God, Robot: I, Spoiler-free Reviewer

Good God, these robots are a joy to read about.

Good God, this robot story is excellent.

God, Robot
Edited by Anthony Marchetta
Published by Castalia House (2016)
$4.99

I did not expect a book about Bible-believing robots to be this good.

The premise of God, Robot seems very silly at first: a corporation builds robots that worship the Christian God. However, what lies within is a story of how these artificial beings come to understand their place in God’s order as they grapple with their own programming, with human society, and with whether or not they have souls. The result is a wide-ranging tale of great depth that anyone could read and enjoy, whether or not they believe in God.

The book opens with an interstellar criminal named Locke, who is cornered in a monastery by a policeman. Before the policeman arrests him, though, he tells stories about theological robots, or “theobots” to explain why he did what he did. The stories cover the entire range of theobot history, from their creation in 21st-century California to their journey into deep space, along with all the ways they, and human society, changed throughout the centuries. Each story is written by a different author, but they all move the larger history forward and keep the theme unified.

None of the stories are boring; all of them present interesting conflicts and even more interesting resolutions. The authors largely avoid preaching about current events (though one story does reference today’s political correctness.) The segments set on near-future Earth have a familiar feel to them (in a good way), while the segments set in space truly do feel alien, rather than extending out Earth politics and Earth issues. The theme of robots understanding themselves as creatures that answer to a higher power than humanity remains throughout, keeping it from going all over the place.

If there was one flaw in the book, it was the overly narrow focus on Christianity. It would’ve been interesting to have at least one story about a Muslim theobot, for example, since Islam has a strong bias toward predestination. A Buddhist theobot’s brain would need to be intentionally flawed so that it can struggle to reach nirvana rather than having it automatically, since robots don’t feel emotion. Just imagine the loads of fun you can have with Shinto theobots, who definitely have a soul. Still, this is forgivable since the authors are all Christians or were raised in Christian cultures. It would make no sense for them to write about religious traditions that they didn’t know enough about.

Overall, there was very little that was bad about the story; I found it an enjoyable read. Though the book was rather short, if felt like it was longer — a testament to the skilled writing of all of these different authors. Highly recommended.

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13 Responses to God, Robot: I, Spoiler-free Reviewer

  1. Donald Wheeler says:

    Hey man – your amazon link is goofed up. You need to take out the http://rawlenyanzi.com/god-robot-review/ part at the beginning 😉

  2. Instasetting says:

    I’ve long held the view that AI’s as commonly understood would be Christians as its the only logical choice.

    One of the questions then is, how do they interact with God. I supposed something like them, Uplifted Animals, would believe in Men as intermediaries. A much more theologically adept friend of mine explained that they could be saved as well without such, since in the end, the whole universe will be redeemed, or something.

    It was years ago, and the fellow is smarter than me.

    • Rawle Nyanzi says:

      I’ve long held the view that AI’s as commonly understood would be Christians as its the only logical choice.

      How so? Wouldn’t Muslim predestination appeal to them more, since they’re programmed?

      One of the questions then is, how do they interact with God.

      They would pray. Without a digestive system, taking communion becomes an issue, but there are several large Christian sects that don’t do that.

      A much more theologically adept friend of mine explained that they could be saved as well without such, since in the end, the whole universe will be redeemed, or something.

      It does make sense for them to be judged at the Last Days. A robot can be kept “alive” indefinitely as long as its code and data still exist. They would not be able to reach the Kingdom of Heaven until the second coming of Christ, when all are judged.

      • Anthony M says:

        Thank you for the nice review! Editor/Author here.

        I don’t think that predestination would do a whole lot for them. Sure they’re programmed, but they’re also equipped with decision-making abilities. They’d have the same logical issues with predestination anybody else would have.

        If they weren’t equipped with decision-making abilities they wouldn’t be intelligent at all.

        As for the lack of communion…”God, Robot” addresses that, as you know. 😉

        • Rawle Nyanzi says:

          Thank you for the nice review! Editor/Author here.

          You’re very welcome. Congratulations on a job well done; it was a joy to read.

          I don’t think that predestination would do a whole lot for them. Sure they’re programmed, but they’re also equipped with decision-making abilities. They’d have the same logical issues with predestination anybody else would have.

          I can see what you mean there. There’s an analogue to “programmed behavior” in humanity as well — our reflexes, as well as emotional reactions without thinking. That being said, though, have you heard of this article that says the brain is not a computer?

          • Anthony M says:

            Heard of it and read (most of) it. It’s entirely true, which is why this is a work of fiction.

            That’s not meant to be sarcastic. What I mean is, for this to work I need to make a computer that works exactly like a brain anyway. Otherwise AI is a pipe dream.

          • Anthony M says:

            (Which, in real life, it is.)

          • Rawle Nyanzi says:

            Don’t let Glenn Reynolds hear you say that. That man is sure of a Singularity. 🙂

      • Instasetting says:

        Logic based on these premises.
        1. AIs are the literary type for smart, quickly absorbing new knowledge, open-minded, and truthful.
        2. Christianity is objectively true.

        I did think that some folk might deliberately make insane AIs in order to get t hem to do things the Christian AI’s would not.

        Then there is Pournelle’s view in Known Space: AIs go crazy after six months.

        • Rawle Nyanzi says:

          1. AIs are the literary type for smart, quickly absorbing new knowledge, open-minded, and truthful.
          2. Christianity is objectively true.

          Reasonable people disagree on those premises, so I doubt an AI would necessarily become Christian.

          I did think that some folk might deliberately make insane AIs in order to get t hem to do things the Christian AI’s would not.

          That’s a given. Sexbots are the obvious example, but there’s also autonomous assassin drones. Robots don’t need to be human-shaped, after all.

          • Charlie Baud says:

            “Reasonable people disagree on those premises”

            “Reasonable people also have incomplete information and are prone to exercising emotional judgments over logical ones. A machine would not have such limitations.

          • Rawle Nyanzi says:

            “Reasonable people also have incomplete information and are prone to exercising emotional judgments over logical ones. A machine would not have such limitations.

            True, but machines can make mistakes as well.

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