Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

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

Geraci, Robert M.

The hope that we might one day upload our minds into robots and, eventually, cyberspace has become commonplace and now affects life across a broad spectrum of western culture. Popular science books on robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) by Hans Moravec, Ray Kurzweil, and others argue that one day advances in robotics, AI and neurobiology will enable us to copy our conscious selves into machines, which will take over the cosmos and live eternally in a perfect world of supremely intelligent Mind. Such views borrow from the apocalyptic traditions of Judaism and Christianity and influence the politics of research grants, life in online virtual reality environments, and conversations within philosophical, legal and theological circles. Apocalyptic AI is important to scientific research because it promotes public and private funding for robotics and AI. In addition, residents of the online world Second Life have adopted it as a worldview that gives meaning to their activities and many already wish to live in Second Life or a similar environment forever, just as Moravec and Kurzweil promise they will. Finally, several of the claims of Apocalyptic AI have become a serious topic of debate for philosophers of mind, legal scholars and theologians. The successful integration of religion, science and technology in Apocalyptic AI creates a powerful worldview with considerable influence in modern life and challenges many of our long held assumptions about the relationship between religion and science.