Metaphysics , Meaning, and Morality: A Theological Reflection on A.I.

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Theologians often reflect on the ethical uses and impacts of artificial intelligence, but when it comes to artificial intelligence techniques themselves, some have questioned whether much exists to discuss in the first place. If the significance of computational operations is attributed rather than intrinsic, what are we to say about them? Ancient thinkers—namely Augustine of Hippo (lived 354–430)—break the impasse, enabling us to draw forth the moral and metaphysical significance of current developments like the “deep neural networks” that are responsible for some of the most remarkable achievements of the past few years. First, Augustine’s theology of the natural world’s rationes seminales makes sense of neural networks’ success by explaining the world as a kaleidoscopic refraction of divine Wisdom rather than as a collection of discrete objects standing in crisp relations. Second, his account of interpretive judgment as a moral act bound up with love reveals how our training and use of AI relates to the Christian’s assimilation to Wisdom. The contingent meaning of the neural network reveals AI’s potential either for standing between us and the world or in some sense facilitating a Christian’s regathering of the created echoes of divine Wisdom throughout his or her journey into the Trinity.
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First archival date: 2021-11-23
Latest version: 2 (2021-11-25)
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