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date: 24 March 2017

Cybernetics and Religion

Summary and Keywords

Cybernetics is the study of systems of control and communication. While often used to refer to control systems in or by machines, such as computers, cybernetic theory can be applied to control and communication within a variety of areas, including human interaction and systems of production, distribution, or design, systems that may be comprised of humans, machines, or a combination of humans and machines. A cybernetic view of any system focuses on information and the flow of information, for that is what effects both control and communication. While cybernetics is a concept that can be used to describe any system through which information flows, today most human generated information flows through computers or computer controlled networks; thus in the popular mind, cybernetics is frequently used as a referent to anything pertaining to computer design, use, and human-computer interaction.

A cybernetic view of the human person finds each person’s identity in the information comprising our memories, feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Human beings are considered in this view to be biological machines, each of whose unique identity is found in the patterns stored in the neuronal structures of the brain. In such an anthropology, there is no soul. Each of us is merely a vast and ever-changing collection of information. However, there is the possibility of a form of immortality effected by uploading the human brain to a computer.

Cybernetics is, historically, closely associated with the field of artificial intelligence. Though experiencing initial successes in fields such as game playing or mathematics, producing a full, human-like intelligence has so far been limited by the difficult problems of giving a robot a body similar to ours, in order to experience the world as we do, and the necessity of emotion for true cognition and autonomous decision making. We have come closer to realizing the dreams of cybernetics by using the computer to mediate human-to-human relationships, especially through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. This has implications for religion, in that the widespread dissemination of a variety of religious materials and discussions has led to increased contact with other religions, increased conversions, and an increase in fundamentalism.

Cybernetic theories can also be used to describe the origin of religion and the development of ethical systems. In general, a cybernetic view of the development of religion focuses on religion as an adaptive mechanism for the survival of groups as they evolve and change in an atmosphere of physical and social competition.

Keywords: cybernetics, cybernetic immortality, computers, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, social media, mind body problem, consciousness

Definition and History of Cybernetics

Cybernetics is the study of systems of control and communication. While often used to refer to control systems in or by machines, such as computers, cybernetic theory can be applied to control and communication within a variety of areas, including human interaction and systems of production, distribution, or design, systems that may be comprised of humans, machines, or a combination of humans and machines. A cybernetic view of any system focuses on information and the flow of information, for that is what effects both control and communication. Of particular interest to cybernetics are systems that are complex, adaptive, and self-regulating through the use of feedback.

Norbert Wiener coined the term cybernetics in his 1948 study Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. It is a transliteration of the Greek kybernetes, which means pilot or helmsman, and it originally referred to the pilot who guides a ship into harbor. However, the term has long been used in a broader and more metaphorical sense. Plato, for example, uses kybernetes to denote the act of governing a populace as well as the act of steering a boat. The word “governor” derives from the same root; both derivations refer to the control and direction of some system, whether mechanical or human.

Cybernetics describes the world in terms of information. A single human or machine can be considered as a hierarchy of interacting networks through which information is moved, created, or transformed. Similarly, groups of agents move, create, and transform information among themselves. Cybernetics uses mathematical and logical models to describe the flow of information through these systems. Since many systems are influenced by random factors, statistical methods are also used to forecast or describe information flow.

The earliest applications of cybernetics were predominantly in engineering and computer science (robotics, circuit design, aiming artillery). Claude Shannon and John von Neuman used cybernetic theory to describe concepts in artificial intelligence and machine learning.1 The basic concepts of information flow and transformation through feedback were soon applied in a variety of fields, including economics, management theory, biology, ethics, and sociology.2 As cybernetics moved into the social sciences, descriptions of information flow changed from those of an outside observer to those of an internal participant. Thus, while cybernetics began by viewing information as a commodity that flows through a system, it quickly added the concept of information as a product of a system, and finally, of looking at a system itself as being nothing but information.3 This last view, that systems themselves can be reduced to or described in terms of information, underlies the modern field of artificial intelligence. Ray Kurzweil has applied this approach to describe intelligence in human beings.4 Frank Tipler and Stephen Wolfram go a step further, viewing information, rather than atomic or subatomic particles, as the stuff out of which the universe is built.5 For these writers, information not only informs the system’s outcomes or activities, but also is the very basis of the system itself.

While cybernetics is a concept that can be used to describe any system through which information flows, today most human generated information flows through computers or computer controlled networks; thus, in the popular mind, cybernetics is frequently used as a referent to anything pertaining to computer design, use, and human-computer interaction. This application of the term follows from the cybernetic position that everything is constituted of information and reflects the growing status of information in our highly computerized culture.

A Cybernetic View of the Human Person

If information is the building block of the universe, then we humans can be thought of as nothing but information. A cybernetic view of the human person finds each person’s self, or unique identity, in the information in their brains. This view is ontologically reductionist in that it understands even those parts of our being that seem the least material—consciousness, soul, or spirit—as qualities that emerge, just as matter evolves or self-organizes into a sufficiently complex system. According to molecular biologist Francis Crick, “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. . . . You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.”6 The “you” that Crick speaks of here arises from the workings of the material brain. Without such a material basis, you cease to exist. But what we identify as “you” is not the brain itself, but the information stored in the brain, the collection of sorrows, memories, ambitions, feelings, and experiences that Crick describes. Consciousness is considered to be an emergent property of the complex functioning of the brain’s various layers of neurons. In short, to the cyberneticist, human beings are biological machines whose unique identity is found in the patterns that arise and are stored in the neuronal structures of the brain. In such an anthropology, there is no soul. Each of us is merely a vast and ever-changing collection of information.

Despite the ever-changing nature of our neural selves, many who take a cybernetic view of the human person see, in the capture of some set of these patterns, a new vision of immortality. If our neural connections could be replicated within a computer, the defining characteristics of the person, or at least of that person’s thoughts, might be preserved. This possibility of preserving a brain’s information past the death of the body presents an alternative to the metaphysical continuance of a soul, or the resurrection of the body, proposed by many religious traditions. Computer scientist Ray Kurzweil suggests this could be accomplished by uploading the contents of the human mind into successive generations of computer technology:

Up until now, our mortality was tied to the longevity of our hardware. When the hardware crashed, that was it. For many of our forebears, the hardware gradually deteriorated before it disintegrated . . . As we cross the divide to instantiate ourselves into our computational technology, our identity will be based on our evolving mind file. We will be software, not hardware . . . As software, our mortality will no longer be dependent on the survival of the computing circuitry. . . . [As] we periodically port ourselves to the latest, evermore capable "personal" computer . . . our immortality will be a matter of being sufficiently careful to make frequent backups.7

Dreams of moving from a mortal biological body to a quasi-immortal existence in cyberspace form one of the main platforms of the movements known as Posthumanism or Transhumanism.

Kurzweil suggests we might achieve this new platform by 2045. He believes that we will approach what he has coined “the Singularity” on this date, a time when computers will be sophisticated enough to model the human brain, and when artificially intelligent computers will outstrip human understanding and begin to evolve on their own. Transhumanist Frans Heylighten sees an added potential for human intelligence to evolve once passed on to artificial brains, for once the information in each of our separate brains is uploaded to a computer, there is no reason not to link these computers, and to thus “make us part of a larger unity embracing, possibly, all of the humanity [sic]: the social superorganism.”8 In The Physics of Immortality, physicist Frank Tipler borrows language from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, calling his version of the Singularity the “omega point.”9 Tipler sees this omega point as the coalescence of all information, including the information that has made up every person who ever lived. To Tipler, this point corresponds to the omniscient and omnipotent God of religious traditions, who represents the sum total of all human intelligence and experience. Once the omega point is reached, the information making up any given individual would reside within this God and could be reinstantiated at any time, resulting in a form of resurrection for that person not dissimilar to the Christian concept of resurrection of the body, though Tipler is vague as to how such a reinstantiation might be accomplished. Such a cybernetic view of both God and the human person provides a way to maintain belief in ontological materialism without giving up the hope of immortality.

A weakness in these theories of cybernetic immortality lies in their dependence on the material world. The brain requires a computer on which to be uploaded, and the functioning of that computer depends on both the material elements that comprise the computer, a constant power source, and a location. Ultimately, the earth will no longer be habitable, even for computers, and the dream of moving our computerized selves into space meets with the eventuality of the ultimate collapse of our physical universe. Cybernetic immortality might allow the continuation of a person’s knowledge, but not forever, only for a long time. Even scientists agree that “heaven and earth will pass away” (Mark 13:31). Thus cybernetic immortality is not the same as the Christian concept of resurrection, which takes place “beyond all the securities and insecurities of history.”10 In fact, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr sees the human longing to transcend the finite as a source of sin. “Man is ignorant and involved in the limitations of a finite mind; but he pretends that he is not limited. He assumes that he can gradually transcend finite limitations until his mind becomes identical with universal mind. All of his intellectual and cultural pursuits, therefore, become infected with the sin of pride.”11

While cybernetic immortality does not correlate well with the forms of immortality posited by traditional religions, the concept of the self as an ever-changing pattern of neural connection at any given moment correlates with the Buddhist concept of anatta, the view that there is no self and no soul, nothing that constitutes a separate “I.” The Buddha rejected notions of an eternal self or soul, precisely because all beings are in a continual state of change. When asked by a disciple what constitutes the self, he is said to have said, “Just this, Radha, form is not the self (anatta), sensations are not the self, perceptions are not the self, assemblages are not the self, consciousness is not the self” (Samyutta Nikaya, MN 3.196). A consistent cybernetic view of a person as information that takes into account the continually changing nature of information should arrive at a similar conclusion, that there is no one self in any person, but a succession of different selves arising and disappearing in each moment of life.

Artificial Intelligence

The field of artificial intelligence has been closely allied to cybernetics and raises a number of religious questions. While we do not as yet have fully autonomous, conscious human-like machines, they remain the goal of what is known as “strong” artificial intelligence. Should we succeed in creating such machines, would they be considered persons? Would they have a soul? What sort of relationships should we have with them?

To begin to answer these questions we must first ask, what is intelligence? The field of artificial intelligence began with the position that intelligence was simply a body of information combined with the proper techniques to search and retrieve pieces of that information. It assumed that thinking was basically a process of internal symbol manipulation. Symbolic artificial intelligence met with some quick successes in the 1960s, with competent game playing and mathematical problem solving programs. Very quickly, however, symbolic artificial intelligence began to falter, not on sophisticated things such as passing a calculus exam, but on the basic things a child can do, such as understanding a story, recognizing a face, or navigating across a crowded room. Winograd and Flores note that this approach is not at all similar to human thought, for humans do not carry mental models around in their heads. When we ride a bicycle, we do not calculate equations of balance, force, and trajectory.12 Hubert Dreyfus makes a similar argument in Mind Over Machine (1988), in which he suggests that experts do not arrive at their solutions to problems through the application of rules or the manipulation of symbols; rather, they use intuition, which is acquired through multiple experiences of acting in the environment of the real world.13 The field of artificial intelligence has recognized this and moved toward the use of neural nets, which learn to solve a problem, not through programmed rules, but through exposure to multiple examples. This has been a much more successful approach particularly to problems of identification, such as facial recognition.

Symbolic artificial intelligence took a highly cybernetic view of intelligence as disembodied information. However, to act within an environment intelligence must be embodied. Our bodies determine our interaction with the world around us. Our perception is limited by our physical abilities; for example, we think of location in two-dimensional terms because we walk rather than fly. We evaluate a situation primarily by sight and sound, while dogs evaluate the world through smell. A different body gives a different experience of the world. While we think of thinking as a flow of information through the mind, even the most abstract of fields, mathematics, has its roots in our bodies. In Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being (New York: Perseus, 2000), George Lakoff and Rafael Núñoz argue that mathematical ideas are metaphors grounded in our everyday experiences of the world. The concept of number requires experience of objects that can be numbered.

Thus a human-like intelligence, able to act within a normal social environment, seems to require a human-like body, a conclusion that has long been recognized by science fiction writers, who have posited a human-like robotic body for almost every artificially intelligent computer that appears in books and the movies (with the notable exception of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey [Stanley Kubrick, Warner Home Video, 2001]). In recent years, prominent artificial intelligence researchers, such as Rodney Brooks at MIT, have also come to see the necessity of a body for an artificial intelligence. Brooks has noted that any functional artificial intelligence must be situated in the real world and able to learn from the continuity and the surprises the real world presents. Brooks has built a series of robots that act within the world on the basis of data acquired through sensors, beginning with a series of insects, later moving on to the humanoid robots Cog and Kismet, which acquired some of the rudimentary skills of a baby through interaction with human beings. None of these robots comes close to human-like intelligence, but they have generated one money-making venture, Roomba, a roboticized vacuum cleaner that navigates around a room looking for dirt, avoids obstacles such as furniture and stairs, and plugs itself in when it needs to be recharged. One might argue that Roomba shows rudimentary intelligence in its ability to navigate in a local environment, avoid hazards, and forage for sustenance.

Roomba interacts within a static material environment. Humans do not. We assess one another’s intelligence generally through conversation. In his landmark paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” published in 1950, Alan Turing addressed the question of how one might determine if a computer were intelligent by proposing a test based on a parlor game called the imitation game, in which an interrogator questions a person in another room and tries to tell from written responses whether that person is a man or a woman. In Turing’s version, the interrogator must determine if he is conversing with a human or a machine. If the interrogator fails as often as he succeeds in determining which was the human, and which the machine, the machine could be considered as having intelligence. Turing predicted that by the year 2000, “it will be possible to programme computers . . . to make them play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than a 70 percent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of questioning.”14 This, like most predictions in the field of artificial intelligence, was overly optimistic. No computer has yet come close to passing the Turing Test. However, if we accept the Turing Test, as many in the artificial intelligence community do, as the ultimate arbiter of intelligence, we have defined intelligence relationally. Turing is not alone in viewing discourse as the hallmark of human-like intelligence. Winograd and Flores assert that cognition is dependent upon language and relationships.15 The act of speaking to another is not simply the passing of information between persons, but a social action that brings persons into a mutual orientation. We generate commitments, through speaking and listening. Understanding arises in listening, not to the meaning of individual words, but to the commitments expressed through dialogue. Thus intelligence is both predicated on and produces social ties.

To navigate the world of relationships, one also needs what has been termed emotional intelligence. When viewed superficially, emotions seem to obscure thought. However, recent research has shown that emotions are necessary for cognition. In Descartes’ Error, Antonio Damasio notes that patients who have had a brain injury to the parts of the brain that govern the ability to feel emotions also lose the ability to make effective decisions, even decisions as simple as what to have for lunch.16 If we have no fears and no desires, we have no reason to value one choice over another. According to Marvin Minsky, “The question is not whether intelligent machines can have any emotions, but whether machines can be intelligent without emotions.”17 Rosalind Picard, at MIT, has done stellar work in programming computers to recognize emotion in facial expressions or tone of voice and to express a variety of emotions, physically or verbally, however, feeling emotion requires a level of self-consciousness current machines lack. The ability to perceive and mimic emotions without feeling them at a bodily level would make interaction with an artificial intelligence much the same as interaction with a sociopath, for sociopaths often fake emotional states that they do not feel in order to be perceived as normal or to manipulate others.

Their stress on the importance of social ties or commitments has led many to conclude that strong artificial intelligence is an impossible dream since a computer cannot enter into commitment, but can only express the commitments of its programmer.18 If we accept psychologist Warren Brown’s description of the soul as “the net sum of those encounters in which embodied humans relate to and commune with God (who is spirit) or with one another,” then one cannot say computers possess a soul in the traditional religious sense.19

However, some believe computers might still be considered as persons and take a place in society. Anne Foerst notes that personhood is a social construct that we as a society have historically given or withheld.20 Not all societies view the soul the same way. Japan has been a leader in the field of robotics, and robots have found a measure of acceptance there that they have not found in the West. Robots are commonplace in Japan, not only in factories, but also feeding the ill in hospitals, vacuuming corridors, comforting children, working as receptionists, and even serving tea. They are frequently welcomed on their first day of work with a Shinto ceremony. The ease with which robots seem to fit within Japanese society can, in part, be attributed to the animist spirit of the Shinto religion, which understands all objects in the natural world to be imbued with spirit, making no sharp distinction between the souled and soulless.21

Social Media and Human Relationships

The Singularity or omega point remains in a hypothetical future, and artificial intelligence has yet to show truly independent thought. Yet many of us live in a world of computer mediated systems of information, particularly in our use of the computer to mediate relationships, especially through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Marshall McLuhan noted in his famous statement that “the medium is the message,” that every technological extension of our abilities has both personal and social consequences. New technologies extend our capacity for relationship but also take something away in the process. In the case of social media, what is extended is both scope and scale. E-mail and Facebook allow instant communication of words and images across the globe. Physical distance is no barrier. Twitter and YouTube increase the number of people one can reach with a single post. A writer who might have had an audience of the few thousand people who read her local newspaper can now post a blog with the potential of millions of readers around the globe.

Religion’s use of computerized systems of communication has been broad and varied. Religious texts are now easily available online. Religious commentary, ranging from published essays, guidebooks for beginners, discussion forums for adherents, and myriad blogs and videos abound. Social media allow for the sharing of experiences and prayer requests; Facebook even maintains pages of the deceased, where mourners not only express their grief but also feel somehow that the dead remains part of their online community. Worshipping communities post videos or live-stream rituals on Facebook, Web pages, or YouTube. Some religious communities exist only online, on platforms like Second Life or Facebook. The changing use of digital media by religious communities has been studied by numerous scholars, including Brasher22 and Campbell.23 Another source of interaction and a sense of self comes from the ubiquitous use of video games, particularly among, but not limited to, young men. These games provide an avenue of communication and information exchange with other gamers, while at the same time they can isolate the player from his immediate environment.24

A secondary effect of such widespread virtual communication is an unprecedented level of contact with adherents to another faith tradition and increased exposure to the tenets of a variety of faiths. This has led to both increased conversions from one faith to another. A Pew survey, conducted in 2007, found that 44 percent of Americans had switched religious affiliations.25 This fluidity also finds expression in the number of individuals who practice more than one religious tradition simultaneously. Many, while staying loyal to the faith they were raised in, find inspiration in a secondary tradition. While such increased contact has led to a greater understanding and interest in religion, especially among the young, it has also increased fundamentalism in a variety of faiths. Fundamentalist groups have made extensive use of social media as an opportunity to reach large audiences. Those responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center communicated extensively via the Internet. Similarly, a group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was able to raise its own profile and provoke mass consternation in the Western world by posting videos of their beheading of Western journalists on YouTube.

While social media offer the opportunity to widen the scope and scale of one’s communications, they also have a limiting effect due to the lack of physical presence. Proximity in the physical world forces us to interact with people we might not choose as friends. The Internet tends to segregate persons into like-minded groups based on personal interests and proclivities. Online, most people gravitate to groups that already share their interests or worldview. This has led to increased polarization, not only in online communities, but in the real world as well. Liberal blogs are read by liberals, conservative blogs by conservatives, not just in the political world, but in the religious world as well.

Careful and loving relationships lie at the heart of all religious traditions. Online communication may be one way of maintaining and fostering such relationships; however, young people in particular need to be taught to use the medium thoughtfully. Most religious traditions teach that relationship must be entered into in a spirit of mutuality, not to enhance one’s own status. It is also entered into in a spirit of self-disclosure, which calls for an authenticity that the Internet does not preclude, but also does not encourage. Many young people choose to communicate via social networks or texts as a way to mitigate the vulnerability found in face-to-face communication. Yet face-to-face communication can be satisfying in a way computer mediated communication often is not, as evinced by several studies that show a correlation between time spent online and markers of depression in young adults.

Cybernetics and the Origin of Religions

Cybernetic theories have also been used to describe the origin of religion and the development of ethical systems. In general, a cybernetic view of the development of religion focuses on religion as an adaptive mechanism for the survival of groups as they evolve and change in an atmosphere of physical and social competition. In this view, religion becomes one of many feedback mechanisms that present and adapt information necessary for the functioning of individuals within the social group. Primatologist Frans de Waal has suggested that human morality has its origins in the traits of cooperation, altruism, and fairness exemplified by all primates who live in social groups. In The Bonobo and the Atheist, he postulates that religion arose as the codification of moral impulses that are an innate product of our evolution. De Waal writes, “It wasn’t God who introduced us to morality; rather it was the other way around. God was put into place to help us live the way we felt we ought to . . . We endowed him with the capacity to keep us on the same straight and narrow that we’d been following ever since we lived in small bands.”26 In this view, religion functions as a system of codification of the traits needed for a group to flourish, a system honed by the feedback of group interaction, and solidified through evolution.

For evolution to select for religion or for the moral traits that religion espouses, natural selection must function on multiple levels, not just the individual level postulated by Darwin. One of the major proponents of the theory of group or multi-level selection is David Sloan Wilson. In Darwin’s Cathedral, Wilson writes “Around the world and across history, religions have functioned as mighty engines of collective action for the production of benefits that all people want.”27 Groups function best when their members provide benefits to one another. While altruistic behavior may not benefit the reproductive status of the individual, groups whose members display such behavior are ultimately stronger than groups of non-altruistic individuals, thus the group as a whole realizes a reproductive advantage.


Norbert Wiener’s Cybernetics28 introduced the term and the field. A more popular and recent treatment of the field can be found in his The Human Use of Human Beings.29 W. R. Ashby’s An Introduction to Cybernetics remains the basic textbook in cybernetic theory. The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela30 applies cybernetic concepts to human cognition and to human social systems. Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines was the first to explore the possibility of cybernetic immortality on a computer platform,31 while Frank Tipler’s The Physics of Immortality combines cybernetics with modern physics to present an eschatological vision.32 Stephan Wolfram, in A New Kind of Science presents another view of the universe as cybernetic system.33 The website Principia Cybernetica contains a number of definitions of cybernetics as well as links to a variety of transhumanist articles.

The first discussion of the meaning of intelligence in the light of the digital computer is found in “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Alan Turing’s seminal paper, which outlines the Turing Test, which remains the accepted standard for judging artificial intelligence.34 Further important studies of intelligence include Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design, by Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores,35 and Hubert Dreyfus’s What Computers Can’t Do: The Limits of Artificial Intelligence.36 For a specific consideration of the religious implications of artificial intelligence, see Noreen Herzfeld’s In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit.37

A cybernetic approach to the origins of religion can be found in Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God.38 Similar approaches are taken by David Sloan Wilson in Darwin’s Cathedral39 and by Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.40

Further Reading

Ashby, William Ross. An Introduction to Cybernetics. New York: Routledge, 1964.Find this resource:

Bateson, Gregory. Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. New York: Hampton, 1979.Find this resource:

Beer, Stafford. Cybernetics and Management. New York: Wiley, 1959.Find this resource:

Boulding, Kenneth. The Image: Knowledge and Life in Society. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1956.Find this resource:

Campbell, Heidi. Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds. London: Routledge, 2013.Find this resource:

Clark, Andy. Mindware: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Cordeshi, Roberto. The Discovery of the Artificial: Behavior, Mind and Machines Before and Beyond Cybernetics. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2002.Find this resource:

Damasio, Antonio. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1999.Find this resource:

Graham, Elaine. Representations of the Posthuman: Monsters, Aliens and Others in Posthuman Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 2002.Find this resource:

Herzfeld, Noreen. In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002.Find this resource:

Kaku, Michio. The Future of the Mind. New York: Doubleday, 2014.Find this resource:

Kurzweil, Ray. The Age of Spiritual Machines. London: Phoenix, 1999.Find this resource:

Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking, 2005.Find this resource:

Maturana, Hubert, and Francisco Varela. The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Boston: Shambhala, 1987.Find this resource:

Picard, Rosalind. Affective Computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Pickering, Andrew. The Cybernetic Brain. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2011.Find this resource:

Shannon, Claude Elwood. The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971.Find this resource:

Tipler, Frank. The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead. New York: Doubleday, 1994.Find this resource:

Turchin, V. F. The Phenomenon of Science. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.Find this resource:

von Neumann, John. Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1966.Find this resource:

Wiener, Norbert. Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1948.Find this resource:

Wilson, David. Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Wolfram, Stephen. A New Kind of Science. Champaign, IL: Wolfram Media, 2002.Find this resource:


(1.) Claude Elwood Shannon, The Mathematical Theory of Communication (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971); and John von Neumann, Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1966).

(2.) Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (New York: Hampton, 1979); and Stafford Beer, Cybernetics and Management (New York: Wiley, 1959).

(3.) Kenneth Boulding, The Image: Knowledge and Life in Society (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1956); Hubert Maturana and Francisco Varela, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding (Boston: Shambhala, 1987); William Ross Ashby, An Introduction to Cybernetics, (New York: Routledge, 1964); and V. F. Turchin, The Phenomenon of Science (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977).

(4.) Ray Kurzweil, How to Create a Mind (New York: Viking, 2013).

(5.) Frank Tipler, The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Doubleday, 1994); and Stephen Wolfram, A New Kind of Science (Champaign, IL: Wolfram Media, 2002).

(6.) Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (New York: Scribner’s, 1994), 1.

(7.) Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines (New York: Viking, 1999), 128.

(8.) Frans Heylighen, Cliff Joslyn, Valentin Turchin, eds., “Principia Cybernetica.”

(9.) Frank Tipler, The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Doubleday, 1994).

(10.) Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man: A Christian Interpretation, vol. 2, Human Destiny, Library of Theological Ethics (Louisville: Westminster John Knox 1996), 320.

(11.) Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, 75.

(12.) Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores, Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1991), 73.

(13.) Hubert Dreyfus, Mind Over Machine: The Power of Human Intuition and Expertise in the Era of the Computer (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1988), 29.

(14.) Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Mind 59, no. 236 (1950): 440.

(15.) Winograd and Flores, Understanding Computers and Cognition.

(16.) Antonio Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1999), 133.

(17.) Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985), 163.

(18.) Winograd and Flores, Understanding Computers and Cognition, 123.

(19.) Warren Brown, “Cognitive Contributions to Soul,” in Whatever Happened to the Soul? ed. Warren Brown, Nancey Murphy, and H. Mewton Malony (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), 101.

(20.) Anne Foerst, God in the Machine: What Robots Teach Us about Humanity and God (New York: Dutton, 2004).

(21.) Kirk Biglione, “The Secret to Japan’s Robot Dominance,” Planet Tokyo, 24 January 2006.

(22.) Brenda Brasher, Give Me that Online Religion (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001).

(23.) Heidi Campbell, “Understanding the Relationship between Religious Practice Online and Offline in a Networked Society,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 80, no. 1 (2012), 64–93.

(24.) This can be seen as either good or bad. See Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (New York: Penguin, 2011) vs. Dave Grossman and Gloria Degaetano, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill (New York: Harmony, 2014).

(25.) Pew Research Center: Religion and Public Life, “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Beliefs and Practices.”

(26.) Frans de Waal, The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013), 220.

(27.) David Sloan Wilson, Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 187.

(28.) Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1948).

(29.) Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1988).

(30.) Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding (Boston: Shambhala, 1992).

(31.) Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines (New York: Viking, 1999).

(32.) Tipler, The Physics of Immortality.

(33.) Stephan Wolfram, A New Kind of Science (Champaign, IL: Wolfram Media, 2002).

(34.) Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.”

(35.) Winograd and Flores, Understanding Computers and Cognition.

(36.) Hubert Dreyfus, What Computers Can’t Do: The Limits of Artificial Intelligence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1979).

(37.) Noreen Herzfeld, In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2002).

(38.) Robert Wright, The Evolution of God (New York: Little, Brown, 2009).

(39.) Wilson, Darwin’s Cathedral.

(40.) Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Viking, 2006).