RODNEY BROOKS, Fujitsu Professor of Computer Science and
CAN HUMANOIDS BE SPIRITUAL?
Rodney Brooks designs humanoid robots as an assembly of micro machines. Humans are composed of cells, which he regards as being reducible to micro machines. We are materialistic beings which attribute spiritual qualities to ourselves. On the other had, when Brooks interacts with his children and students, he does not treat them as machines.
The humanoid robot, Cog, is designed in Brooks' lab to interact with people and its environment. He is working towards making robots with emotions and feelings. When this happens, "We will attribute to them souls and spirituality." (He might have added that pet lovers already attribute love and loyalty to their dogs and cats. Some even put monuments on their graves.)
Brooks feels that we need to dismiss the idea that we are special in the same manner that we have abandoned the idea that the earth is the center of the universe. Brooks said that Roger Penrose, who has authored books with Steven Hawking, is incorrect in contending that some aspects of the human mind lie beyond computation: "There is something in the conscious activity of the brain," writes Penrose, "that transcends computation-and will find no explanation in terms of present-day science." ( Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness", Oxford University Press, 1966.)
HARVEY COX, Victor Thomas Professor of Religion, Harvard Divinity School
"The word 'spiritual' today is often used to mean 'generic religious.' But we do not live within a generic religion, we live within specific particular religious tradition." Harvey Cox's Christian tradition adopted the Judaic belief that the soul can not be separated from the body and condemned the Greek idea of spirit-separate-from-the-body as the Gnostic Heresy. The Biblical/Jewish idea that God creates humans in God's Image is expressed in the Christian idea of Incarnation (not as a one-time event but as a permanent reality.) Jesus the Christ was both divine and human. "To be truly spiritual is to be truly human." This radically alters the way we ask: "Can humanoids be spiritual?" Instead we must ask: "Can humanoids be fully human?" Can humanoids "sigh, blush, have sex, menstruate, cry, give birth, laugh?" In conclusion, Harvey Cox thanked Rodney Brooks for the conversation he and their students have been having .
During the discussion period, Rodney asked Harvey: "Can humanoids be
spiritual?" Harvey first quoted St. Paul (Eph 6:12) "for we labor not against
flesh and blood.... but against spiritual wickedness in high places."
His final answer was: "Giving them spirituality may not be doing
them a favor!" With regard to dropping our claim of "specialness," Harvey
replied: "My being created for a specific purpose different from the rest
of creation is my faith claim, and I am therefore not anxious." Both speakers
expressed their reservation about the "overused and misused term ‘consciousness’."
Several members of the audience suggested that grades-of-consciousness
and "specialness" of humans, as opposed to animals and humanoids, are more
useful than absolute distinctions.
ANNE FOERST, Postdoc Fellow, MIT AI Laboratory and Harvard Ctr. for Values in Public Life
Most humans have an intuitive sense of our own identity, a sense of the continuity of our life even tough our cells, abilities, thoughts, and world views change. Our identity is associated with embodiment and character. Identity is part of the dialectic between mythos and logos:
Which will have greater dignity, humans or computers?
This is a disturbing question, as in some ways computers have greater abilities than humans.
The key to human dignity is not in performance criteria, but in our need to transcend our finitude and ask what has endowed us with life in the first place.
WARREN BROWN, Professor of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary
Modern cognitive neuroscience challenges the dualist
view of personal dignity based on our having bodies inhabited by immortal,
non material souls. We need to return to the Hebrew and Christian view
that humans are souls-they they do not have souls. The uniqueness
of personhood lies in our ability to relate to the world, to others, and
to God. Our ultimate dignity comes for our acceptance that God has chosen
to reciprocate in a covenant relation with us.