In the previous article artificial intelligence, human beings, and human rights were examined. It was observed that even though artificial intelligence may resemble the characteristics of human beings this does not make “humanoids” (i.e., artificial intelligence with the physical features of men and women) human beings. What makes human beings unique is the reality they are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), humans have a spirit within them that lives eternally (i.e., the “breath of life”) (Gen. 2:7). It is this quality that makes man distinct from every creature on the planet. In terms of artificial intelligence “humanoids” should not be given human rights because intrinsically they are not human beings.
In light of this rising and developing technology, there are people who are increasingly concerned about the nature of artificial intelligence. Stephen Hawkins in a conference lecture in Lisbon, Portugal expressed his concern about artificial intelligence:
“Computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence, and exceed it…Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it…AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization. It brings dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It could bring great disruption to our economy.”
Hannah Osborne. Stephen Hawking AI warning: Artficial intelligence could destroy civilization. Retrived from: http://www.newsweek.com/stephen-hawking-artificial-intelligence-warning-destroy-civilization-703630.
Stephen Hawking suggested mankind needs to discover another planet in the galaxy in order to survive. Elon Musk, entrepreneur and futurist, also shares his grim outlook on the potential evil nature of AI:
“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful…With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out.”
Cited by Samuel Gibbs (2014). Ed. Elon Musk: artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat. Retrived from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/27/elon-musk-artificial-intelligence-ai-biggest-existential-threat.
Elon Musk’s desire is to colonize Mars within the next 7 years for the purpose of avoiding the extinction of humanity. Could artificial intelligence become so self-aware that it eventually becomes an evil machine (e.g,. Skynet from the Terminator franchise) capable of destroying mankind? How does a biblical worldview address artificial intelligence and the nature of evil?
Genesis chapter 3:1-15 gives the account of the serpent who deceived Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen. 1:1-6). Adam also transgressed against God (v. 6). As a result of Adam’s actions, this brought death into the world for all of mankind (Gen. 3:19). Additionally, there was another quality that invaded creation, and this was the evil intent found within man:
5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky ; for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Genesis 6:5-7 NASB emphasis mine
Jesus also highlights this reality concerning mankind and evil. Jesus discussing this to Peter about how mankind becomes unclean before God states the following:
Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated ? 18 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications , thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 “These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
Matthew 15:16-20 NASB emphasis mine
From a Biblical perspective, a human being need not fear artificial intelligence but should have a healthy fear of the architects behind AI, and their intent to build it. Mankind has used technology for many good things. From automobiles, airplanes, household computers, cell phones, prosthetic limbs, and modern medicine mankind has created many things for the benefit of mankind. By contrast, from human trafficking, pornography, genocide, and computer viruses mankind, due to its evil nature, has used technology for dark and destructive purposes. The same reasoning can be used for artificial intelligence. It can be used to do wonderful things for mankind, or it can be used to do evil things to mankind. However, the evil that it is capable of exhibiting will not be due to an artificial intelligence’s intrinsic nature to become evil. If artificial intelligence becomes corrupt, it will be because mankind programmed it to exhibit this behavior.
For Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and others in the engineering, ethics, and scientific community to sound the alarm concerning the dangers of artificial intelligence is understandable. This frontier is new and exciting, and we as human beings have only begun to scratch the surface of all the things we can accomplish with AI. However, their perspective of the intrinsic dangers of AI is misguided. When observing artificial intelligence and the nature of evil from a Biblical worldview the problem, as Scripture reveals, does not lie with the AI itself, but with the nature of mankind who builds them.
Artificial intelligence has already proven to be very useful. Artificial intelligence has been placed on our cell phones where they can recognize our voices and our fingerprints to make our phones more secure. Artifical intelligence is changing the way medical practitioners diagnose, training machines equipped with AI to recognize certain illnesses and diseases. In addition, it is possible that artificial intelligence could be used to assist Bible translators in other countries to translate the Bible more rapidly than they did in the past. However, it would not be far-fetched to say artificial intelligence will also be used for evil means because of the evil in men’s hearts. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, this has always been the pattern.
Let us as Christians, promoting a Biblical worldview be amazed at the living in this time of wonderful technological advances. Artifical intelligence highlights the imago Dei and how God has created mankind with creativity and intellect to build AI, for the service of mankind, to the glory of God. However, let us as believers have a healthy respect for this technology, not for fear of a hostile takeover of evil robots who may develop an intrinsic nature of evil, but understanding the total depravity of man, and that evil originates in the very heart of mankind.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!