Machine minds: Apocalyptic AI

Robert M. Geraci is a professor of religion and author of the book Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality.

Robert Geraci’s subject is “cybertheology,” particularly the way that the rise of artificial intelligence is described in apocalyptic terms. The Amazon book description states:

He reveals that the rhetoric of Apocalyptic AI is strikingly similar to that of the apocalyptic traditions of Judaism and Christianity. In both systems, the believer is trapped in a dualistic universe and expects a resolution in which he or she will be translated to a transcendent new world and live forever in a glorified new body.

Geraci won me over by writing (also at Amazon):

I believe that writing should be accessible and that readers should never want to curse authors for producing unintelligible drivel. I want my academic studies accessible and interesting to people who are not college professors and I hope that my own work lives up to those standards.

A good, though long, review of his book is at robots.net ((“all the news that’s fit to assimilate”). The reviewer mentions an intriguing idea: the possibility that conscious robots would be attracted to religion.

What I said in Cel & Anna

The dualism between the machine world on which people are dependent and the biological world where they live is a major theme. Here is a description of a traffic jam involving cars that drive themselves:

Quels, Mercurs, Operas, Jiminys, Fortuns, Rastas, Freebooters, and Provos were arranged in neat lines as if placed there by a giant child playing City. Each one was smart as a whip-and baffled and helpless. All cars could be driven in Manual mode, but few people knew how.

The two main human characters, Anna Ringer and Taz Night, have this conversation a little later:

“Machines run us,” Anna said. “Look what happens when they stop. We’re helpless.”

“I can drive,” Taz said. “I’m not helpless.”

Anna herself has a “religious” car, though no consciousness is involved:

The Quel LX’s gentle devotion to God could be changed, of course. There was a long menu of things cars could be told to believe and say. But Anna secretly liked having a spiritual car. The One Believers said that the purpose of life was to journey toward God, and the means of that journey was work. The Quel LX was highly intelligent and ready to work all day, every day, and it journeyed always. Who was to say that God didn’t hear its prayers?