The aesthetics of the machine-god : transcendence, salvation, or dystopia in the image of the technological god-entity (2024)

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Robots and the Sacred in Science and Science Fiction: Theological Implications of Artificial Intelligence

Robert Geraci

In science-fiction literature and film, human beings simultaneously feel fear and allure in the presence of intelligent ma- chines, an experience that approximates the numinous experience as described in 1917 by Rudolph Otto. Otto believed that two chief elements characterize the numinous experience: the mysterium tremen- dum and the fascinans. Briefly, the mysterium tremendum is the fear of God’s wholly other nature and the fascinans is the allure of God’s saving grace. Science-fiction representations of robots and artificially intelligent computers follow this logic of threatening otherness and soteriological promise. Science fiction offers empirical support for Anne Foerst’s claim that human beings experience fear and fascina- tion in the presence of advanced robots from the Massachusetts In- stitute of Technology AI Lab. The human reaction to intelligent machines shows that human beings in many respects have elevated those machines to divine status. This machine apotheosis, an inter- esting cultural event for the history of religions, may—despite Foerst’s rosy interpretation—threaten traditional Christian theologies.

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"Let Us Make ROBOT in Our Image, According to Our Likeness". An Examination of Robots in Several Science Fiction Films through the Christian Concept of the "Image of God"

2016 •

Fryderyk Kwiatkowski

The paper examines representations of robots in several films: Bicentennial Man (1999), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) and Chappie (2015) in the light of the Christian concept of imago Dei. According to Victoria Nelson, in the last 50 years artificial intelligence in pop-culture works has frequently been presented as holiness. Her interpretation can be linked with the outcome of research of scholars, who revealed that the Euro-American view on technology is deeply rooted in Christian thought. The author's main line of argument is embedded in Noreen Herzfeld's observation, who demonstrated the striking similarities between the relational approach to research into artificial intelligence and the relational interpretation of the notion of imago Dei by Karl Barth. Herzfeld suggests that the robots in the examined films can be viewed through a relational approach to the concept of imago Dei, which entails a relational definition of intelligence. In this paper I would like to propose the hypothesis that the creation of robots in Bi-centennial Man (1999, Chris Columbus), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002, Stuart Baird) and Chappie (2015, Neill Blomkamp) can be understood through the Christian concept of the image of God. I will argue that the representations of artificial intelligence in these science fiction works reveal many similarities with Karl Barth's interpretation of the notion of the image of God. Before I present an analysis of the films, I would like to outline my approach to artificial intelligence and give an overview of the broader context of the religious roots of the Euro-American view on technology.

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Heidi A Campbell

This article explores three common techno-spiritual myths presented in three recent science fiction films, highlighting how the perceived spiritual nature of technology sets-out an inherently problematic relationship between humanity and technology. In The Machine, Transcendence and Her, human-created computers offer salvation from human limitations. Yet these creations eventually overpower their creators and threaten humanity as a whole. Each film is underwritten by a techno-spiritual myths including: “technology as divine transcendence” (where technology is shown to endow humans with divine qualities, “technological mysticism” (framing technology practice as a form of religion/spirituality) and “techgnosis” (where technology itself is presented as a God). Each myth highlights how the human relationship to technology is often framed in spiritual terms, not only in cinema, but in popular culture in general. I argue these myths inform the storylines of these films, and spotlight common concerns about the outcome of human engagement with new technologies. By identifying these myths and discussing how they inform these films, a techno-spirituality grounded in distinctive posthuman narratives about the future of humanity is revealed.

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2015 •

Ashik Mahmud

AI or Artificial Intelligence, beyond technical and scientific application, is one of the most common grounds of technological ideas explored in science fiction films as well as cyberpunk novels. Contemporary science fiction films and novels offer technological adventures where the boundary of human fantasies, adventures and romances interfuse with technological future which tends to blur the age-old conflict between science and religious belief. Blending with visions of science and technology, many of these science fiction films and novels portrait fantasies or quests (for salvation, immortality, overcoming physical illness, innovation, power etc.) as posthuman crises of a post human dystopia while this posthuman condition also offers determinations for transcending any earthly limitations of human existence. This paper intends to explore artificial intelligence within the area of popular science fiction novels and films, which incorporates the fantasy of techno-salvation in the near future of singularity through overcoming the carbon limitations of human, fusing essence of spirituality with technology as well as extending spiritual beliefs into technological faith. Investigating fictional depiction of “Artificial Intelligence” as a transhuman or posthuman idea in science fictions, the paper tries to trace out the potential patterns of technological salvation for humankind while it does also find humanizing or dehumanizing elements in these science fictions about the problematic and politicized power relations of binaries like human/machine or human/non-human. This paper is conducted through qualitative research, especially operating within textual analysis of William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel Neuromancer and visual methodology incorporating some contemporary sci-fi films like Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Alex Proyas’ I,Robot (2004), Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix (1999), José Padilh’s Robocop (2014) and Wally Pfister’s Transcendence (2014). Therefore, the paper contends that artificial intelligence, as a posthuman entity in popular science fiction and films, integrates the fantasy of techno-salvation where technology is fused with spirituality extending spiritual beliefs into technological faith. Thus, it tries to destabilize traditional concepts of spiritual beliefs; and at the same time, re-appreciates and re-appropriates the spiritual ideas of omnipotence, heaven, immortality etc. through better comprehending of science and technology.

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Sophia: Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures: Vol. 58, N. 4, January


2020 •

Francesca Ferrando

This article aims to reflect upon future evolutions of religions and their related narratives and imaginaries from a critical and generative understanding of our ancient sources. Bodies are locations of creative power and symbolic proliferation. Cyborgian, transhuman, and posthuman embodiments are going to generate visions of the divine in tune with such an epistemic shift, by addressing questions such as: can God be represented as a cyborg? Could robots and avatars be prophets? Is internet a suitable setting for a posthuman theophany? This article articulates within the frame of a relational ontological perspective, according to which the notion of the divine evolves, as much as human and non-human persons do. In this evolutionary scenario, the representation of the divine realm may shift from era to era, adapting to new natural-cultural formations. This special issue argues that the posthuman paradigm shift will be followed by a symbolic turn in religious imaginaries as well.

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Review of Eric G. Wilson's "The Melancholy Android: On the Psychology of Sacred Machines" (2006), in "Journal of Contemporary Religion", Vol. 22, No. 2, 2007, pp.415-6.

Piers Stephens

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The Intelligent Machine as Anti-Christ

2002 •

Simon Penny

As a sculptor and electronic media artist, I have realized that at a basic level, traditional sculpture and Artificial Intelligence have similar goals : the simulation of the human . This paper gathers ideas which to connect the,two, in a loosely historical, interdisciplinary way. It traces a line forward from the Venus of Willendorf through Greek sculpture to Artificial Intelligence and robotics. It identifies a general drive in our species to anthropomorphism, and makes particular reference to the anthropomorphic machine . The idea of the robot as personification of fear/fascination with the technological complex is considered in this context . The paper identifies anthropmorphism and its relation to technological development as rich territory for the exercise of an . ". ..And what rough beast its' hour come round at last slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?" PY. B.Yeats. : the Second Coming. l Two cultural tendencies seem to converge on the millenium . (I) One is a...

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timucin edman

Human beings desire immortality as well as they desire the role of God. Having power and using this power over weak people is one of the oldest behaviors of humankind. One of the most important psychological causes of slave trade, almost as old as human history, is undoubtedly the desire of the human to play the immortal God role. We can see this demand in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf and The Iliad, which are the earliest written works. We witness the search for the immortality and domination of heroes and anti-heroes in works such as Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, I, Robot and The Robots of Dawn in contemporary literary period. In many of these quests, the man's desire for absolute domination and for immortality cause him to confront God with the desire to produce (or create) something. On the other hand, in contemporary films such as Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is adapted to the motion picture screen, it seems that when the man tries to go beyond himself due to his limitless desire of mastership, he confronts a god, Superman. In the science fiction works of our era, the tendency of man to dominate has begun to turn into chaotic robot-human relationship from old slavery-master relationship like in Asimov's works. The Terminator or The Matrix series are the best examples for this. Therefore, the article will try to establish the theory of confusion and chaos that people encounter while playing the role of God. In doing so, this theory will be tried to be supported by Asimov's I, Robot, The Robots of Dawn, and Robot Visions novels in the light of some quotations. This article, of course, will also examine the tendency to claim everything in what man thinks he can benefit, rather than simply centering Asimov's works. Are these robots equipped with advanced artificial intelligence going to revolt against the people who produce themselves as Cain rebels against God? Consequently, this work will discuss the point where the relentless search for power and immortality of human beings can reach in view of Asimov's selected novels and definitions.

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Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology. By Adrienne Mayor. 2018. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 304 pages. ISBN: 9780691183510 (soft cover). Reviewed by Ana R. Chelariu

2020 •

Ana R. Chelariu

With an exceptional proficiency in Greek and Roman mythologies, Adrienne Mayor takes the reader in a tour-de-force journey through myths and stories recording the many inventions of machines, automata as the author names them. As these are rarely collected in one place, this book details the many machines made by gods or humans, leaving the reader surprised by the ancient mechanical imagination, ostensibly the base for many inventions to follow, and no less, the artistic expressions in Sci-Fi literature and movies.

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Science Fiction as the Mythology of the

James Wachira

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The aesthetics of the machine-god : transcendence, salvation, or dystopia in the image of the technological god-entity (2024)


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