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It is quite incredible how far computer technology has advanced since its inception. When I got my first PC, large, room-sized computers had already been around for a while, but desktop sized ones were still fairly new.
I remember when I was first in college we would go into a large building and go to different tables to pick up computer cards associated with classes I wanted to register for. These would then be turned in and fed through one of those giant computers, which would generate my class schedule.
I was in graduate school when I got my first desktop computer. What an advance it was over the old electric typewriters that were in common use during that time. With a computer word processor, it was possible to easily correct mistakes, automatically generate footnotes and endnotes, cut and paste text, and a whole lot of other things that made life easier for a student.
That first computer held my word processor on a 5.25" by 5.25" floppy disk. By the way, the computer had no hard drive. Both the computer’s operating system and the word processing program were contained on the floppy disk – and it was a DOS system with no graphic interface.
My, my, my, how far we have come. Now, with Artificial Intelligence (AI), some people are having the computer write their papers for them. Software is now so advanced that it is actually possible. Of course, that technology is far from perfected. It seems that some people are also getting in trouble for doing that because many of the papers that AI systems are producing have a lot of false information in them. The machine has not yet fully learned how to distinguish the true from the false material it is drawing from.
But AI is also being used in another way. There are some AI programs that are designed to become a virtual friend. You can ask it questions and even carry on conversations with them. And with artificially created voices, they can actually talk to you.
Editorial director of Renew.org, Daniel McCoy, did some playing around with one of those AI programs in order to see how it would deal with ethical questions. Renew.org is a Christian website designed to help Christians with their spiritual growth. To see what would happen, he asked the computer several questions and came up with three categories of ethical messages that it produced.
- Message 1 - Some things are definitely wrong because they hurt other people.
- Message 2 - Unless it hurts another person, right and wrong are up to the individual.
- Message 3 - Science is the main way to true knowledge about reality.
These are VERY interesting principles and actually represent a quite specific ethical foundation.
Why do you suppose the computer came up with answers that pointed to these conclusions? Are these neutral ethical points of view?
Absolutely NOT! In fact, there is NO principle that anyone can point to that would make these principles objectively right. So where, then, did these principles come from, and why would the AI program answer ethical questions based on them?
There is actually a very simple answer to that question. The principles are the beliefs of the person who programmed the computer. And in this case, it is very easy to figure out what those beliefs are. The programmer is a Naturalist – one who believes that the only thing that exists is the natural universe operating by natural laws. This does not mean he self-identifies as an Atheist (though he may), but simply reflects the beliefs he promoted.
The bottom line of the principles is that morality is based on a relativistic platform – that is, there is no such thing as objectively real moral beliefs.
- Message 1 gives no indication as to what it means to “hurt other people,” so individuals have to discern that based on their own subjective beliefs.
- Message 2 is a straight statement of moral relativism – people must make up morality for themselves.
- Message 3 states that true knowledge about reality is mainly derived by science. The only problem is, science cannot even deal with the topic of morality (and, by the way, that statement itself cannot be backed up by science).
If you ask a computer for moral advice, you are not actually asking the computer. You are asking the person who programmed it.
If you want objectively real moral advice, you would be best advised to go to the only place where objective reality is founded. You should go to the Bible.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.
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