Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making inroads into every avenue of life, even religion, but despite the speculation that robots will take over many human activities, humans and God have qualities automatons can never replace.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is all around us. Most of us already know that voice recognition AI provides automated support for customer service systems, as well as digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa, and is behind driverless cars. But AI does so much more.
Hardly an exhaustive list, here are a few of the things artificial intelligence can do, according to Business Insider: Transcribe speech, recognize objects and images, translate languages, speak, recognize emotions and images of faces, recognize emotions and speech, drive, fly a drone, spot cancer better than humans, make certain types of medical diagnoses, detect crop disease, do legal case research, find errors and legal documents, beat 75% of Americans in a visual intelligence test, beat humans at jeopardy, beat the best human players at Texas hold ’em poker, identify potentially threatening weather, write poems that get published, write music, recommend songs you like, the breed better than humans, troll on Twitter, and more.
“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.'”
Artificial intelligence is already making inroads in religion.
SanTO, short for Sanctified Theomorphic Operator, is a robot that resembles Catholic saint statuettes. SanTO is being hailed as the first Catholic robot and is programmed with 2000 years of knowledge about the Catholic faith, the BBC reported.
In the UK, the Church of England developed an Alexa “skill” that can read prayers and answer basic questions like “Who is God?”
Unquestionably, AI will be able to catalog all knowledge of canonical Scriptures, apocryphal and deuterocanonical writings, as well as religious writing by historians, clergy, theologians, scholars, and more. Then, be able to cross-reference all of these and connect the dots.
But religion isn’t simply a compendium of facts. There are worldviews, traditions, and that hard to quantify quality we call faith.
Many churches and denominations are already adopting AI, especially through the use of apps.
However, many argue that a robot can never interact and minister to another human being the way a fellow mortal can.
“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.'”
– Isaiah 43:10
In his book entitled “The Promise of Artificial Intelligence: Reckoning and Judgment,” author Brian Cantwell Smith argues AI is “nowhere near developing systems that are genuinely intelligent.” Not only does he not envision that happening in the foreseeable future, but believes that no AI will reach human-level intelligence and judgment ever. What troubles Smith most is that we will become so impressed with AI’s prowess, we will shift our expectations of human intelligence. He argues that while we should learn to use AI for tasks it excels at, we should simultaneously strengthen our own commitment to judgment, ethics and the world.
“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
– Genesis 2:7
Artificial intelligence creates false expectations, both welcomed and feared, of robots that can replace human beings, religious teachers, and even God.
And while many critics say AI can’t approximate human judgment, there is one ability robots or any artificial device will ever have: The ability to love.
God could have created human beings as robots or automatons that loved him, always obeyed, and never caused harm or evil.
But God recognized such a creation lacked value. Instead, God created human beings with free will. Humans were created with an extremely high level of intelligence – but most importantly – a mind that could reason and choose.
Not only do we have the freedom to choose and to love, but we also have the deep understanding to realize the consequences of our actions before we take them.