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As the field of artificial intelligence advances, there has been increased discussion about the possibility that AI automating increasing levels of cognitive tasks. While some argue that such AI could bring about great benefits, others are concerned about the potential consequences of creating machines that could surpass human abilities.

In the Christian tradition, there are a number of teachings that could be relevant to this discussion, such as the idea that humans are made in the image of God and have a unique dignity that sets us apart from other creatures. There are also biblical passages that warn against putting too much trust in human-made things and the importance of submitting to God's will.

I am interested in knowing whether there are any published opinions or theological reflections within Christianity that address the permissibility or impermissibility of creating human-level AI. Are there any (published) arguments or perspectives within the Christian tradition that would suggest that building such machines is morally unacceptable?

I would appreciate any references to Bible verses, articles, books, or other published sources that address this question.

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  • The general problem with AI is that, if it really is possible to create a human-level, then it would be an incredible coincidence if that just happened to be the ultimate limit. So it would be almost certain that a beyond-human level would be created, if not by humans then by the AIs. This is the underlying problem, and it is a problem regardless of whether one is Christian. Feb 9, 2023 at 20:44
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    I suspect that most Christians think it is impossible, and so there's no ethical judgement to be made.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 14, 2023 at 21:27
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    Since intelligence is not the seat of morality and since we do not have the ability to program a soul or spirit I suspect that, if it were possible, it would be monstrous. Feb 15, 2023 at 21:11

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Dr Calum MacKellar heads up the Scottish Council on Bioethics (Edinburgh, Scotland). He has written papers on Artificial Intelligence. I also attended one of the A.G.M meetings of the Council where the matter was discussed after a film was shown. It portrayed a robot with such a high level of A.I. that it fooled others into thinking this was a real human female. Fiction when the film was made, but there seems to be no denying that this is a goal of A.I. – to design human-level A.I.

The Council looks at such ethical issues from a Christian point of view.

Dr Mackellar has written a book, The Image of God, Personhood and the Embryo (SCM Press 2017) which I have read. (The Appendix includes the moral status of seven new types of embryos that can now be artificially created by scientists: Uniparental embryos; Bi-parental Unisexual embryos; Bi-parental Bisexual embryos; Multi-parental embryos; Human-Nonhuman embryonic Combinations; True hybrids and cybrids.)

He took part in the German Ethics Council (Berlin) Zoom discussion on 25 February 2021 on Artificial Intelligence and Human-Machine Combinations, and SCHB has sold or downloaded nearly 5,800 ‘Cyborg Mind’ (New York, Berghahn Books, 2019).

I recommend that you get in touch with SCHB to get details of published Christian opinions on A.I. as this is a highly specialised field of investigation.

EDIT - additional info in response to comment request: sorry it's taken a bit more than 2 days, but here it is:

"Thank you for your email and query about whether building human-level AI impermissible according to any (published) Christian opinions?.

A developed answer can be found in the SCHB book which has just been published entitled The Ethics of Generating Posthumans. https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/ethics-of-generating-posthumans-9781350216587/

To summarise, however, unless the AI person is generated from the exclusive and sacrificial love of only two persons of different gender, then it would be unethical to generate any such a person from a Christian perspective, be he or she an AI or biological person.

If the generated AI is not a person but just a ‘tool’ like any other tool then this would be acceptable since it could be useful."
Dr. Calum MacKellar Director of Research Scottish Council on Human Bioethics 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh EH1 2LS Tel: 07 83 83 84 904

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  • Thanks! Would you be able to summarize his views with regards to artificial intelligence?
    – mic
    Feb 9, 2023 at 20:31
  • @mic I'm in process of gleaning info to make a summary of, but it's a big ask! It's also dubious whether sound-bite statements are of any worth with such a subject. Give me a couple of days...
    – Anne
    Feb 10, 2023 at 13:59
  • I hope that the book mentioned in this answer was not generated by GPT-4... :)
    – Conrado
    Dec 17, 2023 at 22:55
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    @Conrado Smiles. The book, The Image of God, Personhood and the Embryo (SCM Press 2017) is on my bookshelf and I have read it as the direct work of Dr. MacKellar. The second book had the link provided by Dr. MacKellar in a personal e-mail to me, responding to my query. You may confidently go to it as work produced by the gentleman in question.
    – Anne
    Dec 18, 2023 at 13:15

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