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At first things are described in detail but later more and more short 'chapters' appear which move the story forward but with minimal detail. It takes on big themes. The world has split into two, the majority of countries being ruled by squabbling religious regimes of various types which ruthlessly impose their own orthodoxies.

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One country stands out, Illyria, a refuge for science and those of a rational outlook. It uses androids to perform a range of mundane tasks, because Illyrians themselves do not want to do them and importing workers from the religious regimes is not popular: they are known as 'squiffies' and regularly riot over conditions and lack of access to their religions. The central characters are the Illyrians George, a software engineer, and his mother Ruth, who spends all her time in virtual reality. George does try to interact with the real world but is painfully gauche.

He eventually flees Illyria with an android prostitute he has fallen in love with and most of the story is about his adventures. Ironies abound. Illyria is no less repressive than its religious neighbours. Its concentration on rationality implies losing contact with reality. Outside Illyria, life appears to be dull, brutish and short, albeit tempered by faith. In Freudian terms Illyria is the ego, the others the id.

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Both fear the development of intelligence in androids, but for different reasons. The title reveals this irony: an intelligent machine may be more rational that its makers and more able than its detractors to see God. Here at Walmart. Your email address will never be sold or distributed to a third party for any reason. Due to the high volume of feedback, we are unable to respond to individual comments.

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He cited IBM's chess-playing robot Deep Blue to illustrate how most AI programs — while impressive in terms of results — utilize "brute force" methods as opposed to more sophisticated processes used by the human brain. That really, really complicates common theology. Delio, who teaches theology at Villanova University outside Philadelphia, said that in order to answer such questions, "we would need to understand who God is in a complex world.

Catholicism has a closed universe. It's a closed system.

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To be called into a relationship and to respond to that relationship is still … unique to the human person as an image of God. Delio thinks the church needs to take a broader approach, including people from different faiths and those of no faith to engage with the questions surrounding AI. Checketts and other Catholic thinkers aren't waiting. For him, the sheer size, influence and global reach of the Catholic Church, combined with the popularity of Pope Francis, position it to play an outsized role in shaping future conversations about AI.

He cited the pope's efforts to highlight the importance of addressing climate change as a model. Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here. Join now. The holy ghost in the machine. Catholic thinkers tackle the ethics of artificial intelligence May 26, But it also contained a reference to an unusual topic for a pontiff: artificial intelligence.

Ilia Delio Photo courtesy of Ilia Delio. Photo by Staff Sgt. He remains skeptical as to whether "strong AI" will ever truly rival a living person. As for robot persons, Delio is dubious. Join the Conversation Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Enter your email address to receive free newsletters from NCR. Email address. Theology The holy ghost in the machine. To save the planet, we need faith, ethics, science and economics Sep 25, Congressional hearing on travel ban highlights impact of muddled waiver process Sep 25, Calumny, slander is a 'diabolical cancer,' pope says Sep 25, Solutions to save, protect forests needed 'without delay,' says cardinal Sep 25, Vatican temporarily suspends decree on Indianapolis Jesuit high school Sep 25, Alarmed African churches demand end to persistent xenophobic attacks in South Africa Sep 25,