ADVERTISING
 
Friday, November 15   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Society
Should Christians join social protests?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Calum Samuelson
 

Can Artificial Intelligence ever demonstrate biblical wisdom?

One of the main reasons that wisdom differs from knowledge or intelligence in the Bible is because it entails acting upon what one already knows.

JUBILEE CENTRE AUTHOR Calum Samuelson 17 APRIL 2018 16:24 h GMT+1
Amazon Alexa: An AI Assistant (Photo: Quote Catalog, CC BY 2.0)

As the topic of Artificial Intelligence continues to feature in headlines, I recently came across something troubling: the term ‘wisdom’ is being used to describe future characteristics of AI (specifically ASI or Artificial Super Intelligence).



A case in point comes from one of the leading thinkers in this area, Oxford scholar Nick Bostrom. He has defined superintelligence as ‘an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills’. There is, of course, a tremendous deal we are still unsure about when it comes to the future nature of AI, but one concerning feature of Bostrom’s (and others’) writing is the way in which wisdom is basically pitched as a type of high-level knowledge or intelligence. The Bible talks about wisdom in a very different way.



 



1. WISDOM IS CATEGORICALLY DISTINCT FROM INTELLIGENCE



According to the biblical corpus, wisdom cannot simply be located somewhere on the spectrum of intelligence. For example, in discussions about AI the insignificant ant is often used as an example of a creature with extremely low-level intelligence.[1] However, the ant is lauded in the Bible as a wise creature for the way it stores food (Prov. 30:24–25). Additionally, both Solomon’s request for wisdom  (1 Kings 3:12) and the book of James (especially James 1:5) teach us that true wisdom is something that God gives to us rather than something that results merely from decades of diligent learning (although diligent learning is certainly not discredited, as Proverbs makes clear).



One of the main reasons that wisdom differs from knowledge or intelligence in the Bible is because it entails acting upon what one already knows. This is portrayed in Deuteronomy 4:6, where the word wisdom (chokhmah) characterizes Israel acting upon the guidance and instructions that God had given them. Even clearer is the way that Jesus himself contrasts these themes in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock… But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand’ (Matt. 7:24; 26). Both men had the same information, but only one put it into practice.



 



2. THE WISDOM OF GOD IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH THE WISDOM OF THE WORLD



This is evident throughout the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians: ‘The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight’ (1 Cor. 3:19). Although Christians do well to maintain this distinction, there is also a danger of slipping back into the type of ‘continuum’ described by the AI researchers, where wisdom is made into the long-awaited (and sometimes exclusive) ‘product’ of diligent Christian devotion and Bible study: ‘It’s difficult to grasp now, but once you have been a Christian for a long time you will finally understand.’ Of course, we are able to make more sense of God’s actions as we get to know him better, but the reality of the Cross will always fundamentally be a scandal (skandalon) that we can never completely understand (see 1 Cor. 1:23).



Ultimately, perfect wisdom is not some distant goal to be achieved by an ultra-powerful ASI, but rather a present reality that has already been made known in the person of Jesus Christ: ‘Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (see 1 Cor. 1:30).



 



3. INTELLIGENCE WILL NEVER BE A PREREQUISITE FOR FOLLOWING CHRIST



In my opinion, our Western, technological world has a rather poor understanding of intelligence. We admire certain types of measurable cerebral performance and ignore many others which are less quantifiable. The fact that staggering amounts of information is arguably making us less intelligent seems to be indicative of conflicting views about intelligence.[2]



Regardless of how we might choose to understand intelligence, it is plain that a high IQ is not required to be a good disciple of Jesus. This is at least one of the implications of Jesus selecting fisherman as his disciples, who presumably would not have been fisherman if they had been better at studying the Torah as boys. Rather than IQ, Jesus cares about simple obedience.



A brilliant person may know perfectly well how much it will hurt for them to sacrifice themselves for another (for example), and then refuse to do so for that very reason. A wise person, however, would do it anyway if they knew it was the action that God required of them. One of the main reasons many experts are so concerned about the growth of AI is precisely because of the extreme, logical self-preservation it will likely typify. Can AI ever obediently and wisely make the type of ‘scandalous’ sacrifices God requires of his children?[3] It does not seem so. Thus, Christians would do well not only to preserve a biblical understanding of wisdom, but also to challenge the notion of ‘wisdom in AI’ whenever it may appear.



Calum Samuelson, MPhil in History of Theology. Works for the Jubilee Centre.



This article first appeared on the Jubilee Centre website and was republished with permission.







[1] For just one example, see the ‘Intelligence Staircase’ depicted in this article.



[2] I didn’t have room to squeeze this into the main text of this blog, but in contrast to Benjamin Bloom’s well-known taxonomy it is instructive to consider the ‘Experiential Taxonomy’ of Steinaker and Bell.



[3] I don’t mean to equate a wise person with sacrificial actions, but use sacrifice as one example of how a wise person might apply their understanding. In addition to sacrificial actions, we could also ask whether AI will ever be able to ‘go out of its way’ to perform actions that require more energy than necessary, or ‘not cause another to stumble’ by communicating with language that is more sympathetic to the hearers’ ears than needed, or even make decisions ‘on faith’ that cannot be supported by sufficient data.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Can Artificial Intelligence ever demonstrate biblical wisdom?
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Testimony: Wildfires near Athens Testimony: Wildfires near Athens

Nico Spies, a Christian worker in Athens, gives details about the wildfires in Greece.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Min19: Childhood, family and the church Min19: Childhood, family and the church

The first evangelical congress on childhood and family was held in Madrid. Pictures of the event, November 1-2.

 
IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’ IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’

Students, graduates and staff of the global evangelical student movement reflected together on how the books of Luke and Acts apply to today's universities.

 
Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission

Photos of the Lausanne Movement Global Workplace Forum, celebrated in Manila.

 
European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference

Images of the fifth EFN gathering. Experts, activists, counsellors and church leaders met in Pescara, Italy.

 
VIDEO Video
 
How can we encourage believers to serve Jesus with us? How can we encourage believers to serve Jesus with us?

“It is not just pastors who do ministry. When the saints are doing the ministry too, the Body of Christ is build up and grows towards maturity in the faith”, says Greg Ogden, Chairman Global Discipleship Initiative.

 
Algerian Christians worship God as police arrives to close church Algerian Christians worship God as police arrives to close church

Video of the moment police officers enter a Protestant evangelical church near Tizi-Ouzou to close it. Church members do not stop singing, and peacefully resist later.

 
Porn exploits victims of human trafficking Porn exploits victims of human trafficking

The European Freedom Network launches a new anti-trafficking campaign: “You have no way of knowing if the porn you are looking at is from someone who chose to be there or not”.

 

 

 
A tent of hope for Venezuelan refugees A tent of hope for Venezuelan refugees

Thousands still cross the border to Colombia every week, and many continue on foot into the interior. Christian young people have set up an aid station along the road.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.