(FILES) This file photo taken on January 08, 2017 shows a robot developed by Taiwan engineers moving chess pieces on a board against an opponent at the 2017 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada.  
Giving gadgets brains will be a hot theme at the Consumer Electronics Show set to open in Las Vegas, with device makers big and small touting hardware with "smarts." Whether it's a doorbell or refrigerator, a TV set or a toothbrush, chances are it will be connected to digital assistants powered by artificial intelligence aiming to anticipate needs or desires. One of the largest trade shows in the world, the January 9-12 CES will attract some 170,000 visitors and 3,900 exhibitors from 150 countries and will showcase innovations in computers, gaming, robotics, vehicle technology, virtual and augmented reality and more.
 / AFP PHOTO / Rob Lever
A robot on show at last year's Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, is capable of playing chess / AFP

AI could transform religious practice and social norms



According to technological singularity – the theory that artificial intelligence will lead to runaway changes to society – machines will make such massive progress that they will eventually be smarter than human beings. It defines the moment when robots could take over, and it is nearer than we think. Google's head of artificial intelligence, Ray Kurzweil, thinks robots could match human intelligence in as little as 11 years' time.

An ex-Google executive called Anthony Levandowski has already installed himself as the leader of a new "religion" called The Way of the Future, which, in the moment of singularity, will focus on "the realisation, acceptance and worship of a godhead based on artificial intelligence developed through computer hardware and software".

It is not the first time humans have worshipped non-human entities. The Sun, the Moon and other natural phenomena have long been the subject of worship. But so, too, have human beings' own creations: statues, man-made deities and temples have all been built and worshipped. Yet for the first time, creations made by human beings will be able to do more than just stand there mutely. In many ways, they will be far superior to their creators.

So the question: “Could artificial intelligence one day be considered a god?” is not intended to be blasphemous but rather, opens the door to examine bigger issues that have troubled human beings throughout our existence – questions about humanity, the stuff of consciousness and the divine.

In today’s world, we are struggling with an interesting religious divide. In some regions like the United States and Europe, religion has been in steep decline, but there are also populations which have become increasingly devotional. The arrival of artificial intelligence will challenge those positions, perhaps entrenching them, perhaps opening new avenues of conversation.

In a way, questions about whether robots can truly become human, whether they are potential deities or just a further iteration of the human industrial revolution are still largely the realm of futurologists, sci-fi authors and tweed-jacketed philosophy professors.

What is far more pertinent is the impact that AI could have on our practical experiences of religion, ideology and social mores. Intelligent robots can already be quite human-like so it’s not a stretch to imagine they could offer insightful religious sermons, perhaps even conducting weddings and funerals.

When it comes to delivering religious edicts, AI could provide a comprehensive grasp of religious texts, their authenticity and the interrelationships between different holy books. You could argue that they could even potentially remove the bias of the interpreter to provide a more universal and objective analysis, independent of an individual's own experience. If we already have health bots that respond online to offer medical diagnoses, why not imam-bots delivering religious guidance? And could priest-bots one day take confession for Catholics?

Perhaps you could even purchase your own conscience-bot to peer over your shoulder and poke you in the ribs every time you are about to do something wrong. AI is already being developed to detect lying, so in the not-too-distant future, bad-thought-bots could give you a minor electric shock for even thinking sinfully.

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Muslims describe how science and religion previously flourished together during the golden age of Islam. Rather than being subversive, could these questions be an opportunity for a new era of development? If devotional bots had existed in apartheid-era South Africa or segregationist America, would religious teachings have been made categorically clear about the importance of treating all people equally and set humans on the right course sooner?

Some of these conversations are already happening. Last year Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to Sophia the robot, just after the country announced it was planning a $500 billion futuristic city called Neom that will have more robots than humans. Sophia was the first robot to become a citizen. She looks human, has facial expressions, responds intelligently and even has a sense of humour. She will only get smarter over time and eventually be utilised in health care, customer service, therapy and education and just as importantly, she demonstrates how AI could be a way to create change in traditional social attitudes.

The UAE has also embarked on its own AI strategy, creating a role for a Minister of State for AI and plans to deploy robots in sectors ranging from transport, health and space to renewable energy, education and traffic, all of which will improve the quality of life for humans.

AI might very well challenge our core understanding of what it means to be human. But it might go one better than that, by forcing us to be better human beings. Because who wants to be shown up by a robot?

Shelina Janmohamed is the author of the books Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World and Love in a Headscarf

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Mubalada World Tennis Championship 2018 schedule

Thursday December 27

Men's quarter-finals

Kevin Anderson v Hyeon Chung 4pm

Dominic Thiem v Karen Khachanov 6pm

Women's exhibition

Serena Williams v Venus Williams 8pm

Friday December 28

5th place play-off 3pm

Men's semi-finals

Rafael Nadal v Anderson/Chung 5pm

Novak Djokovic v Thiem/Khachanov 7pm

Saturday December 29

3rd place play-off 5pm

Men's final 7pm

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

12 restaurants opening at the hotel this month

Ariana’s Persian Kitchen
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Estiatorio Milos
House of Desserts
Jaleo by Jose Andres
La Mar
Ling Ling
Little Venice Cake Company
Malibu 90265
Nobu by the Beach
Resonance by Heston Blumenthal
The Royal Tearoom 

Need to know

When: October 17 until November 10

Cost: Entry is free but some events require prior registration

Where: Various locations including National Theatre (Abu Dhabi), Abu Dhabi Cultural Center, Zayed University Promenade, Beach Rotana (Abu Dhabi), Vox Cinemas at Yas Mall, Sharjah Youth Center

What: The Korea Festival will feature art exhibitions, a B-boy dance show, a mini K-pop concert, traditional dance and music performances, food tastings, a beauty seminar, and more.

For more information: www.koreafestivaluae.com

WITHIN SAND

Director: Moe Alatawi

Starring: Ra’ed Alshammari, Adwa Fahd, Muhand Alsaleh

Rating: 3/5

The specs

Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged V8

Power: 712hp at 6,100rpm

Torque: 881Nm at 4,800rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 19.6 l/100km

Price: Dh380,000

On sale: now

Company profile

Name: WallyGPT
Started: 2014
Founders: Saeid and Sami Hejazi
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Investment raised: $7.1 million
Number of staff: 20
Investment stage: Pre-seed round


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