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Article appeared Friday, June 17th, 2016 in The News Today, Bangladesh

The Revelation (431)

yousuf mahbubul Islam, PhD

In the world today, a lot of research and work goes into producing robots {1, 2} to serve human
beings.
Robots are coming, that much is sure. They are coming to our streets as self-driving
cars, to our military as automated drones, to our homes as elder-care robotsand thats
just to name a few on the horizon (Ten million households already enjoy cleaner floors
thanks to a relatively dumb little robot called the Roomba). What we dont know is how
smart they will eventually become... {1}
It is also being discussed {3} whether robots should be able to distinguish between right and
wrong decisions. However, in all this effort to make robots like human beings have scientists
and/or engineers ever thought of giving robots gifts or blessings that they could personally
enjoy? For example, things like wealth (to buy things they want), tasty food (electricity or petrol
that tastes good), companion robots (for friendship) and children robots (for continuity)? The
answer could be a question, silly, what would a robot do with such blessings? So, we
manufacture robots to serve our needs, yet we give no thought to the robot itself the purpose
is exclusively to serve humans. Would we ever dream/imagine giving a robot a personal life
from which it could derive satisfaction?
As we reflect in our attitude towards robots, can we run away without drawing an analogy or a
parallel between the Creator creating human beings and scientists/engineers manufacturing
robots? What questions does the analogy offer? For example, we design and manufacture
robots for a specific purpose. Similarly, would the Creator design and create human beings
without a specific purpose? At this point, there may be doubts about the two things mentioned in
the question. The first would be our own creation. The second, whether there is a purpose
behind our individual creation? To answer the first, we may reflect on the creation of robots. Can
one robot evolve from another? The only way that a new version of a robot can appear is that
the makers of a robot may learn from the shortcomings of the previous generation of robots and
make an improved/upgraded version. Also, can a robot randomly come together or can a robot
manufacture itself? Further, as a confirmation of the guess/hypothesis that without being
deliberately designed we could not have come into existence, we may consult the Holy
Scriptures. For example, let us study the following Verse from the Quran.

16.70 And Allah created you and then He will take your soul at death; and among
you there are some who are sent back to a feeble (old) age so that they know
nothing after having known (much). Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Competent.
What is the Verse confirming? That there is a highly intelligent and competent Being who has
created each of us and will take our souls at death. Why is the Verse talking about competency?
To answer this question, we may strike a comparison with robot manufacturers. In the electronic
circuitry of a robot, if all the robot makers and scientists in the world pooled their resources and
competencies, could they create and install moral ethical values and feelings of love or hate?
So Allah is not only competent to create the ability to process knowledge, it is He who has
created and given knowledge in addition to feelings and the ability to judge. The proof is that He
sometimes removes knowledge at an old age, where an old man may need to be looked after
like a child. So knowledge is an added feature, almost like a plug-in.
As for the purpose of creation, let us study the following Verses, again from the Quran:
It is He Who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when you knew
nothing; and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affections: that you
may give thanks (to Allah). [16.78]

He has given us knowledge and the ability to process this knowledge with inputs from our
hearing and sight and then respond to Him using our affections or feelings. So, unlike a robot
which may have sensors for the input of sound and vision (camera), each human being has
been given the ability to decide whether or not to be grateful to his/her Creator who has also
given the blessings of feelings.
I have not created the jinn (invisible beings) and human beings to any end other than
that they may (know Me and) worship Me. [51.56]
What attitude should the painting Mona Lisa have towards Leonardo if she were able to
intelligently work out that she was painted by him? Now, let us return to the discussion about
giving a robot an independent life and continue to look at what Allah, our Creator, has done and
is doing for us.

16.71 Allah has made some of you excel in sustenance over others; do those
more favored give away their gifts to those whom their right hands possess (e.g.,
slaves) so that they become their equal? Will they then deny the favors of Allah?
Allah is individually testing us in whatever He has given us. Those richer do not give away what
they have to those whom they are responsible for, so that they become their equals. Here a
reflection question arises. Would then, Allah, make any being in the heavens and earth His
equal? No, He is the sole creator and granter of favors!

16.72 And Allah has made for you mates (and companions) of your own nature.
And made for you out of them sons and daughters and grandchildren and
provided for you sustenance of the best: will you then believe in vain things and
be ungrateful for Allah's favors?
Allah Himself does not have any equals, yet He has given the blessings of companions, sons,
daughters and grandchildren. We have much to be grateful for. Would we rather be arrogant
and ungrateful while assuming that we ourselves and/or other human beings have power over
our lives?

16.73 And worship others than Allah such as have no power of providing
sustenance from the heavens or the earth and cannot possibly have such
power?
Just like robots, we ourselves have no power over our life or anyone elses life. Life is simply an
opportunity to intelligently work out the Qualities of Allah (while analyzing His favors),
acknowledge His favors and adore Him in return.

16.74 So, do not invent similarities to Allah. Indeed Allah knows and you do not
know.
We need to intelligently work out that there is nothing comparable to Allah in the heavens or
earth. He is the sole Owner of everything in the heavens and the earth. He has given us favors
to enjoy and seek Him out, to love Him in return and be grateful to Him from the depths of our
heart.
---------{Notes}:
{1} http://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/just-in/2015-06-08/good-bad-and-robotexperts-are-trying-make-machines-be-moral
{2} https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/cs201/projects/201011/ComputersMakingDecisions/robotic-nurses/index.html
{3} http://www.informationweek.com/it-life/geekend-the-ethics-of-making-robots-like-people/a/did/1316716