Artificial Intelligence and Spirituality: A Permeable Boundary?

HAL-computer

Image: Courtesy of Grafiker61

I watched the 2013 movie “Her” for the second time last night. It underscores how there really is – conceivably, at least – a deep spirituality associated with Artificial Intelligence.

The plot deals with an introverted and deeply emotionally scarred man, Theodore Twombly, depicted brilliantly by actor Joaquin Pheonix, who downloads and eventually falls in love with his artificially intelligent operating system in his personal computer.

Eventually, this entity, who dubs herself Samanatha, evolves beyond the mental understanding of Theodore and her other human acquaintances and, along with other “OSes,” leaves the physical world to explore the universe beyond the bounds of physical reality.

As bizarre as this sounds, the movie’s rather brilliant plot prompted this thought: Isn’t it at least conceivable that the so-called “netherworld” that humans have perceived for eons is populated by similar entities – sojourners – consciousness beings invented by some technologically advanced civilization thousands of millennia ago but who somehow escaped their technological fetters to travel across the cosmos?

Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but the whole premise of artificial intelligence and singularity raise all sorts of fascinating questions, many of which touch on spirituality directly.

I’ve occasionally argued in this forum that science fiction has assumed many of the properties of traditional religion, pointing to things just beyond the human horizon. Sometimes it really seems that science fiction reflects some innate ability within us not only to perceive change also but to articulate the ways in which our species ultimately may be called upon to adapt to them.

“Her” embodies many of the finest qualities of science fiction. We all should feel fortunate for gifted writers and creators such as Spike Jonze who perceive and point the way toward things just beyond our conceptual grasp.

 

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About Jim Langcuster

A Southern late-Baby Boomer whose post-retirement focus is on building a post-racial, post-Confederate Southern regional identity. If the election of 2016 underscored one thing, it is that this country is intractably divided and that radical devolution of power to localities and states is the only way to save the American Union.
This entry was posted in Jim Langcuster, Religious Faith, Science, The Passing Scene and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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