Earlier this month, an AI wrote and then conducted a 40-minute church service in Germany. The reviews were not good.
Many felt that the AI’s avatars and their computer-generated voices had “no heart and no soul” and that the experience felt “hollow.” seemed earlier this month. The theologian behind the experiment agreed that AI pales in comparison to human pastors who know and live within their congregations.
Sounds to me like a problem of execution, not substance. Had the theologian presented the AI service, would anyone have noticed?
There are lots of experiments underway using AI in religious settings, just like there are in business and our personal lives. A website called Sermonly promises to “supercharge your sermons with AI, while one called SermonAI seems to use an AI-generated avatar to hype its services.
Debates about its use tend to focus on whether or not the sermons are any good.
But what if any religion’s deity speaks through AI? It’s not inconceivable: in fact, it should be hard to deny.
Most organized religions trace their lineage to founders who were considered outside of the mainstream of expected or accepted thinking and behavior. They spoke in parables and puzzles that didn’t always make immediate sense.
Today, many millions of believers look to the organized hierarchy of their faiths for the latest updates from their deities. These are usually interpretations of the radical and challenging utterances of their founders that can come across as, well, somewhat robotic.
Most every believer maintains some personal channel to her or his deity via prayer, and many of them assume that daily events, whether good or bad, come with return messages embedded in them. Lots of folks believe that Nature or the Universe possess a similar presence, plan, and communications channel, however indirect.
Human beings aren’t the sole mouthpieces for holy writ. So, if a lottery win or car crash can come with a legit message from beyond, why can’t AI?
That’s not to say that there’s any reason to worship AI directly, though there’s at least one attempt at doing just that. AI is a mechanism or, in archaic terms, a vessel through which stuff is collected and shared.
Just like people.
Once they get the presentation details fixed, I don’t see why AI shouldn’t preach. It might be interesting to hear what it has to say.
And then the faithful can decide whether or not they believe it.