Artificial Intelligence

By Dr. Christopher Plumberg

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Now contrast this with the Christian perspective. The Bible reveals that God is inherently communicative: His Son is the Word (John 1:1). He speaks (Deuteronomy 5:27) and creates by speaking (Genesis 1, Romans 4:17). He reveals Himself to us through His Word (Jeremiah 30:2), through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2), and through His Spirit (Ephesians 3:5). Moreover, Scripture also indicates that we are created in His image (Genesis 1:26), which entails our ability to communicate and respond to the direction of others in free and unconstrained ways. We are consequently distinct from the rocks, plants and animals of God's creation, since we are able to commune with God and know Him (Jeremiah 9:23-24, 1 John 2:13-14). There is therefore an unbridgeable divide between the human and non-human components of God's creation, which cannot even be crossed by human ingenuity: computers can never be taught to communicate or worship, because they are not made in God's image. It follows from this that there exist human, cognitive activities (worship, communication, expression of feeling, sentience, etc.) of which no computer is capable, even in principle. The naturalistic commitment to the goal of strong AI is therefore not founded in reality, and cannot ultimately be successful.

A word of caution is in order: the only way to (empirically) prove whether or not strong AI is possible is to "be" the robot, so to speak. In other words, it's not enough to "see what the computer sees" on a screen and call this "consciousness"; we can only know consciousness on a first-hand basis, meaning that only the computer is capable of "knowing" whether it is conscious (if it indeed were to become conscious). Of course, there would be no way of proving whether this ever happened, since no one except the computer could possibly be the computer or have the computer's experience. The computer could, of course, try to tell us that it had finally become conscious, but there would be nothing to definitively distinguish this from an ordinary machine which had simply been programmed to say the right things and respond in the right way. In short, consciousness can only be observed by the person who is conscious; from anyone else's (external) perspective, it is impossible to tell with complete certainty whether consciousness has actually been attained.

This has motivated some AI researchers to "move the goalposts" a bit: rather than define strong AI in terms of actually achieving perception (which is unobservable in principle), most strong AI research concentrates on varying definitions of "intelligence" in terms of exclusively observable properties. This has given rise to ideas like the Turing test, which defines intelligence as the ability to hold a conversation which is indistinguishable from that of a human being. Notice that the strict goal of "perception or consciousness" has been cleverly swapped out for "something which is indistinguishable from perception or consciousness." However, not only is this kind of "intelligence" somewhat different from what we usually mean by the term, it is even possible for people (i.e., human beings) to fail the Turing test, apparently implying that they are not human! So strong AI research has been woefully unsuccessful at even approximating the incredible creation of the human person that God spoken into being. Indeed, the goal of strong AI is biblically unattainable, and claims to actual progress in this field should be treated with a healthy amount of caution and skepticism. Ultimately, only God is capable of creating a mind, such as is implied by genuine intelligence. So there can be no such thing as true, artificial intelligence, biblically speaking.

It seems likely, therefore, that any claims to strong AI would either be inadequate imitations of the real thing, or would have demonic origins in some way. Since human beings cannot create mind, which is a prerequisite of strong AI, the only remaining possibility would be an unembodied mind (such as an angel) which is capable of deceptively appearing to "inhabit" a mechanically constructed body of some kind (like a robot), implying that the imitation would be demonic. However, I should strongly emphasize that the notion of strong AI is entirely science fiction, at least at this point: we are not even close to developing something like strong AI, and I am personally doubtful of whether we will ever come to that point.

Images Credit: geralt; untitled; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Controversial-Issues  | God-Father  | Science-Creation

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Published 6-27-16