Humans June 27, 2017

I wasn’t sure when I started watching it if I was going to blog about Humans. I had wanted for a long time to watch the Swedish original, but hadn’t found the time. Now that the English version is available, I knew I ought to watch it. It had so many interesting elements, precisely the kinds of things that I talk about in my books and courses. But I thought that maybe I had covered these things so often that I needn’t do so again.

But then in episode 6, one of the synths that is conscious sees a memorial to a dead child, with a note saying that he is in God’s hands now, of the kind one often seens by the side of a road where an accident occured. And so that synth goes back to the place where he has been hiding out, drops to his knees, and after beginning his prayer with a comment about the unlikelihood of the existence of the God that he is addressing, he prays for his family, his brothers and sisters, and their safe reunion.

As you’ll know if you’ve read my chapter “Robots, Rights, and Religion,” I think that the intersection of religion and artificial intelligence is fascinating, but that AI exploration of the religious beliefs and practices of their human “parents” is a neglected element. If you’ve never read that chapter from Religion and Science Fiction, there has never been a better time!

There has been a lot in the news about the series but more generally about artificial intelligence. And so here is a collection of links that are likely to be of interest:

I was interviewed by Jonathan Merritt for a piece in The Atlantic.

They have created a transistor that behaves like a neuron.

IO9 compared Humans to Westworld (which I have yet to watch). TheoFantastique also looked at Westworld, through a theological lens, as well as racism towards droids in Star Wars. Gizmodo asked when robots will deserve human rights, and also highlighted ten inspiring robots.

There was a robot priest at a Reformation exhibit in Germany.

Pain in the machine? Being human in an age of nearly human machines

The BBC tackled a topic that Humans also does: would sex with a robot be infidelity? Only a GameForbes3quarksdaily and New Scientist also had articles about sexbots and AI (artificial infidelity). And IO9 explored a different sci-fi thought experiment related to adultery.

The New York Times had a piece about Humans, as well as articles about a new research center to explore the ethics of AI, and the potential for using robotic “terminators.”

Gizmodo asked how we know we aren’t robots (see also the question in 3quarksdaily of what it feels like to be an alien).

Steve Wiggins discussed our fear of the artificial.

Religious Studies Project had an initial conversation on religion and AI – and then went further down the rabbit hole.

Inside Higher Ed, Harvard Business Review, The Guardian, and Boston Review all tackled matters related to robots putting humans out of work (another major theme on Humans) and the need for a universal basic income (such as Finland has experimented with).

Technology Review explored self-driving cars, Deep Patient, and other cutting edge AIs.

IO9 asked why we want robots to destroy us so badly.

There is lost more in New Scientist, such as articles on when AIs will be able to beat us at everything, and teaching neural networks to reason about the world.

You can watch the first season of Humans via

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