My Twitter feed has been all of a, well, twitter recently, sharing a video of a robot that was capable of… wait for it… opening a door.
Excuse my naivety, but I hadn’t realised that they couldn’t already, or that this skill would be the tipping point from which the apocalypse actually started and we were all actually doomed.
I was more troubled by an article entitled ‘Why ethical robots might not be such a good idea after all’. It showed how robots programmed to act ethically towards humans can, with just a tiny tweak to the programming, act completely unethically, seeking humans’ worst interests, rather than their best.
Of such things are nightmares made.
It’s funny really. I can just about remember a time when we thought technology was going to solve everything. We thought that by now we would probably live in space (dressed in clinging white jumpsuits, for some reason) and hunger, poverty, and injustice would be distant memories. We were building new worlds for ourselves, and they would be perfect.
Yet while the technologists sold us this utopian dream, the sci-fi writers had a rather different expectation. Their visions of a future dominated by technology were generally depictions of doom rather than predictions of perfect peace.
Of course, dramatically speaking, every story relies on conflict, but the briefest look at the world today suggests that the fiction writers were more prescient than the technologists.
Far from being ‘integral in bringing about [our] visions of a fairer, more equitable future’ as Dan Hon puts it, machines have simply enhanced what was already there. They have enabled us to do good quicker, better and more efficiently, sure, but they have equally enhanced the speed and efficiency with which we can do evil.
And there’s a reason for this – it’s us.
Just as we are made in the image of our creator – intelligent, creative, inventive etc., so our creations are made in our image. But God passed his perfection to us, and we rebelled against it, and will forever pass our imperfections onto whatever we create.
A fallen, broken creator can only ever make a fallen, broken product.
If we’re hoping that the next new breakthrough will solve all our problems, we’re looking in the wrong place. Redemption can never come through the hopeful hands of men and women, but only through the nail-scarred hands of a perfect God.