The robot priest

A robot priest has been installed at a 400-year-old temple in Kyoto. Costing almost £800,000, the android Kannon is 6ft 5ins tall and is modelled on the Buddhist deity of mercy. “With AI, we hope it will grow in wisdom to help people overcome even the most difficult troubles,” says Tensho Goto, a priest at the Kodaiji temple. The robot can move its head, arms and torso, and is programmed to deliver sermons from the Heart Sutra, a Buddhist text. “You cling to a sense of selfish ego,” the robot warns worshippers. “Worldly desires are nothing more than a mind lost at sea.”  (The American Conservative, 28 September 2019)

Firstly, Epicurus was saying something remarkably similar nearly two thousand years ago.  He didn’t need a programmable, moving robot.

And why believe a machine without empathy and a mind of its own, spouting pre-digested dogma?  This story seems to indicate a collapse in the trust accorded human priests, or maybe a lack of candidates for the priesthood in the first place?  Seems to be a world-wide problem.  

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