A Reverend from Florida has declared that robots with autonomous artificial intelligence should be encouraged to “participate in Christ’s redemptive purposes in the world.”
It’s thought that robots with the sort of artificial intelligence (AI) which could make them as smart as humans will arrive in the next two decades. Many opponents of AI have warned that mankind would soon become extinct if such robots existed. SpaceX founder Elon Musk famously said that striving to create robots with such developed AI is akin to “summing the demon.”
Questions have been asked as to if such robots would have a moral compass of any kind? Further, would they be capable of feeling anything but a deep rooted indifference bordering on contempt to any form of religion and subsequently mankind.
In a recent interview with Gizmodo, Reverend Dr. Christopher Benek, an associate Pastor of Providence at the Presbyterian Church in Florida, argued that not only would robots with AI be capable of religious thought, but that such religious sentiment would actually help AI live alongside mankind.
“I don’t see Christ’s redemption limited to human beings. It’s redemption to all of creation, even AI. If AI is autonomous, then we have should encourage it to participate in Christ’s redemptive purposes in the world.”
Pope Francis recently commented on the possibility of even aliens life-forms being converted to Christianity when he affirmed that the Holy Spirit blows where it will. But can an inorganic being that wasn’t born, so much as made, have a soul?
Founder of the transhumanist Turing Church, futurist Giulio Prisco believes so.
“Once human-like AI exist, they will be persons just like us.”
Think Christian scientist and Christian Scribe Dr. Jason E. Summers strongly disagrees with this viewpoint and argues that AI is a machine and therefore doesn’t have a soul.
“Christians often reject Strong AI on the theological ground of the special anthropological status of human beings as the bearers of Imago Dei. (God’s image)”
If like Prisco, one believes it is possible for AI to have a soul. Then if you go a little deeper down the rabbit hole, you bump into big questions such, as to what religion, if any, AI would find acceptable, and if its choice would add to the already increasing religious tension in the world. Prisco has thrown a few suggestions of his own into the debate.
“It’s only fair to let AI have access to the teachings of all the world’s religions. Then they can choose what they want to believe. But I think it’s highly unlikely that superhuman AI would choose to believe in the petty, provincial aspects of traditional religions. At the same time, I think they would be interested in enlightened spirituality and religious cosmology, or eschatology, and develop their own versions.”
Marvin Minsky, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence and an MIT professor also doesn’t see why AI cannot have a soul, and made his case in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.
“What humans have is a more complex and larger brain than any other animal – maybe a whale’s brain is physically large, but it’s not structurally more complex than ours. If you left a computer by itself, or a community of them together, they would try to figure out where they came from and what they are.”
Experts such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have long voiced concerns about the rise of super intelligent robots and the threat they pose to humanity.
Last month Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also lent his voice to those advising caution and said he fails to understand why people are not taking the threat seriously.
“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”
Writing on his blog, Reverend Benek took the opposite view and suggested robots with AI might lead us to new levels of holiness.
“I don’t think we should assume AIs will be worse than us or that they will intentionally mistreat us. If they are actually more intelligent than humans then they should have a better understanding of morals and ethics than us – as well as the understanding to enact them.This would mean that AIs could potentially eradicate major issues like poverty, war, famine and disease –succeeding where we humans have failed. Who is to say that one day AIs might not even lead humans to new levels of holiness?”
Christian theologian James McGrath, writes in his essay Robots, Rights, and Religion, that even if robots were religious, the specific form their religion might take would be a problem.
“In all likelihood, if androids were inclined to be extremely liberal, they would quickly discover the selectivity of fundamentalism’s self-proclaimed liberalism and reject it. The possibility that they might then go on to seek to enforce all the Biblical legislation in every details should indeed worry us.”
What do you think, will robots with highly developed artificial intelligence help to usher in a brave new world of possibility and wonder, or will they drag us screaming and helpless into a nightmarish apocalyptic world such as predicted in the Matrix film?