AI News, Can a Robot Be Divine?

Can a Robot Be Divine?

Robots appear to be in the middle of a gradual but persistent transition from automated tools that perform specific tasks to artificially intelligent entities that we interact with socially and emotionally.

We’ve seen a few examples of robots assisting in religious tasks, but what if robots could take things a step farther, and become sacred objects, embodying divinity within a robot itself?

Also, the researchers are well aware that people may feel that the topic of religion in this context is controversial, but they’re very specific in the paper that their goal is not to deceive anyone: [The] robot shall not mean impersonating a deity with the purpose of deceiving or manipulating the user.

In the HRI paper, Trovato defines a “theomorphic robot” as a robot that “carries the shape and the identity of a supernatural creature or object within a religion.” The appeal of a theomorphic robot, the researchers hypothesize, is as follows: There is some existing precedent for theomorphic robots, which goes back to early examples of automation applied to religious ceremonies.

Both of these robots, though, are more like assistants, and they themselves are not inherently theomorphic: A theomorphic robot is more of a representation of the divine, which implies “a connection with a deity, be[ing] a messenger of the deity, or be[ing] possessed by it, or carry[ing] a divine essence.” So how would you go about making a theomorphic robot, then?

The researchers have some suggestions: With these guidelines in mind, Trovato has two prototypes under development: It’s an open question whether it will be a challenge for religious people to accept theomorphic robots, or if they will even be interested in the concept.

Gabriele Trovato: I previously specialized in cultural aspects of human-robot interaction, and I traveled across many countries to perform cross-cultural studies, finding out how robots should be customized in order to adapt to different countries.

The biggest advantage is that believers can feel at ease with, and even hold in high regard,a robot that has the appearance and identity of a familiar religious entity or an icon, while typically the approach towards robots is characterized by some discomfort.

The sacred appearance can be seen as a mask, which covers the robotic component, for a device that will perform some service that can range from keeping company during prayer, to comfort and monitor people’s health, or to even perform catechesis, teaching positive values of a certain religion.

Their reaction has been cautious: They are open to the idea of a Catholic robot and very interested in its development, but also warning about the robot possessing an AI capable of giving advices to the believers, because that, including also the interpretation of the Bible, is a role that belongs to the Church.

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Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism, or personification, is attribution of human form or other characteristics to anything other than a human being. Examples include depicting ...

Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism, or personification, is attribution of human form or other characteristics to anything other than a human being. Examples include depicting ...