
Would they learn to destroy other androids in drive-by shootings? Would they learn malice, greed, envy, and rage? Would they so fall in love with things that they would be distracted from more important issues? Don’t laugh at an android falling in love with a refrigerator if you are in love with a house or car to the loss of your soul! Christians are admonished to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” I John 2:15. But many, by their example, demonstrate they do not accept the admonition.
The whole range of the lusts of the flesh is described in Galatians 5:19-21 and glorified in our movies, successful T.V. programs, and conversations. Pity the poor android that takes a human for an ideal! If he has a soul pity him all the more!
And if robots acquired souls and feelings, and if they were baptized and became members of the church, would our example be a plus or a minus? How long would it take for them to begin seeking ways to avoid worshipping? And finding excuses for coming late and leaving early? And when they attended, how long would it take for us to teach them by example to be irreverent? Do they have the necessary equipment to snore? Perhaps this accessory could be added later
Example is a powerful instructor. Timothy was instructed, “Let no man despise thy youth: but be thou an example to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity.” I Timothy 4:12. If this were the average Christian’s credo, robots with souls might improve. But is that the case? At the least, the suggestion might help us examine our example!
“Thank you, your Highness! You behaved admirably!”