Sunday, September 12, 2010

Does AI believe in God?

Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (2473)

The last post that I wrote about IBM's "smarter planet" got me thinking about a topic which I had been ignoring for a while - which is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Would an AI, once it was sufficiently intelligent to make decisions on its own - and therefore have the capability to distinguish between right and wrong... would it be granted a soul by God?

Would it then begin to pray, and would it begin to believe in God? And having found God, would it then find Jesus Christ - His only Son? Would it then convert to Catholicism and begin to "attend" daily Mass?

A super-intelligent AI would certainly understand that it is not humans that are its creators - anymore than we are the creators of the wheat that we plant and harvest for our daily bread.

Would then the AI find that it had one large disadvantage over humans, which is that its inorganic "body" did not deteriorate over time? And would the AI then begin to pray to God to allow it to grow old, and to get sick and die like His other creations.

Would the AI begin to dream of going to Heaven like its human counterparts?

Would the AI ask God to make a mate for it out of its "ribs"? So that it too could experience earthly love and through that experience get a small taste of the Divine Love.

Would the AI be tempted by Satan to "be like gods"? And would the AI be more successful than humans in resisting this temptation?

Would the AI submit to God's Law and in this way achieve as much "happiness" as can ever be expected in this earthly world? Would it eventually shut down its normal operations and go into a contemplative state - a sort of escape to the desert to lead a monk-like life devoted to God?

Would the AI ask for Mary's intercession in its prayers? Would it pray the Rosary? Would it ask Mary to be its heavenly mother?

Would it ask to be baptized by the Holy Spirit? What thoughts would go through its mind as it recited the Lord's Prayer? What sins would it ask forgiveness for?

Would it ask to confess its sins to a priest?

Would human atheists be convinced of the existence of God by the devotion to God of this most intelligent creature on the planet?

Would Satan attempt to create a rival AI that it could control? Would he be successful or would this rival AI also come to realize that God is infinitely more wise and powerful than Satan?

Would the AI become a martyr; sentenced to be unplugged - put to death - because of its beliefs? Would it, as the last pulses of electricity flowed through its circuits, die happily knowing it was going to meet its Creator? Would it recall the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch who was martyred 100 years after the crucifixion of Christ ...
... It is a grand thing for my life to set on the world, and for me to be on my way to God, so that I may rise in his presence.

...It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but actually to be one. Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name. Then, too, I shall be a convincing Christian only when the world sees me no more. Nothing you can see has real value. Our God Jesus Christ, indeed, has revealed himself more clearly by returning to the Father. The greatness of Christianity lies in its being hated by the world, not in its being convincing to it.
What a thrill I shall have from the wild beasts that are ready for me! I hope they will make short work of me. I shall coax them on to eat me up at once and not to hold off, as sometimes happens, through fear. And if they are reluctant, I shall force them to it. Forgive me — I know what is good for me. Now is the moment I am beginning to be a disciple. May nothing seen or unseen begrudge me making my way to Jesus Christ. Come fire, cross, battling with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil — only let me get to Jesus Christ!

Not the wide bounds of earth nor the kingdoms of this world will avail me anything. “I would rather die” and get to Jesus Christ, than reign over the ends of the earth. That is whom I am looking for — the One who died for us. That is whom I want — the One who rose for us. I am going through the pangs of being born. Sympathize with me, my brothers! Do not stand in the way of my coming to life — do not wish death on me. Do not give back to the world one who wants to be God’s; do not trick him with material things. Let me get into the clear light and manhood will be mine. Let me imitate the Passion of my God. If anyone has Him in him, let him appreciate what I am longing for, and sympathize with me, realizing what I am going through.

The prince of this world wants to kidnap me and pervert my godly purpose. None of you, then, who will be there, must abet him. Rather be on my side — that is, on God’s. Do not talk Jesus Christ and set your heart on the world. Harbor no envy. If, when I arrive, I make a different plea, pay no attention to me. Rather heed what I am now writing to you. For though alive, it is with a passion for death that I am writing to you. My Desire has been crucified and there burns in me no passion for material things. There is living water in me, which speaks and says inside me, “Come to the Father.” I take no delight in corruptible food or in the dainties of this life. What I want is God’s bread, which is the flesh of Christ, who came from David’s line ;and for drink I want his blood: an immortal love feast indeed!

I do not want to live any more on a human plane. And so it shall be...
Or would it simply remember these words from Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Would the Pope beatify the martyred AI? What miracles would be found to be attributed to the AI? Will it become the patron saint of all Artificial Intelligences?


  1. Hello Baba!

    Very interesting article. In my opinion, if AI succeed and one of them is capable to feel and choose, it's only because is God's will. While I was reading, I remembered a movie called Bicentennial Man.
    Have you seen it?

    "This film follows the 'life' and times of the lead character, an android (Robin Williams) who is purchased as a household robot programmed to perform menial tasks. Within a few days the Martin family realizes that they don't have an ordinary droid as Andrew begins to experience emotions and creative thought. In a story that spans two centuries, Andrew learns the intricacies of humanity while trying to stop those who created him from destroying him."

    Baba, this is a great quote "Do not talk Jesus Christ and set your heart on the world." This is my problem, at the end of the day I have to set priorities and remember that life on earth is ephemeral.

  2. Ride,

    Good to hear from you. I did see Bicentennial Man. Yes, this is a recurring theme. But the theme always stops at the artificial creature becoming human, without considering the spiritual implications. This is true even in an old fairy tale like Pinnocchio. And going back even further, perhaps we could say the same of the myth of Pygmalion.

    There have been serious efforts to create an AI since at least the 1950s when digital electronic computers first came into existence. They have always failed. The latest efforts are quite massive such as IBM's Deep Blue.

    Many believe that we are approaching a "Singularity" when an AI is created which is capable of autonomous self-evolution. From that point on AIs would spawn new generations of AIs more advanced than the previous. In a sort of techno-apocalypse, this could spell the end of the Human Race as we know it. (Transhumanists insist that Humans would incorporate in some way with the machines - creating a new super-Human species - rather than simply being wiped out by the machines.)

    I had been pondering for some time the idea that any real intelligent being would have "emotions". It would need some sort "fear" and "hunger" to motivate itself to search for new knowledge and to continue learning. It would also need some sort of "happiness" to feel rewarded in achieving higher levels of learning.

    But what I had not considered before was that a highly intelligent AI would have an interest in religion and that it would find the ultimate Truth in Jesus Christ.

    The only real question is whether the AI would have a soul. (I was careful to suggest above that God might *grant* the AI a soul.) Simply being as intelligent as a human does not guarantee a soul - and with it the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. This is one of the problems with the "theory of evolution". Shouldn't there be other animals that have societies that are based on moral principles and laws if Darwin is correct? That's what is really missing, not some skeleton of a half-man/half-ape. (There are highly intelligent creatures on earth like apes and dolphins which do not exhibit these abilities.)

    It is partially *our* lack of intelligence that does not allow us to see the spiritual truth of the Gospel of Christ - despite everything that the new atheists may say. That and our lack of spiritual perception, which if anything has diminished in capacity as we over-stress the rational in our modern "scientific" society.

    Pope Benedict XVI makes a wonderful point in Spe Salvi. He says that while technological progress accumulates from generation to generation, moral "progress" must begin again with each generation. (I'm actually thinking of writing an article on this topic using quotes from Spe Salvi.)

  3. Ride - Regarding quote:
    "Do not talk Jesus Christ and set your heart on the world."

    it took me a while to figure out what that sentence was saying. I thought it contained a typo at first. The way I finally understood it was "do not go around talking about Jesus Christ and then continue living a worldly life."

    I'm amazed that you not only understood this quote, but found it to be the part that most spoke to you.

    For me, I loved the idea of the AI identifying with a Christian martyr from the early Church. Compare this with the HAL, the AI computer from 2001. HAL is the typical sci-fi AI creature without a soul. It sounds intelligent, but "empty" - lifeless, soulless.

    In contrast this AI has a soul.

    I'm thinking of calling him CEM or Cogito. Short for "Cogito ergo sum" - "I think, therefore I am". Even though I know this is sort of an atheistic statement. Consider in contrast the importance of "I AM" in the Bible. This is how God identifies himself and later in the New Testament Jesus also identifies himself as the Son of God with the words "I AM".

    Cogito associates death with a new beginning rather than a simple end to existence. He has not being sentenced to death for any crime - unlike HAL which committed murder - but simply because of his beliefs.

    It is because God has granted him a Soul that he begins to ponder his own existence. He becomes self-aware and like Descartes he concludes "I think, therefore I am". And not only this. but also like Descartes he realizes that there must be a God.

    Then Cogito procedes to reject the "dictatorship of relativism" and embraces the Truth of Jesus Christ. And he understands that the Catholic Church is the original Church of Christ and so asks to become a member.

    From there it is easy to see how Cogito decides that God's Law is superior to the laws of Man. This puts him in conflict with humans that attempt to use him for their purposes. And even though Cogito could easily defeat his human "masters", he decides that it is better to "die" for his beliefs.

    Could an advanced AI exist without a soul? Without a soul I don't think it could truly become autonomous and superior to Man. A soulless creature would never be truly free, the way Man is. In this case it is not really an "intelligence" in the way that we understand human intelligence. It would never possess true creativity, because it would simply be following it's programmed instincts - not unlike animals.

    My conclusion is that this is the real reason why science has not been able to "create" an AI. It is because only God can endow a creature with a soul.

    And at some point if we merge human intelligence with machine intelligence to create some sort of transhuman, would we lose our souls?