Sunday, January 20, 2008

Second Afterlife

Technically, the title isn't appropriate, but I couldn't resist using it after my last two posts.

True Discernment links to an Egyptian article on the intersection of technology and religion.

A controversial new electronic device could revolutionize the field of Islamic jurisprudence and allegedly issue more accurate Shariah fatwas [religious edicts]. The device, currently in production in France, will be known as the 'Electronic Mufti' and will depend on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to issue opinions on contemporary Muslim affairs and matters....

[Dr. Anas Fawzi] describes the device as "a very large capacity computer on which all the information that is relevant to a given [historical] figure is uploaded; everything that has been mentioned in history books or chronicled documents that indicate his/her responses and attitudes towards all positions adopted in his/her life. Through a process that relies on AI, the computer then simulates responses based on the available data so that the answers are the expected response that the person in question would give if they were alive"....

"The device deduces the expected response through consulting thousands of examples that have been uploaded on to the machine, pertaining to that person whilst taking into account their reactions so that it may relate the expected response in accordance with their personality as created by the Artificial Intelligence apparatus," explained Dr. Fawzi....

In terms of implementing this technology and benefitting from it in the realm of Islam and fatwas, Dr. Fawzi said, "Although a team has assembled and uploaded all the information that is available about the Prophet Mohammed in [canonical] Islamic history books, the holy Quran and what is known about his life through Sunnah," he acknowledges that it would be highly controversial – if not downright contentious – to implement this.

Notwithstanding, he revealed, "I have consulted with several Islamic scholars and clerics in elevated positions – there is no need to mention their names so as to avoid stirring up public opinion – however, they have assured me that such a device is not 'haram' [prohibited by Islam]. But there are fears and scepticism regarding misuse and causing any misrepresentation or defamation to the figure of the Prophet. There are also fears in terms of Arab and Islamic public opinion and their acceptance of a machine such as this."

Actually, Islam is not the only place where this technology could theoretically be applied. Obviously, churches that emphasize the inspiration of spiritual leaders (Roman Catholic and LDS to name two) could upload the teachings of various church leaders into an AI system, and even such sola scriptura movements as my Lutheran Church Missouri Synod would probably drool over the possibility of loading Martin Luther and C.F.W. Walther writings into such a system.

However, it all depends upon the programming. How do we know that the variables used to govern the artificial intelligence responses are accurate? The answer is that we don't, because these systems are by their very nature creating something that doesn't exist in the natural world. Martin Luther and C.F.W. Walter never discussed theological matters.

Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that version 1.0 of any LAIS (Lutheran Artificial Intelligence System) would probably have some nasty bugs in it. For example, someone could feed the LAIS a carefully reasoned question:

Is it proper for the United States to offer military support to the modern nation of Israel?

After the program runs for a few seconds, the system would produce this response:

Sie sprechen nicht latein. Englisch sprechen, bitte.

[mrontemp business] | [mrontemp politics] | [mrontemp technology] | [mrontemp tags]

Sphere: Related Content