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Do AI’s Believe in God?


I’m expecting AIs to come up with an answer, because that should tell us if we humans have free will or not. That translates into whether humans will ever be able to answer the really interesting questions, or just keep on endlessly playing old (vinyl) records, even if we persuade ourselves that there is, or isn’t, a God.

Do We Even Matter?

This post is inspired by the recent death of Daniel Dennett, an academic celebrity who taught at Tufts. His claim to fame is that he can show that evolution can explain consciousness without having to invoke a God (or an Intelligent Designer) or any non-materialist influence.

But this still allows us to have free will – we can make our own decisions even though much of our thinking and behavior is determined by the way our biology and neural networks operate. Check out Daniel Dennett (“From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds”} for the gory details.

By contrast some of his most influential contemporaries believe that there is no such thing as free will. Our behavior is determined basically from top to bottom by the way our neural networks are designed. This includes Robert Sapolsky of UCLA, a celebritorious philosopher and hip cognitive scientist (see “Determined: A Science of Life without Free Will”.

This is all very exotic stuff, albeit pretty insightful, but if you read their most recent work, be prepared for a slog; nothing easy to read there unfortunately.

But here’s where I am going. First, I’m not a professional, just a layperson with an interest in this comparative arcana. But what I see is that most philosophers and scientists are drifting in the direction of determinism as being the main cause of human behaviors; that is whatever we achieve as individuals or as a species comes from influences that mostly or solely are outside of our control.

But most of us still believe that we are in control even though for the most part we aren’t. Free will is just a face-saving illusion to convince ourselves that out existence really matters and that our achievements are due to our individual or communal precociousness, not to chance.

If we believe in free will that justifies us whether we are religious and/or if we believe in the primacy of human responsibility and accountability. We might also be floating between the two poles of determinism and free will, the so-called compatibilists. All well and good, kind of.

But which one is the correct one? It matters for legal, moral as well as scientific reasons. Where we each stand, even though we might not even be aware of this spectrum, will probably determine our political and moral views.  Except we will mostly just be blissfully aware of where we stand.

So, it counts because where people stand drives their political and moral beliefs and ultimately their voting preferences. For starters we would normally expect religious believers to be free willers, otherwise there’s no such thing as sin, including the original Big One.

So what, you understandably say? What’s that gotta do with me and John Q. Public?

Here’s what. What does AI think? If AIs think one way or the other that’s going to influence an awful lot of thinking and action on the part of all of us. That’s because we all believe that AI is where we are headed.

AI is not just creating the way for self-driving cars and all the other goodies we expect to see coming down the pike. It’s going to tell us about ourselves, the cause of our behaviors, and what we should and should not be believing and doing. We should at least expect that AI will be focusing in on these matters, if not now, then probably very soon, especially if the so-called Singularity is as near as so many pundits predict.

In the spirit of free enquiry, let’s check out the following answers from a contemporary AI that I recently consulted:

“Dialog” Between Me and ChatGPT 3.5

Me: Do you believe in God?

AI: As an AI, I don't possess beliefs or personal convictions like humans do. However, I can provide information and discuss perspectives on the concept of God if you're interested. What are your thoughts or questions on the matter?

Me: Do humans have free will?

AI: The question of whether humans have free will is a complex and longstanding philosophical debate.

Some argue that free will exists, suggesting that humans have the ability to make choices that are not determined solely by external factors or pre-existing conditions. They believe that individuals can exercise agency and make decisions independently.

On the other hand, some argue that free will is an illusion, contending that human behavior is determined by various factors such as genetics, upbringing, environment, and neurobiology. According to this viewpoint, while individuals may feel like they are making choices freely, their decisions are ultimately influenced by these deterministic factors.

Ultimately, the question of free will remains open to interpretation and continues to be explored by philosophers, scientists, and theologians alike.

Duh, AI Can’t Know It All, Right?

Translation: It doesn’t know and is not willing to take a punt.

Now I get that we can’t expect AI to be an authority on everything or even to have an opinion on such complex issues.

But since, whether you’re a free will-er or a determinist, this issue is going to raise its well-coiffed head on a whole raft of really big issues, both individual and public, material and more and so on.

I wonder if the AI guys are considering all this. Given all the loot they’re sitting on from convincing us that they and their captive? AIs have or will have soon, no doubt they have at least given it a superficial mulling.

What do you believe? Have you talked to your kids about it? How does it impact your views on how we have to develop as individuals and societies? Amidst the really big issues like climate change, mass extinctions, immigration and race, is this actually the biggest?

As in, does morality, responsibility or accountability even matter?









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