THE RISE OF THE ROBOTS
Late in the twentieth century, great pains were often taken to distance religion and science. Occasionally, this was done to protect the two from one another, preserving them each within some domain of competence so that everyday people could be both scientifically literate and religiously faithful. At other times, this segregation served more antagonistic purposes: to elevate one domain at the expense of the other, which becomes either the realm of the ignorant or the realm of the damned, depending upon whether science or religion is “on top.”
In the history of intelligent robots, a history which goes back well before the building of any digital robots (which was impossible until the mid-twentieth century), both religion and science play key roles. Intelligent machines have precursors in science and religion and, as I discussed in chapter two, the goals for engineering mechanical people were not overly different from the goals that led to alchemical creation. To understand robots, we must understand how the history of religion and the history of science have twined around one another, quite often working toward the same ends and quite often influencing one another’s methods and objectives. Such knowledge would avail one little should one wish to be a roboticist, of course, but it is quite invaluable in order to understand what robotics is all about. While most of this book has evaluated Apocalyptic AI synchronically, that is, in its historical moment, this appendix offers a diachronic history of artificial humanoids in religion and science to better contextualize Apocalyptic AI.
Robots are all around us, and they are getting closer. Robots have already entered mainstream culture as cleaning devices, entertainment, and educational tools.