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Robot Buddhist monk can tell you what love is

Technically Incorrect: Can spiritual intelligence be artificial? Can a robot be the guide to your soul? Some monks in China think so. That's why they created a robot monk.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


robomonk.jpg

Here he is. Worthy Stupid Robot Monk.

Reuters screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I've never understood why Hollywood hasn't yet made a movie called "Robovicar."

This machine, voiced undoubtedly by Tom Hanks, would be like a universal, always-on spiritual guide who'd instantly be our guiding light and forgive us all our sins.

Thankfully, China has taken the first steps toward such enlightenment.

As The New York Times reports, the monks of the Longquan temple just outside Beijing have employed a little Buddhabot to dispense wisdom to all those who seek it.

His name is Xian'er, which apparently translates to Worthy Robot Stupid Monk. In Chinese, "stupid" is a nice word, conveying a certain brotherly love, as in "yo, stupid."


This Buddhabot was first designed for a comic book series. But then, perhaps, the monks realized that life itself was something of a joke.

So you can now avail yourself of a touchpad on his chest to ask the meaning of life. Or some of the lesser spiritual questions like, "Why do I get heartburn whenever I think about Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton having dinner?"

But does Xian'er compare with the Yodas of this world? Well, his answer to "What is the meaning of life?" offers some clues: "My master says the meaning of life is to help more people finally leave behind bitterness and gain happiness."

That wouldn't be out of place in a "Star Wars" movie, would it?

On other matters, he's a little harsh, though. For example, his answer to "I am not happy" is "If you're not happy, what can anyone else do about it?"

As is the case with all robots, the human programming matters most. In this case, Xian'er, who isn't destined for mass market use, is the creation of a collaboration between Chinese tech brains and investors. I feel sure, therefore, that he's unlikely to offer a full answer to the question "Why is Facebook banned in China?"

In matters of love, he is more sure. When asked what love is, he replies, "Love is your own obsessions not being satisfied, the clashing of other people's troubles with yours."

There's something for you to discuss over a chardonnay during your next dinner date.

Until robots think for themselves -- or until we become robots who cease to think for ourselves -- such creations will offer entertainment more than enlightenment.

However, with organized religion going through a tough 50 years, sending robovicars out to the people seems not the worst idea.

I can see the movie poster now: Robovicar. He's holier than thou. But that's not saying much.

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