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Exploring Technology, Faith, and the Future: A Conversation with Robert Geraci

AI&F Advisor Robert Geraci is an expert on the intersection of religion and technology and a professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College.  As part of their AI and the Human series, AI&F Editors Dan Forbush and Ron Roth, joined by Rev. Kathy Tew Rickey of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton, recently explored with Professor Geraci his insights on subjects ranging from transhumanism and its theological undertones to age-old rituals like Ayudha Puja and their significance in a technologically dominated world. Whether it’s the desire to merge our consciousness with machines or the simple act of expressing gratitude for the gadgets that ease our daily existence, Professor Geraci challenges us to consider where technology ends and where spirituality begins. AI and Faith editorial team members.

Seeking Meaning and Purpose 

Religion has been an enduring part of human cultures, but technology, especially in the modern sense, offers new avenues for people to seek out meaning and purpose. Technology becomes another layer through which we interpret our world and our place in it.

For some, technology and its advancements might diminish traditional religious beliefs, while for others, it amplifies or complements them. For instance, many religious groups have adopted technology as a tool to spread their messages and build their communities, showing a harmonization of tech and faith.

However, there’s also a growing population that leans on technology as a source of existential purpose, such as those who believe in a transhumanist future or the eventual merging of human and machine. These views can be seen as technologically driven spiritualities, where technology becomes the avenue for seeking transcendence.

I think we’re witnessing a complex interplay where technology isn’t necessarily replacing religion, but adding a new dimension to the ways we seek and experience meaning. The key will be in how we navigate this relationship, ensuring it enriches our understanding of ourselves and our world rather than diminishing it.

Rooting Technology in the Human Condition

There are people who talk about technologies as ways to make us more moral. I’m not sure where I stand on that. It sounds like an immoral project with a moral outcome.

The reason for talking about it is not to say that people who take this position are necessarily wrong. I worry that, if we only have one vision of what the technology is doing, that’s not a good guarantee for good outcomes.

People have varying visions of what they might want in the transhumanist future. Most people in the transhumanist camp generally seem to think people should have options. But it is frequently the case that once the transhumanist conversation begins, it becomes very linear and predetermined, depending on the person who’s talking.

Some are looking forward to like the kind of AI Apocalypse where they can upload their minds into machines. Others say, “No, I just want my biological body to last forever” or “I want to be able to clone myself into 30 different copies and send them across the solar system.”

For me, the conversation comes back to our anchoring in the human condition. We can say, “Okay, you’d like to live forever as a robot. That’s fine. Here’s what another person might want.”

The Hebrew Bible tells us to worry about the widows and the orphans, which I take as a challenge to help those in our society who are the most marginalized and weakest. That should be our starting point for defining our technological values. You may want some things that I don’t want, but let’s figure out the things that we’re pretty sure we all want and work on those together.


For me, true transcendence would be always making the right choice. It would be the ability to always do the thing that is more than you are. To be there for the people who are hurting and for the people who need you. Some of those needs are simple and easy to satisfy, but we’re built in ways that sometimes make it hard. It’s hard to look at someone else’s need as being more important than my own need, especially when someone else’s need is off in some distant land. That’s when it becomes thin and papery compared to my concrete need in the now.

I don’t have any belief that there’s an afterlife or that someone will reward me for doing the right thing. I won’t rule it out. So, for me, transcendence should not just be about how I most satisfy all my own needs but how I can make a better world.

Finding Meaning in a Video Game Universe

We have a huge population of people doing jobs they don’t think are necessary and they return to homes where things may not be awesome for one reason or another. Their lives may feel kind of meaningless. But then they get into their video game universe where they have friends who matter to them and opportunities to go do heroic deeds. Meaning happens there.

You don’t want it to become escapism, but it’s powerful for a person to feel strong and good in the world and like they’re contributing. Some people go so far as to want to transfer their minds into that digital environment. So, it’s like a continuum of technological transcendence. I’m not personally anticipating uploading my mind into a robot or a virtual world and then living forever.

Exploring the AI Apocalypse 

For the last 15 years, I’ve been looking at how roboticists and AI people talk about computers and it occurred to me that it was a perfect match with particularly Protestant Christian visions of history and salvation. These are the kind of eschatological visions you see in regions of America that are “rapture ready.”

Their views of the world:

  • dualistic, with good and evil in battle with each other.
  • characterized by alienation because evil seems to be winning.

They believe that God is going to solve this dualism and their alienation by creating a perfect new world. Ultimately, God will provide them with perfect bodies in which to inhabit this world.

That’s exactly the way many of the people who write, think, and talk about artificial intelligence approach the subject. They see the world as a battleground of bodies and thought. Bodies are biological, but thinking is better performed by computational entities because, gosh, they can do math a lot quicker than I can. The intellectual world is where the value is and the physical world is a problem, so there’s an experience of alienation.

“It’s hard for me to learn things.”

“I forget stuff all the time.”

“I’m going to die.”

But then we have this glorious new machine world, which is being brought to you by evolution, the law of accelerating returns, or Moore’s Law. Whichever you choose, the new machine world will arrive and resolve that troubling duality. We’ll occupy the perfect machine world in our perfect machine bodies that enable us to do whatever it is we want to do with our bodies. And that will vary by the person.

Some people talk about becoming asteroids and floating around the universe. Others talk about bodies that are made of nanobots rather than human biological cells. So there’s a lot of variation in what those bodies might look like.

AI Technologies That Help

Our best bet in the future means getting people on board with AI technologies that are specifically designed to help people and not just to make money or oppress people.

Capitalist values of profit and efficiency are not problematic in and of themselves, but they become problematic when only a small group profits and much larger numbers lose. So we have to think of ways we can harness efficiency.

Also, we need a government that incentivizes good behavior. We should be subsidizing those who are building tools for the public good and regulating and penalizing those whose tools are harmful.

We also must think about where those regulations are coming from. If they’re just coming from Silicon Valley, they’re going to favor Silicon Valley’s values of efficiency, profit and mind-uploading, which is now its de facto religion.

So we have to start talking about other kinds of values and how we’re going to make them shared. Unitarian Universalists are in a better place than the vast majority in thinking about shared cultural values because a pluralistic approach is baked into the way you all operate.

Adapted with permission from AI and the Human

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