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THE POPULAR APPEAL OF APOCALYPTIC AI

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Abstract:

Abstract

The belief that computers will soon become transcendently intelligent and that human beings will “upload” their minds into machines has become ubiquitous in public discussions of robotics and artificial intelligence in Western cultures. Such beliefs are the result of pervasive Judaeo-Christian apocalyptic beliefs, and they have rapidly spread through modern pop and technological culture, including such varied and influential sources as Rolling Stone, the IEEE Spectrum, and official United States government reports. They have gained sufficient credibility to enable the construction of Singularity University in California. While different approaches are possible (and, indeed, are common in Japan and possibly elsewhere), this particular vision of artificial intelligence and robotics has gained ground in the West through the influence of figures such as Hans Moravec and Ray Kurzweil. Because pop-science books help frame public discussion of new sciences and technologies for individuals, corporations, and governments alike, the integration of religious and technoscientific claims made by their authors should be clear and open for public and scientific debate. As we move forward into an increasingly robotic future, we should do so aware of the ways in which a group's religious environment can help set the tone for public acceptance and use of robotic technologies.

Keywords: Hans Moravec; Ray Kurzweil; Singularity University; artificial intelligence; religion; robotics; science; transhumanism

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01146.x

Affiliations: Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, Bronx, NY 10471;, Email: robert.geraci@manhattan.edu.

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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