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
To paraphrase Pope Benedict, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, that the antichrist arises in every generation. In the Book of Revelation, most would see this as the persecution of the early Church, though one can see many events applying to every age. I think that, as Father Larrey describes the mechanism of AI and human interaction, that this will be the antichrist of our age, the “dragon of accumulated desire” we see in chapter 12, attacking the innocence of the child, be it the real events of the Christ Child and Holy Family, or , as the Woman is forced to flee to the desert, the role of the Church in our present age.
I think we will need to reject many forms of technology, just as we have mostly agreed, as a world, to reject the use of nuclear weapons, and put a moral check on the use of nuclear energy. In Frank Herbert’s book Dune, “thinking machines”, such as “smart” phones, are rejected by all the different peoples, because people do not think for themselves, and end up being controlled by the machines.
An article I wrote at WordPress entitled “Are We Homo Deus or World Without Mind”, referring to the book by Hariri, a great advocate of human “progress’, and an AI controlled world as the next step in our evolution, vs the example of the former editor of New Republic, a once liberal in the classic sense magazine looking at current issues and culture, and the editor was dismissed by those who wanted the magazine to be used more to “shape the narrative” (according to Hariri, our memory and thought process is not free, nor is their objective truth, their is just a narrative”), the result through society is not only the downgrading of publishing and thoughtful inquiry, be it science, or literary arts, but even of small independent businesses, the ways of community responsibility that Nazareth teaches us.
An interesting, popular take on this issue can be seen in the TV series Person of Interest (starring Jim Caviziel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ). It is all good, but season 3 gets into the issue of a “human centered” AI vs a “bad” AI, though the series shows background why the “bad” AI developed. At the end of the season, the bad AI seems to dominate, but they present a localized, power distributed example, an Iraqi refugee engineer, with his family business fix it shop, who invents a method of communicating with simple technology to evade the AI, and that different people, with their different talents, and moral integrity, battle the bad AI The next seasons play out this battle
Ultimately, as JMJ points out below, we need to consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and consider a real life example of how this was lived out in the underground Church in Eastern and Central Europe during the surveillance state of the Soviet era, and an underground Church of localized Nazareth cooperative communities, with the holy mass as the center, and devotions helped to cultivate a free, morally responsible and cooperative communities that, through actions of people’s moral conscience, brought down the Berlin Wall of censorship and banishments to the gulag for those who spoke out against the surveillance state, the power accumulated into a few hands, of that era
To the specific example of Chatgp being used in colleges and high schools, certainly it could be used as google search already is used, as a tool, but, the best learning is preparing a student through examples and lessons to take an exam , be it in science or math, where one needs to show the steps of how they solved a problem, and the teacher corrects the exam in a socratic way of pointing our errors and encouraging the student to find the path to solution, and similarly in the Language Arts, through short paragraph or essay answers to questions, and the dialogue between teacher and student about developing expository skills and analytical skills, and the mentorship role of teacher to student, with the cultivation of virtue and the responsible use of freedom. To give up on this, and allow AI to give us the answers will lead to a society where we give up our freedom and thought, similar to the Israelites creating golden calves and desiring to return to the land of slavery.
To Fr Larrey’s larger point, an analogy is Kevin Kelley’s (former editor of “Wired Magazine”) book “Inevitable”, which, basically says tech developments are inevitable, and not to worry, it will enhance things we already do, such as an electric saw makes it less burdensome to cut wood than a manual saw. The book gives an excellent explanation of how the internet was developed, what websites actually are, how the cloud works, so too blockchain and cryptocurrency
Yes, these are great tools, and great respect to the anonymous inventor of cryptocurrency, yet consider that this inventor remains anonymous because the power, like Saroun’s ring, and the destructive power of it if it gets in the hands of a Sauron, rather than be destroyed by the Christ Child figure Frodo and the faithful disciple figure Sam. Especially with AI, crypto is not the answer people seek to get around government control. It will be hacked by those who seek this power.
In terms of money, consider what credit is, the belief in it’s value. Refugees from war and devastation come here, and send gold back home to help others escape, traded in an underground, person to person barter system, to help loved ones escape to freedom. Gold has an international belief in its value as an object of trade. In Nazareth communities, people trade skills for service and products based on fair value and the value of one’s word, which is the true currency, be it gold or the dollar. If the dollar is based on forever wars, as described below, it will eventually lose its credibility. Church centered, Nazareth communities are where freedom, virtue and mutual responsibility are cultivated, and will withstand the rise of soviet surveillance states where power is accumulated into a few hands
The US dollar has had this role since the end of the British Empire, the British pound having its value because it’s military dominated the seas and colonies and therefore could set the price of production and goods over the colonies it controlled worldwide, including the African slave trade. The Brits lost their influence when they felt obligated to continue the Great Game in the Black Sea area and expand this “game” to control of the oil in the Middle East, bringing about WWI, the flu pandemic, the warning of Our Lady of Fatima, the unfair Versailles Treaty, the rise of soviet communism and nazis in Germany, WWII, all of which were the antichrist of that era, and set the stage for US involvement in Iraq in the 90’s, and worse, the invasion in 2003, that Pope John Paul and many Eastern Church leaders warned against, yet, even leading US Catholics advocated, the forever wars that seemingly bolster the power of the dollar for globalist trade, as the British pound once did, and now is the force behind the proxy war in Ukraine, and the threat of nuclear annihilation
No, AI is not inevitable to allow to control us, just as it is not inevitable for us to have forever wars to bolster globalist, hegemonic economic designs. We have the example of the underground church of the 20th century that became the moral force that brought down the Berlin Wall, without a shot being fired, people bearing witness to the true Christian way of life, that our Lord teaches during Holy Week, how to bear witness to The Truth
AI has to displace the Democrat Party first if it is going to become the antichrist
Re-consecrate to Mary today
Maybe AI will generate better homilies than the ones I’m hearing at Mass now.
The scary thing is: you may be right!
A.I. could not be much worse than the millions of dorks that are overrunning the world today.
I would agree with “It has a rival”. The antichrist is quite visible in many forms today, right in front of us, destroying our civilization.