[Paleopsych] Minnesota Daily: What if we had a robopope?

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What if we had a robopope?
    February 16, 2005

    Given Pope John Paul IIs fine performance as pontiff, its too bad he
    cant live forever.

    By Bobak Haeri

    With the popes health getting increasingly worse this year, I want to
    help. This made me think: What if the pope were turned into a cyborg?

    Now I know the idea is a little bizarre, but I dont mean to stomp on
    Catholicism. Though Im no longer religious, Ive spent a fair number of
    my years in different religious schools: Mennonite grade school,
    Catholic high school, working with a Jewish symphony, etc.

    Looking across the various world religions, there are several Ive
    grown a secular respect for. One of those is Catholicism. Probably my
    favorite part of Catholicism is the pope, whose tremendous compassion
    overshadows major disagreements I have with him over social policy.

    So why not do this? Im actually curious whatd happen. The Bible and
    Catholic doctrine probably dont say a whole lot about it. Im not
    saying turn him into a human computer, lets just buttress his body
    with robotic parts so he wont die, or at least not for a while
    remember, hes a tough pontiff, he survived being shot by an assassin.

    Making a robopope does open a few interesting spiritual questions: The
    pope is directly inspired by the word of God, so what he says goes.
    Would that still apply if he had, say, a cyborg nervous system to
    remove his Parkinsons disease? If I were an armchair religious
    scholar, I would think the popes inspiration goes directly to his
    brain. I know some people say its the soul, but Im fairly sure its
    located in the brain too. I dont see how having a few robotic parts
    would affect that.

    Remember, a cyborg is a human who has certain physiological processes
    aided or controlled by mechanical or electronic devices. Were not
    going to turn him into a laptop. Any work would augment his body so
    the whole person kept on living, no more, no less. Because his body
    would rely on those parts, he would be part man, part machine: all

    Think thats going too far? Well it would be perfectly all right for
    the pope to have a pacemaker, which is a robotic part. How about an
    electric wheelchair? What about an electric breathing apparatus?
    Steven Hawking, anyone? Theres already a lot of early cyborg creation
    going on right now.

    The problem for most people is they associate it with sci-fi
    characters such as Robocop, the Borg, et al. (Note: the Terminator was
    not a cyborg.) In reality, as long as youre not tinkering with a
    persons mind, the extra hardware is just a form of medical treatment.
    After all, were trying to make him live longer.

    The next question is what happens if the pope does, basically, live
    forever? It seems the cardinals would have an easier job for a while,
    not needing to select a successor. Assuming the pope doesnt die or
    retire, his connection with God would not cease. I wouldnt fear
    turning the pope into some kind of immortal rival of God because (a)
    hed still be human, albeit an old human and (b) the pope is not going
    to try and become a false idol himself.

    Still, any cyborg body is subject to failure. Its likely the pope
    would eventually pass no matter what the additional part. In that
    sense, nothing would really change about the pope and his duty, other
    than hed live longer.

    Picture this: Pope John Paul II. Currently a man barely alive. Ladies
    and gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology and the
    capability to build the worlds first bionic pontiff. JP2 will be that
    man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.

    Bobak HaEri welcomes comments at bhaeri at mndaily.com

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