“IMMATERIAL” IMPACT OF THE APOCALYPSE
Apocalyptic AI predictions have garnered so much attention that—in combination with rapidly progressing robotic technology—widespread public attention has focused upon how human beings and robots should and will relate to one another as machines get smarter. Debates over robotic consciousness transition smoothly into what kinds of legal rights and personal ethics are at stake in the rise of intelligent robots. Although it would be tempting (for some people) to dismiss Apocalyptic AI as the irrelevant delusions of a misanthropic community, Apocalyptic AI has become enormously significant in Euro-American culture. Apocalyptic AI creates culture; in response to the movement, philosophers, lawyers and governments, and theologians have all reconsidered their own positions.
Last century’s science fiction has become this century’s scientific promise. Hiroshi Ishiguro of Japan’s Osaka University, for example, believes that one day, humanoid robots will live among human beings and be so realistic that an interlocutor would have to ask any given person whether he is a robot or a human being (Tabuchi 2008). The Scottish AI researcher David Levy goes even further, arguing that today “we are in sight of the technologies that will endow robots with consciousness, making them as deserving of human-like rights as we are; robots who will be governed by ethical constraints and laws, just as we are; robots who love, and who welcome being loved, and who make love, just as we do; and robots who can reproduce. This is not fantasy—it is how the world will be, as the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence are revealed to be almost without limit” (Levy 2006, 293). While many roboticists believe that intelligent robots are centuries away, others loudly defend their belief that robots will soon enter human society (and, indeed, surpass it).
Apocalyptic AI has powerful influence in the philosophical, legal, and religious discussions in contemporary political life. In response to the mere possibility that