Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Supra-Intelligence

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2025-05-08

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2020

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Abstract

All things were created by Him and for Him:

Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Supra-Intelligence

Fascination with automation has captured the human imagination for thousands of years. As far back as 800 CE, when Baghdad was at its height as one of the world’s most cultured cities, its House of Wisdom produced a remarkable text, “The Book of Ingenious Devices.” In it were beautiful schematic drawings of machines years ahead of anything in Europe—clocks, hydraulic instruments, even a water-powered organ with swappable pin-cylinders that was effectively a programmable device.

The fascination with automation has come a long way since then. Technological advancements in the last seventy years have provided unprecedented opportunities for humans to explore not only automation, but now also the creation of intelligent and superintelligent machines. These machines promise to mimic human qualities and even supersede humanity in every manner of task and intelligence. The explosion of, and ready access to, information through the internet has proved to be challenging in some regards but has also eased other aspects of life. An example of this would be the way long-lost friends can be reunited through the click of a mouse. Similarly, news accompanied by pictures and videos is now readily available in real-time. These conveniences have also brought unintended consequences. Despite this newfound connectivity, social challenges such as loneliness and suicide are on the rise. Technology has also opened the door to problems such as cyberbullying, election manipulation, and fake news. Information, whether it be accurate or not, spreads across the world at unprecedented speeds, carrying with it change, sometimes for the better, but not always. This is all happening before the anticipated age of superintelligence.

This thesis examines the distinct nature of humanity and God in view of the emergence of superintelligence. Can we see this “new creation” as an addition to God’s creation of humans, angels, and Satan? If that be the case, then questions of ethics and theology need to be addressed. For instance, who gets to program these new superintelligent “beings?” As things stand today, the individuals and corporations with the deepest pockets are racing to be the first to produce superintelligent beings. The so-called “technology horse” has already bolted, with government policy struggling to keep up. Unseen in this race is the prophetic and ethical voice of the church, regarding the meaning of life, and what living in this new reality will look like.

More questions are raised than can be answered in this paper. How does the Church stay true to its message of hope in a world where robots will likely take over everyday jobs? Where will humanity find meaning and contentment? What are we to think about the idea of a basic universal wage? How will such a shift impact migrant and the poor? In this paper I establish a framework for the church to consider different aspects of these challenges, even as people are welcomed weekly into the community of faith.

This thesis represents extensive research into the philosophy and practice of safety engineering, paired with personal experiences as a professional in the technology industry who is also deeply committed to being a disciple of Christ. Primary works I have drawn from extensively include Hauerwas and Wells’ Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, and Jungian archetypes in comparing and contrasting biological beings to technological creations. The paper starts with creation accounts from Genesis and the Enuma Elish as a way of exploring the “being” category as it appears on this planet. Personal insights gained working in both enterprise and startup businesses, as well as in my own professional development, have contributed to this work and may be found throughout. This thesis represents a labor of love through which I have learned a great deal about my own profession and faith. However, it is my sincere hope that it will be much more. Through this dissertation I hope to see companies both big and small taking note of the ethical issues discussed here, even as they find themselves unleashing artificial intelligence in the marketplace. At the same time, I expect churches and religious organizations will benefit from this discussion and will, I hope, move to engage more deeply with culture and the marketplace as new opportunities and risks emerge from the implementation of artificial intelligence. If the observations that I have made and the recommendations that I have set forth can inspire even one person to carefully examine his or her identity in Christ, then this work will be successful beyond its original purpose as an academic work.

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This item has been embargoed at the author's request and approved by W. Willimon. 2023-05-08 --jj340

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Citation

Kasbe, Timothy D (2020). Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Supra-Intelligence. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20644.

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