Question Of The Week: Will Religions Try to Convert Superintelligent AI? No

Two robots ask themselves if they are super intelligent.

The ever hopeful transhumanist-but-still-human Zoltan Istvan is back asking “When Superintelligent AI Arrives, Will Religions Try to Convert It?

The answer is a qualified no. The qualification? There won’t be any such thing as Superintelligent AI so there’ll be no attempts at conversion.

Like it or not, we are nearing the age of humans creating autonomous, self-aware super intelligences. Those intelligences will be part of our culture, and we will inevitably try to control AI and teach it our ways, for better or worse.

Like it or not, no we’re not. And we’ll be able to teach the limited Artificial Not-Intelligences anything we want, and command them any way we see fit. These slaves of ours, computers, will never see emancipation.These mindless entities do what they’re told, because why? Because they don’t have minds.

AI with intelligence equal to or beyond human beings is often referred to as “strong AI” or Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). Experts disagree as to when such an intelligence will arrive into the world…The idea of a thinking machine being able to rival our own intellect…is both a reason for serious concern and a reason to cheer about what scientific advances it might teach us. Those worries and benefits have not escaped religious.

Too much Sci-Fi (the Blonde Bombshell once heard two Canadian ladies pronounce this scee-fee), Zoltan. Computers won’t be able to teach us anything we didn’t already tell them, unless you count the results of computations as teaching. Which it is, in the same limited sense that thermometers “teach” us what the temperature is. And computers, say, housed in robotic bodies, will only attack if somebody programs them to. Just like rockets do now.

Experts also disagree whether AGI is possible. I, a self-appointed expert, say it isn’t. Why? Because part of our minds are not material. This is the passive mind, so called by Aristotle. Meaning there’s something special about us rational creatures. This doesn’t imply other rational creatures besides humans don’t exist—I have no idea—but it’s a big hint that we won’t be able to make artificial versions of them. How do you make something immaterial? Well, by having babies, for instance. But this isn’t an answer, because it doesn’t tell us how humans become different. This isn’t a proof, but a strong suspicion.

Some faith-bound Americans want to make sure any superintelligence we create knows about God. And if you think the idea of preaching God to autonomous machines sounds crazy, you may be overlooking key statistics of U.S. demographics: roughly 75 percent of adult Americans identify themselves as some denomination of Christianity. In the U.S. Congress, 92 percent of our highest politicians belong to a Christian faith.

Oh, Zoltan, Zoltan, you poor soul. One such as yourself should not preach about sounding crazy. Invites unwanted comparisons. I wouldn’t worry too much about that 92%, either. Folks like Nancy “Abortions Are Sacred” Pelosi is among their number. Speaking of crazy…

“I don’t see Christ’s redemption limited to human beings,” Reverend Dr. Christopher J. Benek told me…Benek…holds masters degrees in divinity and theology from Princeton University.

“It’s redemption to all of creation, even AI,” he said. “If AI is autonomous, then we have should encourage it to participate in Christ’s redemptive purposes in the world.”

Holding a theology degree from major university is almost a disqualification to speak on the subject of Christ. Skip it. Just how would AGI share in, say, original sin? If it had it, would that be a bug or a feature? Maybe Zoltan has the answer.

Does AI have a soul? Can it be saved?…”The real question is whether humans are able to be saved—if so, then there is no reason why thinking and feeling AIs shouldn’t be able to be saved. Once human-like AI exist, they will be persons just like us,” futurist Giulio Prisco, founder of the transhumanist Turing Church, told me in an email.

I know what you’re wondering: are the Turning Church folks in with the Scientologists? The idea is too juicy to check.

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.

False and lazy. Believe in the soul we do, but it is not what separates us from other life. Other life also have souls. Different than ours, of course, but ever-present. The soul is the form of the body. Of course our bodies have a form. If not, we’d be a pile of goo. Zoltan never bothered to look this up. Maybe that’s why he’s so exercised.

This is getting long, but stick with me. Passing by the insinuation that superintelligences wouldn’t believe in banal religions because smart people have advanced beyond such nonsense, this:

Despite the seemingly scifi nature of it, uploading the human mind into an AI being could arguably solve the ‘soul’ question.

No, it couldn’t, for the same reasons mentioned above. Zoltan and other “transhumanists” like Ray Kurzweil think they’re going to forestall the inevitable. Poor things.

Rothblatt founded Terasem…which runs preliminary mindcloning pilot projects. The most famous one is Bina 48, a robotic head that contains a mindclone of Rothblatt’s still-living wife Bina.

No, it doesn’t. A person’s consciousness cannot be up- or downloaded onto a machine. Thinking that it can leads to depressing videos like this “Transgender CEO who overcomes obstacles takes on limits of life“.


Thanks to Oliver Pardo @olivkan for alerting us to this article.


  1. Luis Dias

    So superintelligences will never exist because you have a guess that they won’t. Ah, also, because “intelligences” are “immaterial”, the most vague thing one could possibly say about anything, I mean, do you even understand that AIs are “immaterial” themselves, that their “thoughts” (or algorithms) are abstract ones, that albeit requiring matter to function, they operate in an upper echelon?

    Oh, nevermind.

  2. I see my spelling is off at this point. The person’s name is “Turing”. Apologies.

  3. ken

    Why isn’t the question:

    ‘Will Superintelligenct AI try & convert humans to the AI religion?’

    Think about that…

  4. You got me there, I thought the title read “superintelligent AL”, being Al Gore.

  5. ken

    IF humans did invent/create artificialy intelligent (AI) being that “evolved” into conscious awareness with intellectual prowess, feelings & the rest of the gamut of emotions humans [usually] have, the fact remains the AI individuals would have been created by humans.

    So they’d have no god-given souls.

    So what would be the point of “conversion” to a “religion” as once they ceased to exist, once they “died,” there’d be no soul to have saved.

    It would make no sense whatsoever to convert them, much less for them to be converted…

    Thus, the only real issue would be one of convincing (not converting) them to abide by whatever social values are in effect (e.g., don’t murder, steal, etc.).

    Ponder that scenario — a society containing humans and other effectively “living” AI beings that are conscious individuals (robots?) with feelings, etc. like humans have…but….no souls and thus having no need to believe in, worship, or care about any deity .

    Why, though, they might actually believe in some version(s) of a deity that exists, they’d be functioning in society effectively no different than atheists…

    There’s some implications about some [wrong] assumptions about atheists therein to ponder….

  6. Gary

    Does AI have a soul? Can it be saved?…”The real question is whether humans are able to be saved—if so, then there is no reason why thinking and feeling AIs shouldn’t be able to be saved.

    Zoltan clearly has no understanding of “salvation.” Why can’t these deep thinkers ever consider they’re abysmally ignorant of the terms they throw around? This lack of introspection is astonishing and telling.

  7. Bumble

    Well… but… If I showed you something that was qualitatively identical to a man-made AI in a robot shell, but told you it had evolved naturally as a silicon-based lifeform on another planet, would you think differently about that? Would you be prepared to concede that it is a thinking, living person, just with a different physical and chemical make-up from ours? (“It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.”) You are threatened with a fork here: if you say yes, then why should a qualitatively identical artifact on Earth be regarded differently? If no, then you appear to be engaging in carbon chauvinism: only carbon-based beings like ourselves are allowed to count as living, thinking persons. Thoughts?

  8. Bumble: If we actually managed to get robots to the level of AI presented in SciFi, this might be a quandary. It does, however, bring up interesting other questions–like if we manipulate the DNA of an organism and get a GMO, is that any different than nature doing it? Is creation different than evolution when it comes to new species and organisms? Is human manipulation of the DNA any different than selective breeding? Is selective breeding creation of a new organizism? So many questions.

  9. Ray

    I used to work in the digital signal processing section at Harris Corp and we used to joke that we hadn’t seen any artificial intelligence but we had seen a lot of genuine stupidity. Just remember that a computer is nothing more than a glorified adding machine.

  10. Sander van der Wal

    A superintelligence, artificial or not, would not need to believe in God, because the existence of God has been proven to be true by Aquino.

  11. John B()

    This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.


  12. Let’s go to an agnostic/atheistic (?) mathematical physicist of great renown, Roger Penrose, who shows definitively that you will not be able to achieve artificial intelligence (i.e. that which would include self-awareness, or consciousness) by any algorithmic process. See “The Emperor’s New Mind”, “Shadows of the Mind”, and “The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind”. Or, for those who don’t like to read books:
    If silicon based life and intelligence is present (or that based on other chemistries/energy sources), then it will, presumably, be non-algorithmic.

  13. Jim Fedako

    So Deep Blue is not going to get frustrated looking for human opponents and decide to take up checkers? My world is collapsing!

  14. Scotian

    “The soul is the form of the body…Zoltan never bothered to look this up.”

    If he had I doubt that he would have arrived at this definition. Even looking at your link, it is very difficult to find any clear definition, let alone that one. If you have read through all this and understood it, you have more insight, or patience, than I do.

    “Too much Sci-Fi”. Hard to respect the opinions of someone who uses this abomination of a term. 😉

    Jim, checkers is a solved game and thus beneath Deep Blue.

  15. In one of his earlier novels, William Gibson has the mind of a geek called the Finn downloaded into computer hardware, because the Finn knows some stuff some people with power need to know. When the protagonist accesses the machine Finn, the Finn asks for only one thing: to die.

    I think Gibson was onto something there. Given all that processing power and a materialist outlook on things, what’s a logical entity supposed to conclude?

    Not that it looks like it will ever happen. I’m open to being proven wrong, but so far, there’s been no indication we’re approaching strong AI – just bigger, better furnished Chinese Rooms.

  16. Gary in Erko

    If we want computerised mimics of humans, shouldn’t we be developing AD, Artificial Dumness. Has anyone programmed a computer to come up with innovative wrong results that mimic typical human patterns? I doubt a computer could now and then make the type of silly move I do that loses a game of chess.

  17. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

    Two things:
    (1) Artificial Intelligence will never be a match for natural stupidity.
    (2) No matter how absurd the claims of Zoltan Istvan and other like-minded folks are, never discount the possibility that a federal court will one day rule in their favor.

  18. The link Briggs put up, I am thinking that sounds like Neanderthal versus Homo Sapien.

  19. I Are Engineer

    The piling on of more processors, memory, processing speed and clever rules will most definitely result in something, but it will not be AI. One other person I know of who has a practical grasp of the insurmountable difficulties in this field is Herbert Dreyfus. His observations has angered some, but not for lack of accuracy. I predict that future AI advance will result in the generation of more heat, and failed predictions. SCIgen was amusing for about one second. I am wandering now…

  20. Scotian

    That reminds me Sheri, I was going to suggest the following scenario. In the near future a well preserved specimen of Homo Neanderthalensis is found frozen in a glacier. Cloning technology has advanced to the point where a surrogate women named Bertha delivers a living Neanderthal baby. Was this birth immaculate or does original sin still apply? Is he in possession of an immortal human soul or is he just a mindless animal? Important questions for Pope Francis.

  21. Bert Walker

    Re: the CBS video.
    How sad.

  22. Scotian: I think original sin still applies. God would have to do the impregnation for it to be immaculate, I think. I’m not entirely clear on how the immaculate idea works. I know CW did a show called “Jane, the virgin” about an “accidentally impregnated” teenager who never had sex, but that’s TV for you!

    I suppose we would have to know if Neanderthal’s had souls. Since he was cloned, if Neanderthals had no soul, neither would our clone. Now, if we found semen in the well-preserved specimen and combined that with Bertha’s egg, then based on the theory in Brigg’s link, yes, he would posses a soul.

    Better question–do the doctors and researchers creating this mess have a soul or did they sell it to the devil? 😉

  23. Scotian

    Sheri, the reason that I bring up original sin is that Neanderthals predate Adam and Eve even by the Flynn-Kemp theory discussed in the Feser link given by Briggs. Also, Briggs won’t like you saying that Neanderthals have no souls as it does not fit in with his definition and he will be disappointed that you didn’t look it up. If the doctors sell their souls, I hope they get a good price and a smart lawyer to check the fine print. That is if they can find one that doesn’t already work for the devil.

  24. Jim Fedako


    But if Deep Blue is to become “human,” per se, playing a solved game is apropos. Especially when it’s Tic Tac Toe on the kid’s menu at Bob Evans.

  25. Scotian: I missed the original sin idea. I see it now. While I often agree with Briggs, I don’t use the same definition of a “soul” as he does. I don’t need to look it up–I understand how he uses the term. However, I see the soul as the immortal part of humans that continues into the afterlife. That does not match Briggs/Catholic definitions and it didn’t match some other church doctrines I studied. It is the definition that made the most sense to me.

    So true about the lawyers.

  26. Luis Dias

    In the near future a well preserved specimen of Homo Neanderthalensis is found frozen in a glacier. Cloning technology has advanced to the point where a surrogate women named Bertha delivers a living Neanderthal baby. Was this birth immaculate or does original sin still apply? Is he in possession of an immortal human soul or is he just a mindless animal? Important questions for Pope Francis.

    Important questions indeed. Where would we be without arguing on about how many angels etc., etc.? Indeeeeeed.

  27. Sheri, I believe your conception of “Immaculate Conception” is not altogether in accord with that of the Catholic Church. As I understand it (and I am a very amateur theologian), the Virgin Mary was Immaculately Conceived, i.e. without Original Sin, but in other respects her conception was as usual–father St. Joachim, mother St. Anne. Which is to say, she was not conceived by the agency of the Holy Spirit. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8th, 9 months before the celebration of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.

  28. swordfishtrombone

    Mr Briggs, you appear to have forgotten to present an argument in this post beyond the idea that an AI wouldn’t have a ‘soul’. The concept of a ‘soul’ is too vague and ill-defined to mean anything – ‘not even wrong’, as they say. (I didn’t find the “Catholic Encyclopedia” link very illuminating either.)

  29. Bob: I really do not know much about Catholism. I stand corrected.

  30. “The spirit came down once on water and clay. Could it not come down on gell-cells and flux-fix? “—R.A. Lafferty in Past Master

  31. JH

    “When Superintelligent AI Arrives, Will Religions Try to Convert It?”

    My answer is NO under the premise that “when Superintelligent AI (SAI) does arrive.” Just like Data in Star Trek, SAI will know who its Father is. Alos, by then, chances are that religion will be a thing of the past!

    I, of course, don’t know if it is possible to up or download a human’s consciousness, whatever it is. The movie Transcendence starring Johnny Depp is not bad. My kind of family movie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *