What Does AI Mean for the Church and Society?

Just found this video of a newer model Aibo. It is fine to admire the cleverness of the team that built and wrote its code … but what has that to do with providing what a real dog or human relationship does? To think training a dog is just a matter of speaking the programmed words or that the satisfaction of petting a dog was entirely a product of enacting cutesy behaviors is pretty insulting to people.

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What does AI Mean for the Church and society?
The biggest take-away should be something that most churches have already understood… that intelligence is not our most important and defining characteristic as human beings – machines can do that.

Certainly not by demanding that we live in a society modeled after the middle ages or Biblical times.

Because the robots and their awareness is entirely a product of design and not a product of self-organizations as with the case of living organisms, which are in fact created by the singular mandate of survival (self preservation). Machines have nothing in common with that – the mandate which created them is service to human beings.

Human fears coming from irrationalities are legion. As social beings it is habitual for them to project human motivations onto inanimate objects.

It is certainly a discussion for designers to work out all the implications and consequences of the rules they design AI products to follow.

Yes, they’re an overhyped thing which keeps getting pushed out further and further: Bloomberg - Are you a robot?

Something to consider is the way in which AI may not be able to succeed as a functional entity navigating real world decisions as long as it cannot make a random choice between a simple set of outcomes.

I’m more interested in whether we will be able to transfer human consciousness to hardware. I wouldn’t mind having a robot body if I could keep doing my conservation work.

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There are already several therapy AIs in use. For that matter, there was a Rogerian version back before the 'Web.

  • Let me know when you find an ai bot that can hypnotize me or one that can be hypnotized.
  • In this world, “consciousnesses” that hang around in a house or building, are typically called “ghosts” and the structures or places that they hang around in are typically known as “haunted”. By extension, IMO, a consciousness that hangs around in a robot would make the robot “haunted”. I find it hard to imagine a “haunted” robot doing conservation work in this world. In the next world, I find it equally difficult to imagine “ghosts” “haunting” any structure or garden."

It would seem the question of consciousness needs to be addressed first

The neuroscientist Kevin Mitchell has argued that the free will of conscious organisms plays a role in determining what will happen in the brain, over and above what is settled by the laws of physics.

Recently I was impressed by one of those what ifs in the Bible, Luke 13:34. In a previous life, I made a big deal out of the what if with Israel’s request for a king

AI can already solve problems given minimal instructions. One example is a robot that was put in an enclosure that had a table on a platform, a couple of boxes of different sizes, some blocks of wood and some boards, and a ball. It was given the definitions of “ball”, “box”, and “table” along with “in” and “on” and some other simple words and then was told to put the ball in a box on the table. Through trial and error it found a box that the ball fit into, and through more trial and error it used some blocks and boards to make a ramp to get up onto the platform where it could reach the table and put the box on it. It wasn’t given any instructions for any of that, just the one to put the ball in a box on the table.
Though I think its first effort was actually putting a box on the table once it had made a ramp to get there, and then trying to put the ball in the box it had put on the table, which I think it tried several times until it got a box that was large enough to hold the ball.

More impressive was the work of a drone swarm, small helicopter type drones with grasping grips, that was given a picture of a tower and told to build one. In the test room there were all sorts of materials, some that were for the tower and some that weren’t. On its own the swarm figured out by trial and error which items worked for building a tower and which didn’t, trying to put pieces together. I wish I could find the video, because the swarm seemed a bit aimless at first as it tried combinations of pieces, but the moment they figured out what pieces were useful for building a tower because all at once the swarm was retrieving only those pieces and putting them together to build a tower.

Less impressive was a robot designed to get samples from volcanoes; it had multiple legs (I can’t remember if it was four or six) and needed to be able to navigate some pretty nasty terrain surfaces to get samples. The programmers didn’t give it an algorithm for how to traverse rough terrain; it was trained by taking it out to walk through progressively worse areas, and it slowly learned what it could walk through and what it couldn’t and gained tricks for navigating tough patches. When it first started out it was slow and tentative; by the time they took it to actually get some samples from a caldera it moved at a brisk walking pace. One reason for having such a robot was that lava fields often have broken volcanic glass in them, glass that can slice through the best leather or synthetic boots; I’ve hiked through such stuff in volcanology class and moved at maybe one kilometer an hour in order to keep from getting sliced up, but that robot could do about 5 kph due to looking ahead and comparing the terrain to what it had traversed previously, and choosing it route.

Then there’s the bridge-inspecting robot that learned by observing human bridge inspectors at work and ended up not only learning to do everything they could but got better at the job than any of the human inspectors because its hearing was far better plus it had sensors that human senses can’t match.

And I’ll toss in mention of hospital cleaning robots that not only mop and dust but shine UV light into all spaces and crevices at an intensity that would be dangerous to people; it can tell if a room is occupied and adjust its own schedule so it can come back later.

Ah – and one I wish I had: a robot lawn mower that can discern concrete, wood, bark dust, and other materials that aren’t grass, so you can just put it in your yard and turn it on; it will explore and figure out the yard’s shape and contours and over several times mowing will figure out the most efficient pattern. The newer version can also observe the lawn and decide when it needs mowed.


A “haunted” robot . . . interesting view. But if the transferred human consciousness is running the robot, it could do conservation work just as well as anything else it might be mechanically suited for – and possibly do better, since it would be able to use lasers and devices such as hypodermics for injecting just the right amount of salt or such into a invasive plant to kill it with minimal harm to the surrounding biome.

Though I would definitely want a humanoid robot body (such as in Chappie (2015) - IMDb ) rather than a treaded version (a la Short Circuit (1986) - IMDb ).

I find it interesting that there are AI specialists/researchers right now who think that we will be able to transfer human consciousness into computers within a quarter century – yet I don’t think anyone has done the least bit in figuring out how that might be done! In science fiction the method I find most plausible is one where every person at birth is fitted with a set of chips that records all their neural activity such that if their body is killed the chips can be put in a robot body and pick up where the brain left off (and if the chips are implanted in someone older, all the information from their formative years is lost, resulting in a warped version of the person [though I wonder: would they even know they were warped?]); I even sketched out a story once where the only way a civilization achieved machine intelligence was by transferring people’s consciousness into advanced computers.

That’s another question: if consciousness is a manifestation of some kind of energy outside what we know, would it even be able to interface with circuitry, or might it be limited to interfacing with “wetware”, i.e organic living brains?


Since a lot of quantum physics is not ‘settled science’ and no one has explained exactly how consciousness works in effecting wave function collapse (or vice versa, per Roger Penrose ; - ), consciousness and free will have certainly not been given the boot by determinists (says this God-is-omnitemporal Calvinist with a touch of irony ; - ).

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You’ve got to be able to see the dilemma in this statement for yourself

That is a key to some of its amazing success with robots and their self-taught physical learning. AI cannot necessarily find truth by analysis and deduction though, especially if it has not been given true premises, presuppositions; antecedents.

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What dilemma? You don’t think there could be some kind of energy we don’t know about?

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All we have is what we can measure in our four spacetime dimensions. And aren’t we pretty clueless as to how quantum entanglement works? We know that it works, not how… it’s spooky! :grin:

The thing with consciousness is that it is self-evident and not we-evident. And it should be perfectly evident that a person can consciously determine an action in the world, and yet that is a legitimate area of doubt for some philosophers and scientists.

Now, how consciousness comes about is a good question. I have some vague theories, but that is secondary to whether it is when it is apparent :smiling_face:

Heidegger sought to locate the action of thought outside of the body, which I always thought a curious way to look at it, especially when you look at how it can cause observable events in the world.

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Your Brain: Who’s in Control? | Full Documentary | NOVA | PBS

Lots of that going around :smile:

Look at this quote by an Arminian

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