My prediction is that 2017 is the year when artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning go mainstream. Up until now they’ve essentially be trendy buzzwords thrown around by everyday people (including myself) and abstract concepts reserved for computer scientists and mathematicians. That’s changing. The mainstreaming of AI opens up a set of philosophical questions about a given system’s nature and outputs. One of the most intriguing queries centers around theology: can AI believe in God?
First and foremost, we need to establish a few facts. AI is limited to the planet earth. It cannot launch itself into deep space and discover more about the universe than human beings ever could (at least for now). It’s largely based on the rationalistic, Western-world value sets that its programmers hold. Furthermore, it’s already demonstrated it’s limits in the context of how it processes data. Save for differences in volume and scale, AI does not process data in ways that human beings cannot. It’s not as if AI has invented new taxonomies or lexicon for itself. Nor has it developed it’s own value set. That’s not to say one day it cannot.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that AI could observe the sheer size, complexity and grandeur of the world and attribute its origin to something greater than human creation or a chance collision of subatomic particles. With that said, as a believer in God, I do think that God has chosen not to reveal specific aspects of His being to his creation at this point in time. I do not see an AI system unraveling these secrets much further than humans already have. Sure there’s more to learn about the physical realm, but further aspects the spiritual realm may be impossible to process.
Nevertheless, the intersection of theology and AI is a fascinating topic. If you’d like to know more about this, check out these two articles which provide additional food for thought.
“Can AI believe in God? A Parable about Diversity” by Bharath Ramsundar
“Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem” by Kate Crawford