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Robot Preachers Found To Undermine Religious Commitment

Robots are everywhere these days - why not the pulpit? Well, it turns out that maybe there might be issues.

Kannon Bodhisattva, the bodhisattva of 'compassion' and `salvation,' can transform into various forms depending on the person seeking salvation. Even in today's technologically advanced and materially enriched world, the Bodhisattva Kannon appeared in the form of the android Kannon Minder at Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto to help the many people who still suffer.

This time, the android Kannon Minder will preach to people who are suffering from the `Maya Prajnaparamita Sutra' (`Heart Sutra'), which he once told to Shariputra, a disciple of Buddha. This Buddhist scripture, which is most familiar to people all over the world, explains the essence of the Buddha's teachings in its 262 characters, and shows how people with many worries can find `peace of mind.' I am. Android Kannon Minder's sermons are developed through simple language exchanges between Minder and the audience who appear in projection mapping so that they can be easily understood by people in today's world.

In a new paper, it is demonstrated that robot preachers may not be ideal for spreading religious faith and commitment:

Over the last decade, robots continue to infiltrate the workforce, permeating occupations that once seemed immune to automation. This process seems to be inevitable because robots have ever-expanding capabilities.

However, drawing from theories of cultural evolution and social learning, we propose that robots may have limited influence in domains that require high degrees of “credibility”; here we focus on the automation of religious preachers as one such domain. Using a natural experiment in a recently automated Buddhist temple and a fully randomized experiment in a Taoist temple, we consistently show that religious adherents perceive robot preachers—and the institutions which employ them—as less credible than human preachers.

This lack of credibility explains reductions in religious commitment after people listen to robot (vs. human) preachers deliver sermons. Study 3 conceptually replicates this finding in an online experiment and suggests that religious elites require perceived minds (agency and patiency) to be credible, which is partly why robot preachers inspire less credibility than humans. Our studies support cultural evolutionary theories of religion and suggest that escalating religious automation may induce religious decline.

(Via Exposure to Robot Preachers Undermines Religious Commitment.)

There have already been significant efforts to bring robotics and religion together. For example, here we see that the I-Fairy Robot Minister Performs Wedding Ceremony.


(I-Fairy robot minister)

As in so many other things, science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick has been there before us. In his 1969 novel Galactic Pot-Healer, he describes the Padre booth:

Getting to his feet he crossed the waiting room to the Padre booth; inside he put a dime into the slot and dialed at random. The marker came to rest at Zen.

"Tell me your torments," the Padre said, in an elderly voice marked with compassion. And slowly; it spoke as if there were no rush, no pressures. All was timeless.

Joe said "I haven't worked for seven months and now I've got a job that takes me out of the Sol system entirely, and I'm afraid. What if I can't do it? What if I've lost my skill?

The Padre's weightless voice floated back reassuringly to him. "You have worked and not worked. Not working is the hardest work of all."

That's what I get for dialing zen, Joe said to himself.
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's Padre booth)

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/26/2024)

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