Student Papers  |    |  June 1, 2017

Theology and Artificial Intelligence: Imago Dei, personhood and human dignity – theological reflections on the challenges of strong AI

Doctoral thesis proposal by Marius Dorobantu. Universite de Strasbourg.


Humanity is increasingly fascinated with intelligence. We try more than ever to develop it in children. We constantly search for better ways of categorizing (logical-mathematical, but also spatial, linguistic or musical, among others) and measuring it. Intelligence is regarded as crucial for a successful professional life in the post-industrial job market, but it also plays a key role for success in the personal life (emotional and social intelligence). Intellectual achievements are today universally acclaimed, and the entire world eagerly awaits “the next Einstein”. Moreover, we have come to realize that the 21st century lifestyle owes most of its advantages (technological, medical etc.) to intelligence: some brilliant individuals and groups have exercised their intelligence in a way that benefits all of us. Overall, intelligence gradually becomes the most valuable human quality, the highest virtue of our times, and all this without us having a proper understanding of what intelligence really is [ . . . ]

Formulation of the research problem

Firstly, there is the possibility that strong AI would acquire consciousness and free will: thus we would be creating non-human persons. What would this mean for the uniqueness of humans, stemming from the divine image present in them?

Secondly, there is the possibility that strong AI becomes extremely intelligent and powerful, with the ability to radically transform our world: thus we would be creating artificial gods. How would such a future be compatible with the dignity, vocation and destiny of the human being, all rooted in the same divine image?

This research project aims to perform a theological analysis on these two possibilities and the challenges they present to the concept of imago Dei. One goal is to understand how the emergence of strong AI could impact Christian theology. The other goal is to see how theology might, in return, evaluate such a scenario and contribute to the ethical debate on strong AI [ . . . ]