Tuesday, June 6, 2017


When people talk about robots stealing jobs, they usually are talking about factory jobs that are being automated. But in Wittenberg, Germany a church is experimenting with a new robot priest. The somewhat goofy-looking robot named "BlessU-2" can move its arms around and recite blessings based on Bible verses in seven languages.

BlessU-2 is a robot priest that can lift its arms, wiggle its eyebrows, flash light from its hands and deliver blessings in seven languages ― including German, English, French, Spanish, Polish and a local German dialect.

The project, spearheaded by the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau, is meant to be a provocative way to ring in the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which was sparked by Luther in 1517.

Volker Rahn, a press officer for the church, told HuffPost that BlessU-2 is meant to challenge people to think about what a blessing is, and whether it can be delivered by a machine. “The idea is to stimulate debate and thinking about the future of the church in a world full of electronic devices – all that with a twinkle in our eye,” he told HuffPost in an email.

The church turned to Alexander Wiedekind-Klein, the founder of a German robotics magazine, for help creating BlessU-2. Users can choose what type of blessing they wish to receive and whether to hear from a male or female voice. The robot then chooses a special blessing for the user, based on more than 40 Bible verses. BlessU-2 can even print the blessing out for users to keep.

From a spiritual technology perspective, a real blessing requires the activity of consciousness to be effective - basically, it's a very simple spell. So there's obviously no way a robot like this could do it. While I'm not willing to rule out the possibility of creating a self-aware, conscious robot - a true artificial intelligence - our technology is nowhere near that point yet.

Still, as conversation piece the robot is attracting attention, which is what its creators were looking for. I would also point out that if any priests out there think that a blessing just consists of reciting some words without any real intent behind them, they should probably watch out for robots. That part of the job can easily be performed by a machine.

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