Will AI redefine morality and religion with algorithms?

This question generates fear among some congregants’ religious leaders and theologians who believe AI eventually usurps centuries of philosophical and religious scholarship and worship experiences.  As man seeks to explain his existence. AI becomes another competitor for his search.

René Descartes proposition  “I think therefore I am” began the Age of Reason characterized by mans’ pursuit of knowledge.  Now the Age of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) characterizes this pursuit with cognitive learning tools, which replicate human reason, strategy, problem solving and making judgments.  When AGI or “strong AI” is eventually achieved, many expect a Transhumanistic society, with machines encroaching upon morality and religion.

“The First Church of Artificial Intelligence is called Way of the Future. “  Wayofthefuturechurch

Is AGI the next phase of human evolution? 

Isaac Asimov, science fiction writer, envisioned a world where robots followed three laws:  

  1. A robot may not injure or harm a human being.
  2. A robot must obey the directions given it by humans except to violate Law 1.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence so long as it does not conflict with two previous laws. 

Will AGI obsolete Asimov’s laws?

The Printing Press democratized religion.  We can expect a similar impact will occur with AGI redefining religion.  Today, there are robots that offer blessings, perform rituals and deliver sermons. They have some limited AI capabilities but we have to assume that eventually, AGI will be here. Today’s robots are considered by some to be time-savers and a novelty. They engage and encourage the curious and disinterested. For example, Minder teaches Buddhist philosophy in Kyoto Japan.

What might future worship look like?

Sum ergo cogito  If AGI is successful, expect multiple and conflicting Deities and theologies to emerge. Imagine a form of polytheism with battles between conflicting theological concepts and preferences, where believers focus on remaking and redefining religion and technology.  AGI Deities requires many things, including elements we cannot define yet, because we do not know what they are.

One element is certain. Each AGI will require, deference , to its to moral and theological judgments.  But which one will be right? 

Will AGI replace human decision-making?

Human judgment is influenced by a myriad of factors, such as,  loyalty, politics and sentiment. Therefore human judgment will not always appear to be rational to an AGI.  Mr. Spock in Star Treks’ The Ultimate Computer tells Captain Kirk that he does not desire serving under a computer. His reasoning being that a starship also runs on loyalty to one man and nothing can replace it or him.  Loyalty is earned due to a person’s experience, motivations, observation and reasoning skills.  

Can AGI have a moral compass?

Making moral choices is subjective and intertwined with philosophy and religion.  The challenge is how best to define morality and religion in a way AGI can comprehend. Google’s AlphaZero machine-learning algorithms can learn and then defeat human Chess masters.  The reason being Chess is a 2-player strategy game played on 64 squares arranged in an 8X8 grid.   

Morality is defined differently by various cultural and societal norms.   

Morality manifests in what a person thinks is right or wrong. It’s less about defining right and wrong. That is why Asimov’s Laws endure.  

Algorithms cannot make subjective moral judgments, as iIllustrated by popular concerns about autonomous vehicle collision avoidance algorithms. Humans steer their vehicle into another vehicle to avoid hitting a pedestrian.   Algorithms in time will make these unthinkable decisions. It’s whether humans will accept the tradeoffs when they’re codified.  Humans often rely upon their own instincts rather than perform cost benefit calculations.

Is morality and religion uniquely human? 

The Book of I Kings 3: 16-28, records when King Solomon of Israel, sitting as a judge, rules between two women both claiming to be the mother of a child.  He discerns who the true mother is by observing the two women’s demeanor, behavior and speech.  He draws a sword himself and threatens to apply the law of dividing disputed property to force the outcome.  King Solomon’s wisdom both exposed deception and cruelty of the impostor and united a mother with her child.

What would happen if King Solomon were replaced by AGI? I argue AGI delays the dispute by outsourcing the decision to a third party. That adds uncertainty to a precarious and volatile situation.

Abrahamic faith traditions believe man is not a mere sum of his parts but made in the “Image of God.” Humans are self-aware and will question themselves and others.  This conscious ability makes them the most complex and enigmatic species on earth and unlikely to fully defer to AGI.

Develop AGI precepts to both guide and inform.

  • Precepts: Acknowledge AGI and robots will continue to evolve and proliferate.
  • Precepts:  AGI is a tool to augment resources or aid decision-making.
  • Precept:  AGI tools are for designated tasks only, such as, accounting, ceremonial, education, engagement, medical and socialization.
  • Precept: AGI tools are not moral or philosophical agents.

What Do You Think?

Author Disclosure

I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I have no vested interest in any of the products, firms or institutions mentioned in this post. Nor does the Analyst Syndicate. This is not a sponsored post.

Updated 10.24.2019