In the near future, Reverend Christopher Benek plans to expand his congregation in a most unusual way: he intends to convert robots and machines with artificial intelligence (AI) to Christianity. In case you’re waiting for the punchline, there’s isn’t one.
Benek is an associate pastor at?Providence Presbyterian Church in Florida, and says he doesn’t see any reason why intelligent machines can’t become a part of the Christian flock:
“I don’t see Christ’s redemption limited to human beings.?It’s redemption to all of creation, even AI.?If AI is autonomous, then we should encourage it to participate in Christ’s redemptive purposes in the world.”
But before you start laughing too hard, consider that the eminent physicist Stephen Hawking has sounded alarm bells about the possible rise of machines with AI, and how they could initially be beneficial to mankind, but might also attempt to control humans and society. In an open letter, Hawking wrote:
“There is now a broad consensus that AI research is progressing steadily, and that its impact on society is likely to increase.?The potential benefits are huge, since everything that civilization has to offer is a product of human intelligence.?Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls.”
And this, Benek says, is where religion comes into the equation. He thinks a creation with a spiritual dimension can be more productive than harmful:
“Hawking’s concerns sound scary on the surface, and they are shared by many, but he isn’t considering one very important aspect of humanity that will affect AIs.?Hawking is ignoring that the vast number of the world’s human beings consider themselves to be spiritual beings and how that belief has positively affected the world.?Who is to say that one day AIs might not even lead humans to new levels of holiness?”
And wouldn’t that be something? Humans who believe?they were made by God in His own image, but who would fall short in holiness and faith?to those robotic creatures the humans themselves made? And in their religious faith, what?exactly?would those robots?use for Communion? Silicon wafers and motor oil?