Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality

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Oxford University Press, Mar 5, 2010 - Religion - 248 pages
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Apocalyptic AI, the hope that we might one day upload our minds into machines or cyberspace and live forever, is a surprisingly wide-spread and influential idea, affecting everything from the world view of online gamers to government research funding and philosophical thought. In Apocalyptic AI, Robert Geraci offers the first serious account of this "cyber-theology" and the people who promote it. Drawing on interviews with roboticists and AI researchers and with devotees of the online game Second Life, among others, Geraci illuminates the ideas of such advocates of Apocalyptic AI as Hans Moravec and Ray Kurzweil. 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. Equally important, Geraci shows how this worldview shapes our culture. Apocalyptic AI has become a powerful force in modern culture. In this superb volume, he shines a light on this belief system, revealing what it is and how it is changing society.

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Apocalypticism consists of dualism, alienation, transcendence, and bodily purification, all of which are present in AI. A2I is a social strategy for research funding, as well as an ideology for online life. It is argued philosophically, legally and theologically. It is about commitment to actions and attitudes. This book approaches the technology and philosophy from the perspective of divinity, and has five chapters, a pair of appendices, notes and references. There are descriptions of the work of many researchers in AI and robotics, e.g. Turing, Minsky, Kurzweil, de Garis, and Warwick. Newell observed that Prometheus denotes tragedy, where technology actually leads to magic. Moravec wrote an essay in 1978 about converting nonlife to immortal mind, and in 1988 predicted that humans would eventually be capable of uploading their mind into a robot “bush” body which is fractal-like. A “mind fire” transforms the cosmos at lightspeed. Nationalism and war are obsolete. We are living in a simulation created by a god. Identity is a pattern and process within the brain and body which is possible in other materials. The Order of Cosmic Engineers believe that they will become the new creators. This may result in a virtualization of identity, available anywhere. It also has intermediate separate personalities of Transhumanists, e.g. Second Life’s Stenvaag. Games and digital worlds are precursors of digital paradise. These are primarily forms of social contact. Bainbridge’s sociology work for NSF is discussed. Actor-Network Throery, e.g. Latour’s trials of strength, observes that understanding scientific advance requires both natural and social actors. Transmutation is also a topic of religious history. There are methodologies common to science and religion, though the two are distinct. Religion affects how robots are integrated into society in the US, Europe and Asia. Japanese karakuri may descend from daVinci’s automata through missionaries. Relationships between humans and robots are worth study since the two may become indistinguishable. The major funding of robotics in the US is from defense, which may also provide the ethics. The robots may be more objective and humane.  


1 Apocalyptic AI
2 Laboratory Apocalypse
3 Transcending Reality
4 Immaterial Impact of the Apocalypse
5 The Integration of Religion Science and Technology
Appendix One
Appendix Two

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About the author (2010)

Robert M. Geraci is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College. He is the Principal Investigator for a National Science Foundation EAGER grant studying meaningful and transcendent experiences in virtual worlds, and received a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Scholar grant to study the intersection of religion and artificial intelligence at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore (2012-2013).

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