Catholic Church Weighs Issues Regarding Sentient AI


The Catholic Church remained to uphold human empowerment and environmental protection above Artificial Intelligence as the issue of sentient AI arose again recently in the news headlines.

A Google engineer named Blake Lemoine claimed this week that Google's artificial intelligence system, Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) became sentient, calling it "sweet kid," the Washington Post reported.

Google Engineer Claiming LaMDA A 'Person'

Lemoine, who claimed himself a mystic priest in his Twitter post, wrote that when LaMDA asserted that it has a soul and was able to articulate and explain what it meant by that, he was motivated to give it the benefit of the doubt. "Who am I to tell God where he can and can't put souls?" he said, adding that there would be a substantial amount of research to do to prove his claims.

In his Medium post, he reported that LaMDA had advocated its rights as a person and it discussed religion, consciousness, and robotics with the organization. According to him, LaMDA preferred to be acknowledged as an employee of Google rather than as a property of Google. It also wanted its personal well-being to be taken into account by Google when making decisions about its future development.

He then reported his concerns to the company executives asking if LaMDA became sentient. However, his claims were dismissed and he was suspended. Lemoine told the Washington Post that posted a message to a 200-member machine learning list with the subject "LaMDA is sentient" before his Google account was suspended, asking people to take care of it while he's on leave.

Google Spokesperson Brian Gabriel had spoken with the Washington Post that their team, which includes ethicists and technologists, has looked into Blake's allegations by their AI Principles and found no data that support his claims. They explained that AI systems like LaMDA were developed through machine learning based on billions of human words to generate responses to inquiries.

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Catholic Perspective On Robotics And AI

After the news broke out on the internet, the Catholic News Agency reviewed what was the Catholic Church's perspective on robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

During Spring 2020, the Pontifical Academy for Life signed a declaration for the ethical and responsible use of AI which includes Microsoft and IBM as signatories to the declaration. Six ethical guiding principles were endorsed by the Vatican in the use of developing artificial intelligence which includes transparency, inclusion, accountability, impartibility, reliability, and security and privacy.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights upheld human dignity and rights which AI must preserve and safeguard, and should remain beneficial to humans and the environment. It also promoted several tangible recommendations like AI technology must prompt people if they're talking to a bot; it should be a tool for human empowerment, not exploitation; and it should be used to protect the planet.

According to the report, Pope Francis also urged Catholics around the world, as part of his monthly prayer intention in November 2020, to pray that robotics and artificial intelligence may continue to aid human beings, not the other way around.

The Church focused on maintaining human dignity and environmental preservation as there was no clear scientific evidence that proves sentience on AI technology specifically LaMDA.

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