Articles  |    |  January 7, 2020

Digital Confucius? Exploring the implications of artificial intelligence in spiritual education

Peer-reviewed article by Charlene Tan.
Published in Connection Science.


This paper explores the prospect of artificial intelligence (AI) supplementing or supplanting the human teacher in spiritual education using the example of Confucianism. The article compares the role and capabilities of two Confucian teachers: Confucius and an imagined robot teacher (“Digital Confucius”). It is argued in this article that Digital Confucius, if developed, would be useful as an “AI partner” in transmitting the knowledge and skills. As “AI mind”, however, digital Confucius, would be weak in catering its teaching to suit the learner’s profiles and contextual needs as well as serving as an ethical-spiritual guide and role-model to its students. Two major implications are discussed in this paper. First, the study highlights the potential complementary function of AI in the transfer of information and the irreplaceable role of the human teacher in moral education. Secondly, rather than making spirituality redundant, the limitation of AI in Confucian teaching speaks of the continuous relevance and centrality of spiritual development for human beings.