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AI and God
Posted: 10 September 2008 02:27 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I am curious if anyone has come across anything dealing with Artificial Intelligence and God…  I haven’t really seen anything myself.  I was thinking about this and the religious idea of a soul… as Computer Sciences continue to develop we are going to have more and more “intelligent systems” with greater capabilities and eventually with the ability to think.  If an intelligent system is built that is shown to learn and display emotion how would this system be treated by the religious?  Will they say that the intelligent system is alive?  And more importantly are they going to try and require that it be “god fearing” in order to receive government funding?  I am just curious about some thoughts on this…

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“I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it” - George Carlin

A good laugh from Billy Connolly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2In5062_raA

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Posted: 10 September 2008 03:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It seems to me that if we do make free thinking and feeling computers, the only agreement against “inanimate rights” would be a religious one, probably something to the effect of: our [man] rights and morals where ordained by God and where not extended to animals or the things man create.
So I would imagine that once the inevitable happens and we do create silicone based free thinking life, that there would be allot of religious folks starting to ask the question “Should we allow freewill to computers?”

The main question that I have always wondered is: “When we do make AI that feels, and if we do give it ‘free will’, would the AI ever decide to believe in God?” and “If it did would churches recognize its ‘rights’ to religious council?”

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“Is there a God in heven, a devil in hell, or is the only light to be seen the one at the end of my cigarette?”

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Posted: 10 September 2008 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The new version of the series Battlestar Galactica plays on this one nicely. The humans generally view the cylons as machines even when they are indistinguishable from humans, and the cylons are, on balance, quite a bit more religious than the humans. Neat questions, but I think Amos is correct as far as how the religious would respond to Turing-proof AI.

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Posted: 10 September 2008 04:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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This has been a recurrent theme in S-F stories for many decades.  In some cases the machines were built to improve themselves at each generation.  When humans disappeared for some reason, they kept replicating and eventually developed consciousness.  They researched and decided that humans were god. 

Another variant was that they had built-in programs that seemed non-functional and were about to be removed.  One of them cloned two humans from DNA,  and the moment the chief android, who had been trying to cancel the program because it was foolish, saw the humans, it bowed down and asked how it could be of service.

Occam

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Posted: 10 September 2008 04:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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A BSG fan, excellent Brennen!  As far as AI and God goes, people who think logically about the situation will probably have a hard time coming up with how the religious might respond.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve been shocked by ridiculous arguments in the past…it’s likely to get stranger as the stakes for them get higher and as the evidence against them mounts.

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Posted: 10 September 2008 07:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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How can we be sure anything has consciousness but our selves? Will science ever be able detect consciousness or prove something has it and that it is not just a robot?

Many Christians (not all) think that animals don’t have souls so why would robots have them in there mind?

In reality humans are meat machines created by evolution.

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Dan

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Posted: 10 September 2008 07:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Well, philosophically I can’t prove anyone but me has consciousness, and probably somebody could construct an argument that I can’t even be sure of myself. But on a practical, real-world basis, we attribute consciousness based on behavior, and I think while we tend to be a bit liberal about our criteria sometimes (hence the seeing of spirits and anima everywhere in the mateiral world in many cultures), on the whole I think the criteria are pretty good. We are meat machines, and if metal machines or something else Turing proof comes along, I don’t see any rational reason not to attribute consciousness of some degree to those things as well. The gradations between say humans and chimps and dogs and slugs are vague and really interesting to study, but on the whole I think we make the issue more complicated than it needs to be out of our desire to be qualitatively distinct from the rest of nature.

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Posted: 11 September 2008 04:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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If you watch the Startrek TNG reruns you may see an episode in which a cyberneticist has an order transferring Data to his lab so he can dis-assemble him.  Picard files a suit against this action and the discussion in the court is very much on point about determining consciousness, and the other properties defined as necessary for sentience.  Mriana can probably tell you the name of that episode. smile

Occam

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Posted: 11 September 2008 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Occam,

  I am a little tired of the Star Track ( or sci-fi ) references, could you please cite something a little more credible or if you find this discussion absurd could you please quit with the foreplay?  Just out of curiosity, how much (without looking at Wikipedia) do you know of AI, of computation, of grid computing, of Computer Sciences, of Moore’s law, and lastly of how we can overcome Moore’s Law?  The question that I asked is something that will be brought into pubic discourse within the next 50 years… so you can either treat it as something from a television show or you could acknowledge science and look at the question for what it is and provide an answer which is useful to all.

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“I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it” - George Carlin

A good laugh from Billy Connolly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2In5062_raA

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Posted: 11 September 2008 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I can understand your earnestness, I certainly wouldn’t think of calling you a humorless prig, and I’m moderately familiar with each of the topics you listed, however, you are asking a question about which there won’t be an answer for, as you say, sometime in the next fifty years.  As such, you have fallen into the error of hoping to evaluate something that fits the non-falsifiability category, that is, your question is meaningless at this time, and therefore, is a waste of time discussing.  Since you are dealing with something outside present physical determination, it can only be dealt with by speculation.  Science fiction fits that quite well.  You, of course, can stick with the more theological, pseudo-scientific uncertainties which have a patina of reality.

Occam

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Posted: 11 September 2008 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Occam,

  I did not say in 50 years… I said within the next 50 years.  Whether or not there will be break throughs in AI tomorrow or in 5 years I cannot say… so your point is not an accurate one.  And how is my question non-falsifiable?  I am asking how will the religious treat an artificial life form… where in the world are you coming up with “unfalsifiable?”  The root of the question you have completely missed… what constitutes a soul?  What if by the definition of most (the religious) we can manufacture the very same thing they would refer to as having a soul… how would this be treated?  Where you are going off in your rants is a bit in left field… please, if you do not understand the question ask for clarification.

-JP

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“I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it” - George Carlin

A good laugh from Billy Connolly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2In5062_raA

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Posted: 11 September 2008 07:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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jp5y, I’m a bit confused about the seriousness and indeed earnestness of your replies in what appears for all the world to be a mind-bendingly speculative question.

The question as to how “the religious” would view an apparently sentient AI system would, clearly, depend on the particular religious person at issue. No doubt some would (at least at first) consider human-created objects not to be sentient. Others would, and presumably with time more would, but then they would view them as objects worthy of salvation.

I don’t know what you mean by suggesting that a religious person would need the robot to be “god fearing” in order to be government funded. I am very concerned about a theocratic turn in US politics, however that particular turn never occurred to me, and I’m not even sure what it would entail. It certainly would be easy enough to program any computer to parrot “god fearing” words, so I don’t see it as a particularly crucial issue.

On a side note, I don’t see that any of this has anything to do with knowledge of computer science or AI in particular. Nothing that is being undertaken currently in any form of AI is like the sort of thing that would be considered sentient, so responding to this question by citing present-day technologies seems about as misconceived as talking about the World Wide Web in terms of Morse Code.

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Posted: 11 September 2008 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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jp5y,

Wow, you need to lighten up. I don’t recall this being a forum for only people with specific qualifications you dictate in advance to be allowed to offer “some thoughts,” as you originally asked for. The question of consciousness and how people choose to see and value it goes way beyond AI anyway. It is a question that can be approached from many domains. Doug, I know, has some specialized background in philosophy of mind, which is one way to approach the question. I have formal training in neorscience and non-human animal behavior, which is another direction from which to approach it. Science fiction is a quite legitimate and serious format for exploring depe question through artifical circumstances that transcend current technological limitations. Perhaps you have some computer/AI background, and that surely is a great way of getting at what it is that religion labels the soul and calls unitary and unknowable through science. We can explore the issue from various perspectives as a group, or you can be superior and snarky and shut the whole topic down from the get go.

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Posted: 12 September 2008 03:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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jp5y - 10 September 2008 02:27 PM

I am curious if anyone has come across anything dealing with Artificial Intelligence and God… 

This has been explored in science fiction, as you probably know. There are experts who see the advance of computer systems as generating a “singularity” in the next 50 years where AI passes human intelligence.  Googling “singularity” can pull a lot of that.

This blog at Pharyngula critiques the idea.
http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/print/2970/

I myself am intrigued by this. A corollary is that an increasing amount of the country’s infrastructure will actually go to support computers talking to one another, rather than people talking to each other. You will need optical fiber to your home not because you need more bandwidth but because your house needs to be networked.  (it needs to talk to other houses).

I had not thought about religious aspects at all.  The word “religion” means something different here because the AI would actually exist and it wouldn’t be superstition.

There was a full issue of IEEE Spectrum devoted to the Singularity eariler this year (again from a technical or society side, not religion).  Probably only science fiction…

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Posted: 12 September 2008 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Jackson,

  Thank you very much for your reply and the link to the article.  I am currently finishing up a B.S. in Computer Sciences and will immediately start on graduate work in AI (that’s the plan at least) and I really wanted to develop my argument with how AI will relate to any religion early on… Thus my post here.  I really think as AI improves and shown to be cognizant of the world it will greatly challenge any claim in religion.  Just think of a self improving intelligent system that is given problems in physics to solve… we will have answers to all the great questions without the need for God in any way.  And because of this I think the religious will extend their war on science from biology to computer sciences…

I apologize for the short reply but I am in a bit of a rush…  thank you for your post and I would love anything more you would like to contribute.

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“I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it” - George Carlin

A good laugh from Billy Connolly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2In5062_raA

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Posted: 12 September 2008 03:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Good for you, jp5y, I wish you luck in that endeavor. In my former studies I did look at a bit of AI stuff, and my best friend from my university days is now a professor of computer science, and his specialty is precisely AI, so I do have some exposure to the field. While you are almost certainly right that in the longer term artificial intelligence will raise some pointed questions about personhood that religions will need to come to terms with, nothing that is presently being studied in the field, or that will be studied in the foreseeable future, is anything of the sort. (I don’t view the purported “singularity” as foreseeable).

And there are plenty of questions that one can describe even using Newtonian mechanics that are too complex for any foreseeable computer intelligence to solve, as well. E.g., calculations involving chaotic phenomena, or IIRC what are in CS called “NP Complete” problems. So there will always be unsolved and indeed literally insoluble problems to vex us, AI or not.

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