The people behind chatbots are asking questions of priests and ethicists rather than turning to their artificially intelligent creations. They want to know: What is consciousness? What is the nature of humanity? What is the purpose of life?
According to Father Phillip Larrey, dean of the philosophy department at the Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, Silicon Valley techies are posing those questions to ethicists and religious leaders as artificial intelligence develops rapidly and is used in myriad ways impacting people’s daily lives.
In a conversation with Catholic News Service March 21, Father Larrey, a native of Mountain View, Calif., and author of two books on the rise of AI, reflected on how society should engage with AI as it becomes increasingly embedded in the lives of ordinary people through accessible technologies.
AI-operated programs such as ChatGPT, a popular software created by the software company OpenAI, “can access data to an enormous extent that for human beings is no longer possible,” said Father Larrey. “That is why as a species we tend to look at AI with a certain fear, because we fear the unknown.”
An artificially intelligent chatbot, ChatGPT uses learning algorithms to consume, produce and infer information for human users. The software is intended to mimic human conversation and can instantaneously produce essays and articles, write programming code and give people advice based on information input by users.
Its most sophisticated model, GPT4, was released for public use March 14.
Father Larrey said there are several “catastrophic risks” to unchecked and widespread AI use, such as its potential for spreading disinformation and creating code that can be used by hackers.
He also identified potential adverse effects of AI for everyday users, noting that minors can ask chatbots for advice in committing illicit activities and students can use them to complete their assignments without performing the work of learning.
ChatGPT, an artificially intelligent chatbot created by OpenAI, generates a response to a question posed by Catholic News Service in Rome March 23, 2023. (CNS screengrab/Chat.OpenAI.com)
A major downside of AI, he said, is that “we become dependent on the software, and we become lazy. We no longer think things out for ourselves, we turn to the machine.”
Yet Father Larrey said that rejecting AI technology is a mistake. In particular, he pointed to the decision of some universities to ban the use of ChatGPT, noting that educators “are going to have to learn how to incorporate this into how they teach, what they test for, and how we can use these tools to our advantage.”
“I don’t think you can put the genie back in the bottle,” he said. “The market motivation is so strong that you’re not going to stop it.”
In January, Microsoft announced a multiyear investment in OpenAI, which the New York Times and other media reported would total $10 billion. Other tech companies, including Google and Amazon, are testing their own AI-powered products to compete with existing software on the market.
That’s why Father Larrey said conversations on AI must shift to what Pope Francis calls “person-centered AI.” The pope, he said, “is insisting that you need to put the human person at the center of this technology….”
Full story at Catholic Review