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Would You Want to be Blessed by a Robot?

BlessU-2 is a robot installed by a Protestant church in Germany. It is built on the body of an ATM, with plastic fingers that spring open and palms that light as it raises its mechanical hands in blessing.

The robot speaks seven languages in either a male or a female voice. It offers four types of blessings—traditional, companionship, encouragement, and renewal—taken from more than forty Bible verses. Reactions have been mostly positive.

In Japan, a robot named “Pepper” can serve as a Buddhist priest to conduct funerals. A robot in Beijing can have a conversation with you about Buddhism and daily life.

Technology is changing every dimension of human experience, from driverless cars to low-cost virtual reality headsets to earbuds that can translate forty languages instantly. Technological advances in medicine are astounding: bionic arms, artificial vision, and tattoos and tooth-embedded sensors that transmit medical information are all realities. One man who is color-blind can detect color through an antenna grafted onto his skull.

Dan Brown’s new book, Origin, forecasts a coming age he calls “the Technium.” A scientist in his novel claims: “We are becoming a hybrid species—a fusion of biology and technology. The same tools that today live outside our bodies—smartphones, hearing aids, reading glasses, most pharmaceuticals—in fifty years will be incorporated into our bodies to such an extent that we will no longer be able to consider ourselves Homo sapiens.”

The scientist predicts: “As we move into an undefined tomorrow, we will transform ourselves into something greater than we can yet imagine, with powers beyond our wildest dreams.”

We’ve been here before.

The eugenics movement in the United States focused on eliminating “undesirable” traits in the population. Thirty states codified laws that resulted in the forced sterilization of over 64,000 people. Such efforts began with the disabled but spread to include people whose only “crime” was poverty. Only after the horrors of Nazi eugenic experiments came to light were such efforts discredited.

Improving our health is a noble calling in partnership with the Great Physician. Improving our species is not. Jesus healed “every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matthew 4:23), but he did nothing to change our biological identity.

You may not want to use technology to become more than human today. But you’ll be tempted to “be like God” in other ways (Genesis 3:5). Every temptation is a variation on this theme—be your own God by stealing, lying, lusting, hating, or whatever you are tempted to do.

Thomas a Kempis: “Let this be thy whole Endeavour, this thy prayer, this thy desire, that thou mayest be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only.” Towers of Babel are built whenever we seek to “make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4) rather than making God’s name great.

Whose name are you seeking to exalt today?


Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Pablo_K

Publication date: October 13, 2017


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