I receive a daily e-letter that keeps me connected to “the outside world,” and especially the high-tech world. In today’s edition, one of the featured articles was on the growing need to figure out how to make machines “moral” as they become increasingly powerful. The need for this is apparently obvious and imminent.
I am a low-tech guy, so this article fascinated me. I cannot even imagine how engineers would go about doing this. But the fact that some folks embedded in this business and industry see the need for a “moral” machine strikes me as significant.
From a spiritual formation standpoint, all I can think to note is that whatever “morality” ensues within the machine, it will necessarily flow from those who eventually program the device. So, the real need is not so much to have moral machines as it is to have moral people programming them.
And that’s where the challenge comes in. We seem to lack consensus (and any means for achieving it) as to what “truth” (from which morality emerges) means, or even can mean. We now seem deadlocked in a mounting conflict between alleged absolutes (which is what both religion and the new atheism are–with intermediate stops between these extremes).
So….some day (apparently) soon….someone will sit down at the table and “enter a morality” into a machine. In that moment, we will have turned a cosmic corner and as of today, it’s impossible to say what kind of world we will be creating and sustaining.
From the vantage point of spiritual formation: “Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy!”