Religion and technology, at first glance, don’t go together. When I tell people that I research religion and robots, I’m often met with confusion. Interestingly, though, the religious figure of the golem, a mound of earth or clay that has been brought to “life”, is widely recognised as a precursor to the robot. And some of the earliest examples of moving mechanical figures (automata) were designed for religious purposes, as a form of worship and reverence for God’s creative work. So are religion and robots really that far removed?
One way of thinking about this is in terms of how secularisation – the idea that religion loses influence in society – has generally (although debatably) come to characterise Western culture. This has broadly polarised religion and technology. Religion is often seen to concern irrational, spiritual ideas and technology rational, scientific principles.
But there is growing concern that pioneers of new technologies – the likes of Apple, Google, and Facebook, who all reside in Silicon Valley – have paid too much attention to the technical.