Rationalizing the God Complex

**Note that this post is duplicated on Going Boldly as it seemed appropriate for both blogs.

I am currently writing a paper for my Law and Technology class on the legal personality of artificial intelligence.  Though certainly not a new area in science fiction, it is relatively new in terms of the law.  The section I am including below (blissfully not full of legal mumbo-jumbo for you non-lawyer types) is in regards to an issue I’ve been thinking a great deal about.  I’m not sure whether this section will make it into the final draft of my paper.  To be honest, it’s sort of a philosophical debate that may or may not lend insight to the rest of my paper (once I get around to finishing it).  For that reason I thought I would post it here.  Offer it up to you for comments and discussion.

The God Complex

Proponents against human cloning, genetic engineering, and A.I. often describe scientists and theorists who work in these various fields as “playing God.”  This negative description seems to capture a fundamental belief by some members of society that creation and alteration of intelligent beings should be off limits, or limited to God.  Is this true?  What does it mean to be God, or a god?  In the Christian faith, God created man in his image.  Similarly, the character of the Doctor on Star Trek Voyager was a holographic computer program that looked exactly like a human.  Were the Doctors creators, albeit fictional, playing god?  Is it indicative of a god complex to create something in your image, in this case the image being a replica of our species, human?  Japan, currently engaged in the most aggressive robot program today, already includes humanoid robots in various aspects of their society.  For whatever reason, there does seem to be a clear goal of creating robots capable of mimicking humans.  This humanity can be in appearance (two arms, two legs, eyes, a mouth, etc.) or in personality (such as giving a computer program a voice and emotion).

Though not important directly to the legal personality or robots and A.I. it is interesting to consider the motivations for creating technology in the image of humanity and what this might say about us.  What does it mean to be a god?  The Goa’ould, a technologically advanced race depicted on Stargate SG-1, repeatedly stated that they were deserving of the status of god because for all intents and purposes they were.  Their technological superiority often made them impervious to weapons, they lived for thousands of years (again thanks to technology), and were followed and worshiped by millions of people.  They were, in many ways exactly what they said, gods.

Is this ability to play god a problem?  Does the court have a right to step in and declare that there are some things that ought not be created?  Can the courts or legislature limit some forms of technological advancement because it crosses some moral line in the sand reserved only for god– if not god, then simply a crude game of chance?  Cells coming together and choosing each other, for reasons unknown, which produce a result we as humans can wash our hands of.  Do we have the right to go beyond our role of dealing with the consequences of creations in which we had no part, or should we have the right to not only deal with the outcome, but also serve as creational architects?

Contemplation on this issue is crucial to the topic of robot rights because this is an area of the law that is currently being formed.  As we consider and construct the system from which we analyze the legal rights of robots we should also consider whether our role, as humans and creators has changed.  At the same time robots are being granted rights (if only to exist), will our rights be limited in regards to what we can create?  Should they be limited?  What is the difference between a god and a creator?  What does it mean when the created can mimic the creator?  Outdo him?  Most importantly, how will this issue resolve itself in the marble floors, wooden benches, and black robes of our justice system?

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2 thoughts on “Rationalizing the God Complex

  1. DONOTWANTYou says:

    Excellent questions. Wow, what a crazy topic! I bet people 100 years ago wouldn’t even fathom that we would be asking these sort of questions so soon in the future.

    Since you asked for comments, I’ll offer the one that came to my mind. It has to do with the phrase “playing God”. Personally, when I use this phrase it is in the context of taking decisions about other peoples’ lives into our own hands (see my blog post about abortion & the death penalty), not about creating things.

    God tells us that we are created in his own image, which means we were created with the ability to create. If A.I. or genetic engineering can help us create things that help our species and further our development as humans then I would argue that God, and Christians, would have no problem with it.

    However, if doing these things requires us to make decisions about peoples’ lives, that would fall into the category of “playing God”.

    I don’t know if it’s possible to make this distinction in your paper or if it would just complicate/muddy the issue, but it’s just what came to my mind 🙂

    Good writing!

  2. diremirth says:

    I think that point is incredibly valid and a crucial distinction to make. Take for instance the genetic engineering of children. I think, of all possible “creations” that genetic engineering (or embryo selection) tows dangerously close to the line we call “playing god.” That seems to me what is truly dangerous.

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