Robots and Religion: Mediating the Divine.
As icons and rituals adapt to newer technologies, the rise of robotics and AI can change the way we practice and experience spirituality.
Some 100,000 years ago, fifteen people, eight of them children, were buried on the flank of Mount Precipice, just outside the southern edge of Nazareth in today’s Israel. One of the boys still held the antlers of a large red deer clasped to his chest, while a teenager lay next to a necklace of seashells painted with ochre and brought from the Mediterranean Sea shore 35 km away. The bodies of Qafzeh are some of the earliest evidence we have of grave offerings, possibly associated with religious practice.
Although some type of belief has likely accompanied us from the beginning, it’s not until 50,000–13,000 BCE that we see clear religious ideas take shape in paintings, offerings, and objects. This is a period filled with Venus figurines, statuettes made of stone, bone, ivory and clay, portraying women with small heads, wide hips, and exaggerated breasts. It is also the home of the beautiful lion man, carved out of mammoth ivory with a flint stone knife and the oldest-known zoomorphic (animal-shaped) sculpture in the world.
We’ve unearthed such representations of primordial gods, likely our first religious icons, all across Europe and as far as Siberia, and although we’ll never be able to ask their creators why they made them, we somehow still feel a connection with the stories they were trying to tell.
We know that the spiritual foundations of humanity upon which we subsist today (Monotheism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism) were laid independently and simultaneously around 900 to 200 BCE, while the Middle Ages established present-day world religions throughout Eurasia. As history does, things moved fast from there. Eventually, water-powered paper mills replaced the laborious handcraft of Chinese and Muslim paper-making, while the printing press allowed for religious texts to spread rapidly, capturing the masses in the Reformation and breaking the monopoly of the literate elite.