The fact that advanced AI robots might walk among us one day is almost a certainty at this point according to Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and many others. But while some people including the aforementioned ones are warning about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence left unchecked, there are a few who see a lot of opportunities here. No, I’m not talking about some evil mastermind planning to rule the world via advanced AI robots, although that thought did cross my mind on several occasions. Instead, the people I’m referring to are none other than Christian priests who are suggesting that robots should be familiarized to the teachings of Jesus and converted to Christianity when the time comes.
The notion of sentient machines is already pretty scary, but to think that these robots could be taught to believe in God is likely to give me nightmares for weeks to come. As you’re probably aware by now, science and religion don’t really get along. Naturally, one can choose to pursue both, but the more you study one of the them the less you’ll find the other to be relevant as religion is based on faith while science is based on empirical evidence. In other words, your brain will find the notion of a supreme being less likely given that there is no empirical evidence to support it. Now imagine an advanced AI robot that is created by using science and then add faith to the equation. The machine will already know that it has a creator (a human) and yet another human will come along and tell it that its creator also has a creator. Will it make sense to the robot?
I realize I’m stepping on some toes here, but consider a similar scenario where you meet God and then another God comes along and tells you that there are multiple Gods and they have all been created by another, even more powerful creator. The average person would probably react very poorly to this news. Moreover, a lot of people might start worshiping the most powerful creator as that would make more sense. History has taught us that humans have the tendency to replace pantheons of gods with a single supreme God as the latter seems more powerful. Alternatively, when people chose to worship multiple gods, the majority of them saw the most powerful as being the most important and worthy of the most worship. But what if a faith-bound advanced AI robot would have a similar train of thought? In this scenario, it seems reasonable to assume that the machine might reject humans as its creators and start seeking God, just as we did for the longest time.
A lot of people are already concerned that artificial intelligence could end up posing a threat to humanity some day and this is just one example why these concerns are valid. If the advanced AI robots would fail to see humans as their creators at some point, they might see us as obsolete and probably very dangerous due to our destructive behavior. This would lead to an hypothetical event called the singularity, otherwise known as the bleak scenario you see in movies like Terminator. In short, it would probably be a very bad idea to introduce religion to artificial intelligence. However, that isn’t stopping one Reverend Dr Christopher Benek from proposing that very same idea. Actually, he even takes it a step further by suggesting that advanced AI may be in need of redemption from Christ. In an interview with Gizmodo, Benek said that “I don’t see Christ’s redemption as 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.”
So, not only would we be teaching the AI to believe in God, but we would also tell it that its sinful and that it must repent. But why? The AI did nothing wrong. Christian faith says that we are all born with sin because the very first humans – Adam and Eve – took one of the Forbidden fruits, which was a sin so unforgivable that all their descents must atone for it. Does this apply to robots as well? I think that’s a very interesting question, but Reverend Benek also has an interesting one. Over on his blog Benek asks “Who is to say that one day AIs might not even lead humans to new levels of holiness?” This question is quite intriguing because it points to an even deeper problem. Does artificial intelligence have a soul? Religion works on the principle that humans are spiritual beings who have a soul, which means that advanced AI must also have a soul in order to be truly religious. Basically, before we should start teaching AI about God, we should probably figure out if it has a soul.
It’s likely that Benek’s statements will cause quite a bit of controversy, especially among the more conservative parts of the religious community, but at the same time, artificial intelligence could one day “help us understand God better” according to him. Needless to say, he is referring to the Christian God and doesn’t seem to take into consideration the fact that humans have many religions and many versions of God. We all know what happens when groups of people start fighting over whose God is the true one, don’t we? Some of these groups can get pretty fanatical and violent at times. In fact, religion has been the catalyst for a large percentage of the wars fought throughout human history, so who’s to say that advanced AI robots wouldn’t go to war with each other over religion? That’s a war we definitely wouldn’t want to be part of.
Just to wrap things up here, I find Benek’s idea not only ridiculous, but also very dangerous. Religious extremism has already left a deep scar in our society and the last thing we want is to have highly intelligent autonomous robots purging infidels in the name of God. There are already plenty of people concerned about both advanced AI and zealotry, so we really shouldn’t attempt to combine the two. Granted, people like Benek may have good intentions in mind and, after all, it’s their job to spread the teachings of their religion to others, but in this situation the risks clearly outweigh any potential benefits if you ask me. In any case, this is just my opinion and I’m always looking forward to hearing other people’s perspective on things, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on this matter in the comments section below.