Theology and Science Fiction Radio Interview and Review

I recently spoke with Jim Lebans of the Canadian Broadcasting Company about religion and the singularity. Here is the program they put together:


It is fascinating to hear the result, as they brought together not only my own conversation but that of other academics into a fascinating combination. On their website they add:

Superintelligent machines as prophets or gurus

Another way to imagine our relationship with the superintelligent machines is to think about the gods of mythology. As Theologian James McGrath points out, we have a long history of imagining our relationship with beings that are superior to us, and many of these are cautionary tales.

McGrath, however, imagines many more positive outcomes in our relationship with superintelligent machines, including the possibility that they might use their abilities to develop religious thought — and answer some of the great religious and theological questions that humanity has struggled with. They might even become new prophets or gurus guiding our thinking about existence.

Click through to read (and listen to) more. Of related interest, Rev. Andrew Tucker wrote a review of Theology and Science Fiction in Currents in Theology and Mission 45:1 (2018). Here is a brief excerpt:

This small treatise offers an overview of the relationship between theology and science fiction. The book speaks well to those of us whose nerdery extends from the realms of theology to the stretches of our technological imaginations, but provides value even for those who do not appreciate science fiction as entertainment. Specifically, McGrath details how often science fiction and theology perform similar tasks for their consumers, and as such, suggests they perform better as partners than antagonists in the quest for meaningful living.

Click through to the journal website to read the rest of the review. I am not sure whether “nerdery” is technically a word, but I like it, and plan to use it in the future, at least to describe myself if not others!

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  • Chuck Johnson

    This from Alexei Panshin:

    I both write and read science fiction. For me, its attraction lies not
    only in its ability to prepare us for what is to come, and by this I
    mean the one certain thing — change — but in the unique opportunity it
    offers for placing familiar things in unfamiliar contexts and
    unfamiliar things in familiar contexts, thereby yielding fresh insight
    and perspective. The unfamiliar seen against the unfamiliar is all too
    apt to seem chaotic or irrelevant. The familiar seen with the familiar
    is . . . merely familiar, the same thing seen for the thousandth time.
    But the familiar seen with the unfamiliar illuminates.

  • Chuck Johnson

    The kind of Artificial Intelligence being discussed in this podcast is already here, but the voices heard in the podcast don’t seem to recognize it for what it is. I think that it’s too mundane and familiar for them to notice its power and influence, or its phenomenal ongoing growth.

    It’s the Google search engine.
    And quite rightly, Google’s corporate motto is “Don’t be evil”.