Advancements in technology have astounded the world time and time again – so what does the Vatican say about the latest research on Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
The Vatican remains up-to-date on up-and-coming technologies, and Pope Francis has spoken of the pros and cons of these advancements several times.
But what does the Church say about AI?
According to The Atlantic, the question of whether the Church really accepts all forms of intelligent life was presented. What if that life was extraterrestrial?
Pope Francis once asked: “If-for example-tomorrow an expedition of Martians came … and one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen? When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent! no, let’s do it this way.'”
Though Pope Francis was joking to make a point, The Atlantic asked how the Church would respond should AI beings attempt to one day become Christians.
Most theologians aren’t concerned with such a question – but the European Union is already debating whether AI bots should receive legal rights.
In a report calling for a European Parliament Resolution for “Civil Law Rules on Robotics,” the authors wrote:
“Now that humankind stands on the threshold of an era when ever more sophisticated robots, bots, androids and other manifestations of artificial intelligence seem poised to unleash a new industrial revolution, which is likely to leave no stratum of society untouched, it is vitally important for the legislature to consider all its implications.
“The ‘soft impacts’ on human dignity may be difficult to estimate, but will still need to be considered if and when robots replace human care and companionship, and …questions of human dignity also can arise in the context of ‘repairing’ or enhancing human beings.'”
Does “human dignity” apply to robots outfitted with AI? Does the Church have a responsibility to accept them as it might accept any other human?
Should robots begin to experience emotions, consciousness and self-awareness, Stephen Hawking claims AI “would take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate.”
Kevin Kelly, an author and the a co-founder of Wired magazine, claims: “If you create other things that think for themselves, a serious theological disruption will occur. …If humans were to create free-willed beings, absolutely every single aspect of traditional theology would be challenged and have to be reinterpreted in some capacity.”
Kelly, who was raised Catholic, explained Christians have always understood a soul is unique to humans, but many philosophers have questioned what, exactly, a soul is.
Mike McHargue, a self-described Christian mystic, claims there is a difference between “consciousness” and “souls.”
Interestingly, Kelly has already begun to advocate for the development of “a catechism for robots,” adding he takes the idea “very seriously.”
He stated: “There will be a point in the future when these free-willed beings that we’ve made will say to us, ‘I believe in God. What do I do?’ At that point, we should have a response.”
While Kelly, and those willing to entertain his ideas, claims robots will one day require and may even ask for conversion, very few believe robots will ever have a soul, primarily because it is a God-given gift passed from God to all of humanity.
Artificial humanity is just that – artificial.