Artifical Intelligence has been receiving much attention in recent months. The first inklings of artificial intelligence were seen in 2011 when a supercomputer named “Watson” in the game show Jeopardy beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, two of the greatest Jeopardy players to date. Ever since this epic win by “Watson” the topic of artificial intelligence has been slowly, but surely, become a hot topic around the world.
Since then there have been many developments in the technology of artificial intelligence. There are many companies and products that are already using artificial intelligence like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Netflix to improve lives in the way people search the Internet, shop, and live. Additionally, there are organizations who are working with artificial intelligence that may have even greater ambitions than just using it for making personal suggestions to the consumer. In March of 2016, a robot made from Deepmind, a company funded by Google, defeated the top GO player in the world in five rounds. In July 2017 Facebook conducted an experiment in which they tested AI robots with the task of negotiating with one another. The result was the two “chatbots” seemingly developed their own way of communicating using the English language. In October 2017 Saudi Arabia in a historic move granted Arab citizenship to an artificial intelligence robot named “Sofia.” It appears in the not too distant future, we may be talking and chatting with robots who will be able to resemble physical and emotional characteristics of human beings.
With this science fiction becoming reality there are many people who welcome artificial intelligence and observe this as a great benefit to business, education, and commerce. However, there are many who oppose this move forward convinced this is opening Pandora’s box. Stephen Hawking, a world-renowned scientist when expressing his thoughts concerning artificial intelligence commented
the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race
Cited by Rory Cellan-Jones. Stephen hawking warns artifical intelligence could end mankind. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30290540.
Elon Musk, creator of Tesla and SpaceX shares some of the same fears of Stephen Hawking when had this to say about artificial intelligence:
“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.
As we enter into this brave new world there are many questions that are being posed by philosophers, scientist, and ethicists alike: What are we to make of artificial intelligence when we are literally are face to face interacting with machines that very much resembles human life? Should the government regulate this technology? When robots are walking among us should we grant them human rights? All these questions are good questions, and this writer is convinced that a Biblical perspective can answer all of these inquiries. All of these questions will not be examined at this time. However, in terms of this article, the topic of robots and human rights in light of a Biblical worldview will be examined.
In Genesis chapters one and two, we observe the account of the creation of mankind. After six days when God creates the universe, earth, and all of the vegetation and creatures within the earth He turns His attention to male and female, creating them in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27). It is God who blessed them and told them to multiply and fill the earth, originally giving them rule over the creatures that He had made (Gen. 1:28). He also provided them food to eat (Gen. 1:29). They were created by God with the faculties, abilities, and nature to complete what God had commanded them to do.
In chapter one it is told that God created male and female however in chapter two it is revealed how He accomplished this. God takes the dust of the earth and forms man and then breathes (Heb. word nĕshamah) into His nostrils (Gen. 2:5-7). It is here the Scripture says that the man, who God created became a living being (Gen. 2:7). It was only after God breathed into the man when he became a living active person. This emphasizes that man has been given a spirit by God that is unique only to man and woman, and no other created thing.
So what does this have to do with artificial intelligence and human rights? No matter how intelligent a robot becomes, or no matter how much it resembles a human being, intrinsically it is not a human being. The unique quality is that we have been given a spirit, and are personally fashioned by God in the womb (c.f., Ps. 139:13-16). A humanoid is not born like a human being, it is created by human beings. Artificial intelligence may have the ability to learn on its own however it has been built by human beings to do this very thing. When a humanoid “dies” it just becomes a heap of metal, moving electronic components, wires, and latex skin, nothing more.
In addition, God has set eternity in the heart of man, which causes mankind to question their own existence (Ecc. 3:11). When a human being dies their spirit goes to God (Ecc. 3:21), and in the coming ages all those human beings who have died will be resurrected and judged by God Himself (1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:1-6; Rev. 20:11-16). No robot equipped with artificial intelligence will be judged by God because they do not possess the qualities of a spirit.
Human rights are established because all human beings should be treated with equal respect and dignity, which also is found in the Biblical worldview. This is highlighted in Scripture when God gave Noah the command not to murder because mankind is made in the image of God (c.f., Gen. 9:6). Human life, because of the Creator, is to be respected. This is a right that comes from God concerning human beings. This does not extend to humanoids.
Artifical intelligence has the potential for great things, and of course destructive things. According to a Biblical perspective, human rights are only reserved for human beings, who are fashioned in God’s image. It is the reality that man and woman have a spirit that makes mankind God’s unique creation on earth. As we marvel at how artificial intelligence is being made by the hands of men let us also marvel even more at not just how we are made, but who has made us, in His image and likeness, lives in us, and will dwell us forever. Amen.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!