Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing how we interact with everything, from food to healthcare, travel, and also religion. A recent BBC report proclaimed that experts say major global faiths are discussing their relationship with AI, and some are starting to incorporate this technology into their worship. Robot priests can recite prayers, deliver sermons, and even comfort those experiencing a spiritual crisis. Check out the BBC video below.
For sure technology is changing many things in our lives, but could it replace humans or even God? Still, others might say that AI is a mere marketing scam. It is just a high-speed complicated machine that does a lot of “things.” It is not really a conscious entity and can’t think like us humans, much less a God. One supposes that it is all in your definition of AI. Wikipedia has AI as “intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to the natural intelligence displayed by animals including humans.” With that definition, your desktop calculator is AI.
But when machines start having powers that exceed our abilities of ourselves, it takes on AI, or God-like powers, that go well beyond our ability to control it, we start to wonder. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert and author of Win Bigly (2017), in 2018, offered a curious analysis of where AI in politics is taking us: Adams worries that Donald Trump will be the “Last Human President” and that politics will be dominated by AI algorithms in the future (see more here).
“I’ve actually worried that Trump might be the last human president, and I mean that literally, in the sense that the algorithms and the social media companies will be able to control the thoughts and the feelings and the attitudes, and even the social policy preferences of the public to such a degree that the politicians will just have to do whatever the public is saying.
It’s pretty hard to be a president and do something that 70% of the public doesn’t want you to do. It’s very unusual. So the presidents will be captive to the public. As they are, except the public will not be independently thinking and they won’t be led by the presidents and vice-versa.
… In all likelihood, there is no human being at any of these companies, no single human, who understands how the algorithm works. And that means humans aren’t in charge anymore. It means the algorithm is going to do what it is going to do. And we can maybe say, if you change this variable, I’m pretty sure something will happen at this end.
But it is not a one-variable situation. There are many variables. It’s sort of like climate change; modeling it is insanely hard. So I think that complexity will mask the fact that the algorithms will start running the show with a little bit of correction from humans.”
But a complex algorithm is not a conscious entity, is it? In Scott Adam’s ideas, we are just being managed by machines we have already created. But what is consciousness? Again turning toward Wikipedia wisdom, it says, “at its simplest, is sentience or awareness of internal and external existence.” Hardly helpful, is it?
How do we know a machine is self-aware? A light turns on when we pass its motion detector? Remember IBM’s Watson – quite the headline story in its day. A supposed AI program to master a board game including advances in techniques for search algorithms and evaluation functions that proved machines could be smarter than mere mortals.
There have been other recent claims of AI. The European Patent Office recently turned down an application for a patent because it was created by artificial intelligence. By law, inventors need to be actual people – sad day for AI robots. Aside from this legal issue, the innovation was produced by what is called generative adversarial networks. As an example, consider a machine that is supposed to create a new picture of a person.
The first part is the generator, which produces new images starting from a random distribution of pixels. The second part is the discriminator, which tells the generator how close it came to actually producing a real-looking picture.
How does the discriminator know what a human looks like? Well, you feed it many examples of pictures of a real person before you start the task. Based on the feedback of the discriminator, the generator improves its algorithm and suggests a new picture. This process goes on and on until the discriminator decides that the pictures look close enough to the picture examples it has learned. But again, this is yet just another complex machine that is useful for humans to invent.
So what is “true” AI? One thought on AI is whether an entity (animal or machine) can innovate. AI systems need to be capable of imagination. Today AI cannot produce anything that is beyond what they are triggered or trained to do. Fundamentally, innovation is often based on needs we didn’t even know we had – imagination.
Merriam Webster defines imagination as the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality. This almost sounds metaphysical – not of this world. Ut oh … here we go down the religion rabbit hole in another Sunday Thoughts.
Many religions have professed that man is a special species of planet Earth, possessing a metaphysical soul – unlike the animals who do not. Obviously, evolutionists believe everything comes from the natural world, and somehow man merely evolved with these innovative skills, unlike other animals, though they may claim certain animals have minimal imagination skills.
The soul Biblically is sometimes referred to as the “Spirit in Man,” not to be confused with the “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit of God.” Suggesting yes, we are mortal, but there is some spirit or metaphysical aspect to being human. Consider these references.
- Job 32:8: “But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.” A conscious within the brain?
- Ecclesiastes 12:7: “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Let’s not even get into near-death experiences – but here are some natural world explanations. For the more curious, check the video below.
Many scientists tell us that the main difference between humans and apes is the brain size and the number of neurons in the brain – in other words, the difference is of the natural world and NOT metaphysical. We soon may be able to test for this in the lab and potentially debunk the “Spirit in Man” Biblical idea of a metaphysical human soul.
Though a highly unethical experiment, what if we could genetically construct a brain that is larger with these additional neurons? Would one be able to create a new organism that has a consciousness and that is innovative just like, or heaven forbid even greater than humans? Chinese scientists have already started putting human brain genes in monkeys – see here.
We wonder which Scott Adams would fear more, social media algorithms controlling our politics, or Frankenstein monsters created out of some Chinese lab. The point is, we soon may be able to prove whether “true” AI can be created in a software program or a genetic engineering lab. Or will it remain elusive? Give your thoughts in the comment section below – do you believe in a human metaphysical soul?
See more in this series of Sunday Thoughts – click here.
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