Author: Ron Graham
Scared by Artificial Intelligence
—The Biblical View
As we approach the year 2020, there are three topics that scientists are talking about which have caused widespread concern, and even fear. These topics are: Climate Change, Artificial Intelligence, and a Godless Universe.
In this lesson we look, from a Biblical perspective, at the second of those, artificial intelligence.
1 The Machine Mind
As we passed into a new millennium, we found ourselves talking to computers or listening to them talk to us. Today, machine intelligence imitates the human brain and uses a “neural‑network” like that of the brain.
At least three characteristics of these machines are remarkable:
- They can use natural human language for input and output, cross‑translate various human languages, and convert between speech and text.
- They can modify their own code so as to autonomously gather information and act upon it in a logical way. This also allows them to learn on their own.
- They can communicate with other machines, contributing to a common knowledge‑base. What one machine “learns” every other machine instantly “knows”.
So our world is already host to machines using artificial “intelligence” —albeit within a “narrow” scope.
But machines now being developed are just a few years away from becoming self‑aware, so we are told. Such machines will reach a “general” level of intelligence on a par with humans. This predicted event is known as “the Singularity”.
After the Singularity occurs, machine intelligence will exponentially grow to “super” intelligence, scientists say. Machines will become thousands of times more intelligent than we are.
Some scientists fear that artificial intelligences will rule the world and likely exterminate us.
The Mind=Brain Assumption
The assumption in all of the above is that the human mind and the human brain are one and the same physical organ. Therefore, if you make a machine that emulates the human brain, with a complexity like that of the brain, then it will be a self‑aware being, one that can think on a par with humans.
Better (or worse) still, if you connect millions of such machines around the world, so that they operate as one, you will create an entity that thinks like a god!
Now let's think about the human mind and its nature.
2 The Human Mind
The preacher of Ecclesiastes, in his conclusion, says, "the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7,14).
The brain is a part of our body. It returns to the dust. Its activity ceases. The spirit returns to God to await judgment. Now, in which of those is the human mind? Is our mind in our brain, or is our mind in our spirit?
According to the Bible, the mind is not an organ of the body, or a result of bodily functions; the mind interacts with the body but is distinct from the body and superior to the body.
Many scientists, who are materialists, don't believe in the non‑physical spirit. So they believe the mind is in the physical brain. Thus, if we create a machine in the image of our brains, we create a mind, a sentient being.
Jesus on Body and Soul
Jesus believed that human beings have both a physical and a spiritual nature. They have physical bodies and spiritual souls.
Jesus told one of the thieves crucified with him, "Today you shall be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
This cannot be explained sensibly, unless Jesus and the thief were going to survive the death of their physical bodies and be together as departed souls in a paradise apart from their dead bodies.
Jesus Christ made the matter black and white when he said, "Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
Paul on Thoughts and Spirit
Paul says, "No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit." (1Corinthians 2:11)
Paul believed that human beings have a spirit within them. That spirit knows their thoughts. So their mind, what they have thought, is kept in their spirit’s knowledge.
The Thoughts of the Heart
The Bible here and there speaks of the thoughts of the heart. For example,"Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing in your eyes, O Lord..." (Psalm 19:14)
The word “heart” is used as a metaphor for the non‑physical part of the human being. For example, "And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength" (Mark 12:30).
So I think we have established that thoughts do not originate in the physical brain, although they may be processed there. Rather, thoughts arise in the spiritual heart.
Now thought is part and parcel of intelligence. If thought is spiritual, and does not arise in the physical brain, then intelligence is spiritual too. Intelligence may use the brain to function in the physical realm, but intelligence itself is seated in the spiritual realm.
You Cannot Make an Artificial Spirit
From what we have seen, an artificial intelligence cannot be made to think in the manner of humans. You cannot make something spiritual out of physical materials. Machine intelligence may emulate the human brain which is physical. But it cannot emulate human thought which is spiritual.
Regardless of the trillions of data and algorithms that machine intelligence may accumulate, it will not be an entity able to think as we do. For example, if we gave it the following instruction, could it do it?
"Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart and be still. Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD" (Psalm 4:4-5).
No machine intelligence could ever do that because it is not really intelligent. It is a sophisticated automaton.
No New Creature
So there will be no Singularity, no “Hello World” moment. There will be no new kind of being that can meditate in its heart.
Of course, among human beings there are always some who wish to rule the world by force.
These enemies may use machine intelligence and robotics as weapons. There have always been humans who take up weapons against humans. Wars and weapons of mass destruction have been with us all our lives.
But we have never had to cope with a new, inimical, super‑intelligent, electronic creature, who is bent on exterminating us by means we cannot anticipate. From the Bible’s perspective, such a beast is not possible, so we can shoo away that scare.
3 The Mind of God
The Bible’s perspective includes the belief in a higher, indeed infinite, intelligence. This is the mind of God the Creator of all things.
David says, "How precious also are your thoughts to me O God. How great is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would be more in number than the sand" (Psalm 139:17).
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts [says the LORD]" (Isaiah 55:8-9)
There is no higher intelligence than that of God. He rules the Universe. Heaven is his throne, and Earth his footstool (Isaiah 66:1). We should fear him and not a god created by humans.
Listen to his words. With your mind, and in your heart, examine his thoughts revealed by his own Spirit. There is true super‑intelligence, not artificial. You will touch the mind of him who created humans, not the non‑mind of a creature humans made.