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7. Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Theological Anthropology

Here I point to a very important and rapidly rising development on the frontier of ‘theology and science’: the relations between theological anthropology, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. For a Teachers’ File see Anne Foerst, "Artificial Intelligence: Walking the Boundary," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 31.4(December 1996).Anne FoerstAnne Foerst, "Cog, a Humanoid Robot, and the Question of the Image of God," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 33.1(March 1998): 91-111. For responses to Foerst, see Helmut Reich, "Cog... describes the construction of Cog, a humanoid robot at MIT, and its implications for the imago dei According to Foerst, the emotions that Cog raises in us warrant theological reflection. Moreover, as an example of embodied AI, discussions of Cog can avoid the usual arguments against classical AI and lead us instead to consider a symbolic interpretation of the imago dei as performative and relational. Finally, viewing Cog within the context of creation, and the image of God in light of Cog research, serve to enriche our perspectives on, and appreciation of, human reality. Foerst has offered a course at MIT on “God and Computers” which provides an extensive bibliography on AI (classical and embodied), philosophy of mind, ‘artificial humans’, and relates the assumptions and worldviews in AI camps to myths in Jewish and Christian traditions.The website is: www.ai.mit.edu/people/annef. Note the recent conference Foerst organized at MIT on "Identity, Formation, Dignity: The Impacts of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science Upon...

In her recent doctoral disseration, Noreen Herzfeld starts with a relational interpretation of the imago Dei rather than viewing it in terms of properties or responsibilities; she then argues for a complex correlation between the search for AI and a relational interpretation of the imago Dei. “The history of failure in symbolic AI, built on a substantialist premise, provides strong support for a relational model of the imago Dei” while the latter provides a “plausible explanation” for the continuing interest in AI despite little progress in the field.Noreen Herzfeld, Imago Dei / Imago Hominis: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Need for Redemption ((GTU Doctoral Dissertation), 1999), Proposal, p. 4.Other recent essays include those by Christopher F. Mooney,S. J. Mooney, Christopher F., Theology and Scientific Knowledge: Changing Models of God's Presence in the World (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996), Ch. 5.Alejandro Garcia-RiveraAlejandro Garcia-Rivera, "Artificial Intelligence and de las Casas: A 1492 Resonance," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 28.4(December 1993).and Norris Palmer.Norris W. Palmer, "Should I Baptize My Robot?: What Interviews with Some Prominent Scientists Reveal About the Spiritual Quest," CTNS Bulletin 17.4(Fall 1997).

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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