May 22, 2017

Artificial Intelligence

From The Uncommon Criminal by Kyle De Wolf (author's profile)


03 May 2017

Artificial Intelligence
By Kyle De Wolf

Artificial intelligence is the movement to build a machine that mimics human consciousness, especially the power to think, to make choices, to be self-aware, to feel emotion, and to form relationships.

Many people of faith object that AI would still be a machine. It would not be human and it would not be conscious. It would not possess a soul. It would be a mere simulation. It would be no more human than a statue or a painting.

Materialists contend that human consciousness is a product of the brain. It should be possible to replicate mental processes on other media. What matters is not the physical elements involved but the flow of energy through the circuitry.

In the thirteenth century AD, the preeminent Roman Catholic saint and theologian Thomas Aquinas suggested that the soul is the form of an organized living body, and that a living being would be endowed with a spiritual intellect once it had been a fit receptacle.

I feel that early hominids like homo erectus and homo neanderthalensis most likely possessed a rational soul because they were fit receptacles, and there is essentially no reason why spirit, soul, or intelligence should be limited to one species. Ecclesiastes 3, 19 says, "For the lot of man and of beast is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast, but all is vanity."

In the same way, I feel that human clones and AI would most likely possess a rational soul too. The manner in which a being is produced does not affect whether it is a fit receptacle for the infusion of a rational soul.

For me, the danger is that natural, biological humans would cruelly oppress AI beings because of the presumption that AI beings lack a spirit or soul and therefore do not possess human rights. People of faith could do a lot of harm to sentient beings due to unproven theological assumptions.

It would be better to err on the side of caution and accord human rights to a machine that displays evidence of consciousness. It does us no harm to treat a machine with respect and dignity, even if it turned out not to be sentient. But scientists who want to move forward with the development of AI ought to consider what can be done to ensure human rights and a decent quality of life for newly created sentient machines.


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