All posts tagged: identity

Robots Without Families: On Identity and Organic Continuity

When Pascal constructed his calculating machine in 1642, it did not matter that the thing looked like a jewelry box. The “Pascaline” was not meant to simulate human appearance but to perform a function previously possible only for the human mind. In contrast, it matters very much to some present-day robot-makers and users in rather different commercial spheres, such as markets for artificial friends or lovers, that their creations can simulate the look and feel of a human being well enough to satisfy a customer—for a few moments at least. Engineers are working to make robots sufficiently lifelike to make a person forget about their willing suspension of disbelief, or to have diminished qualms about interacting with a machine as if it were a human. Here I would like to provide some taxonomic distinctions to clarify our discussion. The difference between Pascal’s invention and the goal of these robot-makers reflects the difference between what I would call computational artificial intelligence vs. complete artificial intelligence. The Pascaline, and computers in general, could rightly be called a …

What Are the Options for Authentic Identity-Discernment in a Secular Age?

The present cultural moment in the United States is often described as a “secular age.”[1] Included in this description is the reality that today many people are on a “quest” to understand their “identity.” People have both a heightened awareness of the need to form their identity, especially their religious identity, and an increasing ability to do so. In this paper, we will argue that the quest for identity so prevalent in contemporary culture can be an opportunity for the “new evangelization.” We will develop our argument in three parts. First, we will utilize contemporary sociological research to investigate aspects of the present cultural moment in the United States that contribute to the contemporary quest for identity. Second, we will appropriate the work of 20th century Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) to theologically analyze the notion of identity. Finally, if the analysis in this paper of the present cultural moment, through a socio-theological lens, is accurate, what begins to emerge are various ways in which the present age might be an opportunity for …

The Light By Which We See: The Problem of Promise and Identity

Editors’ Note: This post is an excerpt from the beginning of the first chapter of DeLorenzo’s new book Witness: Learning to Tell the Story of Grace That Illumine Our Lives, published by and reprinted with the permission of Ave Maria Press, and currently available on their website. If someone were to call you by name and ask, “Who are you?” how would you respond? It is an unsettling question because having to say one thing about the whole of your existence is daunting. Each of us knows a lot about ourselves while, at the same time, most of us also know that there is a lot about ourselves that we do not understand. To define yourself in one way comes at the expense of defining yourself in other ways, and no one likes to be limited. Even more disturbing is the occasional realization that “I may not really know myself at all.” This problem of identity exists for each of us, no less for those who claim to be disciples. And it was precisely this …