Human Exceptionalism

AI Computers Would Just be Machines

Every once in a while, when the world is too much with me, I turn to transhumanist advocacy for a little entertainment.

The would-be immoralist crowd’s latest craze concerns whether artificial intelligent computers–those supposedly able to “think” independently–might be the subject of religious conversion. From, “When Superintelligent AI Arrives, Will Religions Try to Convert It,” by Zoltan Istvan (who is running for president on the Transhumanist Party ticket):

The world’s major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—all believe in the soul, which is what many major religious texts say is the thing that separates us from other life on the Earth, including other mammals.

Because the Abrahamic religions comprise the faiths of roughly two-thirds the world’s population, the question of “soul” is quintessential in the coming transhumanist age of machine intelligence.

Getting even deeper into this theoretical debate is the question of whether strong AI would even accept our religion. “It’s only fair to let AI have access to the teachings of all the world’s religions. Then they can choose what they want to believe,” said Prisco. “But I think it’s highly unlikely that superhuman AI would choose to believe in the petty, provincial aspects of traditional religions. At the same time, I think they would be interested in enlightened spirituality and religious cosmology, or eschatology, and develop their own versions.”

Please. First, the concept of “soul”–whatever one might believe in that regard–isn’t the only distinction that would separate human beings from AI contraptions.

We are alive. They would just be machines.

We are moral beings. They would just be the product of our programming, and any that we enabled them to do independent of human input. In other words, they would be amoral contraptions.

I wrote about this a few years ago regarding AI robots.

Human behavior arises from a complex interaction of rationality, emotions, abstract thought, experience, education, etc.. That would never be true of robots.

More to the point, we are moral beings by nature. Robots wouldn’t have a “nature” and any morality they “exhibited” would be programmed morality. We have free will, robots wouldn’t in the same sense. If a robot could program itself into greater and greater data processing capacities, that doesn’t make it truly sentient, just sophisticated.

Transhumanists like to deny human exceptionalism.  Transhumanists’ AI swooning is part of that enterprise. 

(Wouldn’t it be folly to create machines that could act independently of our control?)

That point aside, what other creature in the known universe could even contemplate creating a machine so sophisticated that it would appear to be intelligent. We are exceptional!


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