Artificial intelligence has infiltrated several aspects of humanity in the last few years. But technology may have crossed the line in India, where a robot is performing a prayer ritual. While some feel that the robotic change highlights innovation, leading to the betterment of society, others are worried that the incorporation of artificial intelligence into religion is a bad omen for the future.
The first time a robot was introduced into Hinduism was in 2017. At the time, a technology firm developed a robotic arm to perform an aarti. During the prayer, light (in the form of a small lamp) is offered to one or more deities to symbolize the removal of darkness. The technology was unveiled at the Ganpati festival.
The annual event sees millions of people participate in a prayer procession led by a statue of Ganesha. It culminates with the deity being immersed in the Mula-Mutha River in India. Since then, the robot arm has inspired several prototypes. Some are regularly used in prayer ceremonies across India, East Asia, and South Asia.
Rituals, with a robot assistant, also include animatronics temple deities. The most popular is a statue of Ganesha in the city of Kerala on the south coast of India. However, this type of technology has resulted in several debates about using artificial intelligence in worship. But the religious community shouldn't be too worried since spiritual devotion is primarily about one's beliefs.
Anthropology expert Holly Waters examined the uneasiness Hindus and Buddhists express about a robot replacing them and whether the technology might make better devotees. While the contemporary version of automated rituals often refers to apps that recite mantras, new technology has prompted complicated conversations, she wrote in The Conversation.
There are concerns that robot proliferation might prompt people to leave temples if the locations rely on automation. The problem has been worsened by the significant decrease in young people willing to dedicate their lives to spiritual education. Additionally, with families scattered worldwide, priests often serve much smaller communities.
According to Waters, these concerns reflect one pervasive theme: an underlying anxiety that a robot will be better at worshipping gods than humans. Technology also has the potential to raise conflicts about the meaning of life and our place in the universe. This is especially problematic in religions where importance is placed on perfecting a ritual instead of a specific belief.
This means automated rituals would be superior to those that fallible humans perform. To summarize, a robot can practice any religion better than humans because they are spiritually incorruptible. As such, technology becomes an attractive replacement for priests while justifying their use in everyday contexts.
People will choose a robot to carry out their religious rituals since the technologyis unlikely to make mistakes. But this presents humanity with a cultural paradox, where the best spiritual practices involve no people at all. It also creates a cycle in which humans create a world in which their robots become gods, and gods may become human.
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