When the machines make their inevitable move and try to assert control of the Earth, we as a species have typically imagined that as being a brutal, seemingly endless war like in the Terminator or Matrix movies. A dystopia like that is almost comforting in a way, since war is something that humanity has spent its entire existence perfecting and there’s always a slim chance that we’ll find a way to win in the end. Google’s AlphaGo AI and its offline tracking technology would fight us for control, but what if the machines we should be worried about aren’t the ones promising us hostility? As it turns out, a small town in Germany has built a robot that promises something that could potentially be much more dangerous: absolution.
This comes from The Guardian, which reports that a church in Wittenberg has made a robot priest named BlessU-2 in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Europe. The basic idea is that the Reformation was made possible by the creation of the printing press, which was a new and extremely important technology at the time, so BlessU-2 is meant to “trigger debate about the future of the church and the potential of artificial intelligence”—as well as, we assume, the overall merits U2’s The Joshua Tree. Here’s a video of BlessU-2 in action:
BlessU-2 has a touchscreen on its chest, a head, mobile arms, and the ability to recite bible verses in five different languages with either a male or female voice. Its palms also light up, and it can raise its arms in order to bestow blessings on people. Plus, there’s even a backup robot in case BlessU-2 breaks down, though common sense dictates that a “good” robot like BlessU-2 must have an “evil” counterpart, so maybe the backup robot is called DamnU-2 and it can condemn you to Hell in five different languages.
Now, the idea of a robot priest may not be as terrifying as a robot soldier, but let’s draw this out to its natural conclusion. If we give a robot a gun, that robot may eventually try to kill us, leaving us with no choice but to defend ourselves. If we give a robot the ability to bless us and absolve us of our sins, we’ll have no reason to defend ourselves. The robot with a gun will have to take this planet by force, but humans—or at least religious humans—would just willingly hand the Earth over to a robot who can guarantee a favorable judgement from God. We could just denounce all religion, but that’s never gotten Reddit anywhere, which means there’s only one way to prevent the machines from taking over: We should just stop building machines that can take over. It’s really that simple.