Thinking West: Robots Taking Selfies

In the West, autonomous robots roam the endless Wasteland. Their purpose for wandering the Wasteland is a mystery to scholars and wastelanders alike. Some scholars theorize they are collecting and cataloging information for a higher, nobler purpose. Others say these robots are out there trying to make contact with the mysterious peoples who inhabit the Wasteland. However, wasteland locals refute these claims, as these robots show little interest in the Wasteland’s inhabitants.

Current scholarship suggests a sounder, more bizarre theory behind the robots of the wasteland. It turns out, these robots are really self-obsessed machines looking for the perfect self-portrait (or selfie). Don’t believe us? Examine the image below. The image below is one of thousands scientists have found in the Wasteland.

Scientists have named these mechanical creatures Autonomous Roboticus. According to prominent zoologists, Autonomous Roboticus organizes itself around snapping the ideal selfie. To pull this off, these poor, narcissistic creatures exile themselves to the Wasteland, where they must suffer the horrid desert heat and inhospitable terrain, in order to snap the perfect selfie. Few members of the AR species have managed to snap the perfect selfie. Sand-blasted and sunbaked carcasses of Autonomous Roboticus litter the Wasteland, holding selfie-sticks and high-resolution cameras above their shriveled corpses for the perfect camera shot.

Those members of the AR species that have achieved the penultimate selfie are revered as saints or demigods, depending on your interpretation of their cryptic belief system. The locations of perfect selfies have become shrines for the AR selfie religion. AR pilgrims visit these shrines, hoping to attain saintly status by snapping the perfect shot of themselves.

Zoologists who study Autonomous Roboticus are perplexed by the species’ interest in selfies. Dr. Fredrick van der Dussen (University of Chicago) and Dr. Lola Choi (University of North Dakota) explain that the Autonomous Roboticus’ obsession with selfies has no evolutionary purpose. Both scholars have examined theories that suggest the AR selfie obsession is an evolutionary measure for curbing the overall population of breeding-age adults. However, they believe the data doesn’t fully support these theories. Dr. van der Dussen and Dr. Choi are hopeful that future, in-depth study of the AR species will provide answers concerning the creature’s obsession with self-portraits.

An adult male (?) of the Autonomous Roboticus species taking a selfie in the Wasteland.

When Superintelligent AI Arrives, Will Religions Try to Convert It? (Gizmodo)

Zoltan Istvan (Gizmodo) examines how the world’s religions might handle the creation of superintelligent artificial intelligences. It appears that, much like American corporations in a recent Supreme Court case, superintelligent AIs may find God, too, with a little help, of course….

Like it or not, we are nearing the age of humans creating autonomous, self-aware super intelligences. Those intelligences will be part of our culture, and we will inevitably try to control AI and teach it our ways, for better or worse.

AI with intelligence equal to or beyond human beings is often referred to as “strong AI” or Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). Experts disagree as to when such an intelligence will arrive into the world, but many are betting it will happen sometime in the next two decades. The idea of a thinking machine being able to rival our own intellect—in fact, one that could quickly become far smarter than us—is both a reason for serious concern and a reason to cheer about what scientific advances it might teach us. Those worries and benefits have not escaped religious.

Some faith-bound Americans want to make sure any superintelligence we create knows about God. And if you think the idea of preaching God to autonomous machines sounds crazy, you may be overlooking key statistics of U.S. demographics: roughly 75 percent of adult Americans identify themselves as some denomination of Christianity. In the U.S. Congress, 92 percent of our highest politicians belong to a Christian faith.

As artificial intelligence advances, religious questions and concerns globally are bound to come up, and they’re starting too: Some theologians and futurists are already considering whether AI can also know God.

“I don’t see Christ’s redemption limited to human beings,” Reverend Dr. Christopher J. Benek told me in a recent interview. Benek is an Associate Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church in Florida and holds masters degrees in divinity and theology from Princeton University.

“It’s redemption to all of creation, even AI,” he said. “If AI is autonomous, then we have should encourage it to participate in Christ’s redemptive purposes in the world.”

Read the remainder of this article over at Gizmodo.