On Acceptance Of Cyber-Spirituality
Bryan E. Hall
Fifty years ago, people only dreamed
of things like a computer that would take dictation.
They would have imagined that I was magic to simply speak and for my words to appear on a glass screen. Ironically, it is greater magic to be able to speak to others and persuade and seduce and love. To speak to a computer and have it understand you without questioning your motivations, is no real trick at all.
After all, the voice is only a sound with limited mathematical range. Volume, speed, tone can all be measured, however, the rate at which people think, the expressions on their face, the position of their bodies, and their emission of odor (pheromones), are all factors a computer may never learn.
I find myself wondering all the time, why would anyone want a computer to become human? We have enough difficulty believing others love us already. True, a computer cannot lie, unless you tell it to, therefore, you may have greater confidence in its information, usually inappropriately so. However, knowledge is sterile, and faith is the only true state of human data. What we have typically called knowledge, has always really been simply strong faith and trust. It is that ability to discern between trust and fear, which we call wisdom. In Alcoholics Anonymous, a popular 12 step self-help program, they pray a common prayer: "God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." We may never accept computers the way they are, therefore we will certainly muster up the courage to change them to our satisfaction in our quest for wisdom.
A computer may someday gain the ability to measure its physical reality with the equivalent of all five senses, however, it may never inflict that information onto the sophisticated unique matrix we call a personality. Should we choose to give a computer a personality, who of us is qualified to choose its characteristics? Is it possible that we are attempting to build a computer in our own image in an attempt to become God? Is it out of the fear that there is no God? It is a consolation, if there is such fear, that our reaction is, to create and sometimes to destroy, rather than the paralysis of indecision.
Consequently, we may in fact create a computer that reminds us of our guarded principles in the quest for intimacy and love. It may become a tool for the advancement of our spirituality. Just as the Bible was a conversion from an oral tradition to a controlled, regimented form, one which would maintain uniformity and homogeneity, the computer may serve as a tool to bring us together in a universal human medium. After all, is the Internet more machine than human? Is word processing more a mathematical task than one of communications? When we use a computer, is it simply a scientific experiment, or like the pen itself, a tool of expression?
Whether or not there is a God, humans seem to be compelled by the unexplained curiosity we call "inspiration and progress." Short of nothingness, existentialism, or a belief that nothing exists on a physical plane, only in our minds, most seem to accept the destruction that accompanies creation. If there is a God, and he is omniscient, then, most certainly, he came to such acceptance long ago in preference to a sterile universe.
Many people today have embarked on new journeys using the computer as their vehicle. Some of them, before the internet explosion, had sat in front of the computer playing video games alone, communicating, at most, with fictional cyber characters in the games. Today, those same people are chatting with real people like themselves around the world. They may think of their computer as their God, or not, but whatever they consider their journey, it is most certainly spiritual, and their computer the alter.
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