The Rise of Sentient Machines

[S]ince Derek and I cut the ‘cable cord’ six months ago, we find our news via Roku’s CNN International or BBC News channels. This morning, a stick-thin female news anchor on CNN Int. conducted an interview with someone I’ll just call Mr. X (sorry, didn’t get the name of the gentleman–I’ve been scouring the CNN website, but there’s no video of the spot there), and the topic centered around the ethics behind sentient machines. In particular, should ‘self-aware’ drones be deployed?

If we learned anything in the 20th century it is that science fact very often follows science fiction, so let us turn to the disturbing futures depicted in ‘Terminator’ and Battlestar Galactica. In both, machines designed as humanity’s helpers became ‘self-aware’ and decided that humans were inferior–therefore, it logically followed that humans should be eliminated. A similar theme arose in the original Star Trek film (based on a script from the TV series). A US probe sent out to ‘learn all that is learnable’ returns with an enhanced ‘brain’ that is now sentient, seeking to destroy all ‘biological units’ within its path.

Cambridge professors, Huw Price and Jean Tallin had this to say in an article they-coauthored earlier this year:

… the moment computers become better programmers than humans marks the point in history where the speed of technological progress shifts from the speed of human thought and communication to the speed of silicon. This is a version of Vernor Vinge’s “technological singularity” – beyond this point, the curve is driven by new dynamics and the future becomes radically unpredictable, as Vinge had in mind.

Price and Tallin, are so concerned about the race to robotic sentience, that they’ve partnered with fellow professor Martin Rees, to create The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. CSER is described as “…a joint initiative between a philosopher, a scientist, and a software entrepreneur…”.  According to their website, the group’s “aim is to establish within the University of Cambridge a multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks of this kind.” This kind, being the rise of a mechanized population that would precipitate an extinction level event. In other words, the robots kills us all.

Personally, I believe that we live in the years just preceding the culmination of Daniel’s vision of 70 Weeks. Soon, the final ‘week’ (7 years) will commence, and it is very possible that the enemy will use sentient machines against humanity, in particular Jews and Christians. When I first studied eschatology as a high school student, I tried to imagine the world as it might one day be during the reign of AntiChrist. Though I have a very fertile imagination, the truth is so much stranger and far more terrifying than I could ever have foreseen. We stand upon the precipice of a true ‘rise of the machines’. Scientists are curious individuals, who often ‘do a thing’ simply because they can. Programming computers to think morally may seem like the next step in robotics, but it may prove to be the final step toward madness.

Is it possible that demons, the foot soldiers of the enemy’s army, might find synthetic lifeforms to be ‘a fit extension’ for habitation? In Joel 2, we find the prophet writing of a vision he’s received that takes place during the final days before the return of Christ. The world lies waste. No crops grow. Darkness covers the land, and men are starving. Even the priests have no wine or meat. Then, in chapter 2, an army invades:

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for [it is] nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, [even] to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land [is] as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them [is] as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.

Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and [when] they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.

The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp [is] very great: for [he is] strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD [is] great and very terrible; and who can abide it?

This terrifying army is led by the Lord Himself, but it consists of metaphysical beings–beyond our limited abilities. These are not humans–these are unique and immortal. They cannot be killed. They run like ‘mighty men’ (a reference to the human-angelic hybrid giants of the Old Testament). Are they flesh or a stranger composite of iron mixed with clay–or perhaps, machine mixed with human? The LORD sometimes uses demonic messengers to fulfill His commands–permitting the enemy to run rampant according to His will.

This army might be angelic–not demonic at all, but that reference to ‘mighty men’ does make one wonder….

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