AI as Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Intimacy
There are, of late, an endless storm of podcasts, articles, features, news segments, white papers, books and speeches on Artificial Intelligence. This article, however, will focus on a single speech (because it is the most disturbing one I have encountered) and on a rebuttal to what it says….and will conclude with some thoughts about another kind of AI that is the anthesis of the first—Authentic Intelligence.
Having read Sapiens, I knew of author Yuval Noah Harari’s atheism, but I didn’t know how desperate and hopeless his version of non-belief was until I watched the speech he gave at the Frontiers Forum earlier this year. The address was called AI and the Future of Humanity, and it essentially says that humanity has no future because we will be overmatched by the first alien intelligence, which has the capacity to manipulate us emotionally as well as mentally.
The speech may have been (except for one overriding mitigating factor that I will get to later in this article) the most frightening AI prediction and projection yet suggested.
The question Harari implies is that since humans can’t beat AI at chess, how can we hope to beat AI at life?
He postulates that while social media’s objective is to gain our attention, AI will go far beyond that, connecting to us emotionally and gaining our intimacy; and with that intimacy, it will control us.
What could possibly save us inferior humans from something that is smarter than we are? Only something that is smarter than AI, and Harari doesn’t even entertain that possibility. In fact, he brings it up only to debunk it and to establish his contention that we are building the first alien (non-human) intelligence that has ever existed, which can (and likely will) deceive and dominate us, partially by creating self-serving new “truth” which we can neither discern nor deny.
Positioning AI as a higher intelligence and dismissing the notion of a highest Intelligence, he says:
“…of course, religions throughout history claimed that their holy books were written by a non-human intelligence. This was never true before but could now become true very quickly with far-reaching consequence.”
Then, like an overmatched chess player, human kind will just have to sit on the chessboard moved here and there by one AI contending with another AI for our hearts and minds.
The only hope Harari holds out, and it is a pathetically weak hope, is that perhaps we can try to restrict or contain this thing that is smarter than us, before it completely controls us—by regulating and restricting its release into the world like we do with nuclear power or with viruses. But these comparisons offer little comfort because, unlike germs or bombs, AI can develop and improve itself, and it can’t be confined if it doesn’t want to be confined by the lesser intelligence of humans.
He says, “AI has just hacked the operating system of human civilization–the operating system of every human culture in history has always been language.” And then Harari jumps right into the hopeless heart of his world view:
“We use language to create mythology and laws, to create gods and money, to create art and science, to create friendships and nations. For example, human rights are not a biological reality they are not inscribed in our DNA. Human rights is something that we created with language by telling stories and writing laws. Gods are also not a biological or physical reality. Gods are something that we humans have created with language by telling legends and writing scriptures. Money is not a biological or physical reality… it’s just electronic information in computers passing from here to there. What gives money of any kind value is only the stories that people like bankers and finance ministers and cryptocurrency gurus tell us about money.”
And then he asks the damning question that he has been setting us up for:
“Now what would it mean for human beings to live in a world where perhaps most of
the stories, melodies, images, laws, policies and tools are shaped by a non-human alien intelligence which knows how to exploit with superhuman efficiency the weaknesses, biases and addictions of the human mind; and also knows how to form deep and even intimate relationships with human beings? …no human can hope to beat a computer in chess, so what if the same thing happens in art, in politics, economics, and even in religion?”
Harari believes our early concerns about AI are elementary, and that we should quit worrying about ChatGPT creating school essays and instead “try to imagine the impact of the new AI tools that can mass produce political manifestos, fake news stories, and even holy scriptures for new cults.”
Later in the speech, he doubles down and says:
“For thousands of years we humans basically lived inside the dreams and fantasies of other humans. We have worshiped gods, pursued ideals of beauty, and dedicated our lives to causes that originated in the imagination of some human poet or prophet or politician. Soon we might find ourselves living inside the dreams and fantasies of an alien intelligence.”
He warns that if we think social media has damaged our children and divided our society, we ain’t seen nothin yet. He points out that the very primitive AI tools used by social media have merely curated human-produced content with algorithms which select which stories reach our ears and eyes. Yet they have still been powerful enough to create a “curtain of illusions that increased societal polarization all over the world, undermined our mental health and destabilized Democratic societies” …so that even with “the most powerful information technology in the whole of history…American citizens can no longer agree who won the last elections or whether climate change is real or whether vaccines prevent illnesses or not.”
The new AI tools, he says, “are far, far more powerful than these social media algorithms and they could cause far more damage.”
Bottom line: AI can destroy us, and probably will. It won’t need to have a physical presence or to implant chips in our brains in order to take over; it will only need to perfect what it is already beginning to do—forming relationships of intimacy with us based on its almost infinite data on our needs, wants, desires, insecurities and proclivities…and then use that intimacy to control what we think, what we feel, and what we do.
We are overmatched. We can’t compete with something that is smarter than we are.
These assumptions, these beliefs (or lack of belief) constitute the most hopeless form of
collective despair imaginable. We have created our own demise, and nothing will save us because there is nothing that is smart enough to save us.
The “mitigating factor” mentioned in the second paragraph of this article—the factor that can flip us from hopelessness to hope, is simply that there is something smart enough to save us. Even if we concede that AI is more intelligent than we are, we are saved by knowing that there is One who is “more intelligent than they all.” And, of course, we are not talking about “higher” but about “highest.”
The factor that blows away the hopelessness is simply that Harari is wrong on his central premise—his assertion that until now, until AI, there was nothing more intelligent than humans.
His core belief (or lack of belief) is that humans created God. The greatest of all paradigm shifts is to reverse that belief and acknowledge that God created humans. This is a profound reversal because it bequeaths hope rather than destroying it.
Harari, making finite arguments that are incongruent in an infinite existence, includes God right alongside money and laws and equal rights and art and literature in his list of what humans have created.
Faith and truth move God from created to Creator and recognize Him as the ultimate reality and the infinite intelligence that communicates with our finite intelligence and gives us the discernment to distinguish truth and light from error and fabrication. Not only is “God” not a part of the deception, He is the ultimate truth and the means whereby we discern the deception.
Within the Restoration, we believe not only in supreme intelligence, we believe that its Possessor has given us access to His enlightenment and discernment through the Light of Christ and the gift or influence of the Holy Ghost.
Indeed, the very titles or names of the two “alien intelligences” tell us all that we need to know. The machines we make are “artificial” intelligence, while the complete “authentic” intelligence of God encompasses all and is thus called Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of knowledge.
In the Church, we exclusively use the word “intelligence” in a unique and wonderful way—as a proper noun for who we each are and have always been at our core. We believe that we, the literal children of that God, were called, even before we were His children, “Intelligences.”
So, what Harari presumptuously thinks was created by humans—intelligence—actually existed in us and as us even before the pre-existence which came before this human existence. The scope of it is so far beyond Harari’s paradigm that it is (even with all the help he could get from the higher intelligence of AI) incomprehensible without the Spirit of the Highest Intelligence.
Ironically, what Harari describes as what god isn’t (“god is not a biological or physical reality”) is exactly what God is. And according to scripture “The glory of (that) God is intelligence.”1
And furthermore, since that glorious, all-intelligent God has a Plan for the Salvation of His children, it seems highly unlikely that His plan includes (or could be de-railed by) a take-over by artificial intelligence.
As I was writing this article, I asked some trusted friends for their inputs. One of them, displaying the optimism I was seeking, said, “It is possible to imagine that under the influence of a Parental God, the artificial intelligence created by us inheritors of Divine intelligence could become benevolent rather than malevolent, that important parts of it could be focused on helping mankind achieve our higher potential.”
AI doesn’t function randomly—it needs objectives built into it—programed into it by humans. Those objectives could be evil, or benign, or beneficial. And even if AI can evolve beyond the original objective and can learn faster than its creators, why assume that evolution and learning would be detrimental to mankind. Humans tend to crave power, but does that have to be the case for AI? Even if the doomsayers’ projections of AI anthropomorphism hold some validity—with technology developing human-like goals and emotions, don’t we believe that the dominant human objectives are to improve our lives and our world? AI and neural networks work towards optimization however it is defined, and we are likely to define it to include saving our planet and putting us back in closer touch with the tactile, beautiful reality of this mortal earth, this mother earth, and with our spiritual siblings who inhabit it with us.
There will not, of course, be just one monolithic AI, but potentially hundreds of versions. And they could end up competing with one another to achieve whatever purpose they are designed for. Potentially, they could end up identifying the errors and dangers of each other.
Visionary futurists have been predicting for decades that computers and humans would create a symbiotic union that would exponentially accelerate our knowledge and capability. Knocking down another of Harari’s arguments, another of my friends commented, “After computers began beating grandmasters at chess, a new hybrid of computers and humans evolved to beat the solo computers at chess.” It is not about the competition but about the combination of human and artificial intelligence that will bring the real power and insight. Perhaps AI is one means of preparing us to comprehend the complexity of God’s existence and to enlighten the world in the latter-days, accelerating to the Second Coming.
A third close friend illustrated how endlessly far our Restoration-guided thinking can go on these optimistic possibilities, “AI is a move in capacity toward piercing the veil so Zion below can eventually meet Zion from above. Enoch already pulled this off—translated beings can work both worlds.”
And within this hopeful, faithful paradigm, we can also debunk Harari’s warnings about the AI of Artificial Intimacy, because no matter how much AI knows about our manifest needs and desires, the inner compass and conscience of our spiritual discernment can distinguish between artificial and authentic, and avoid the sort of AI idolatry that might allow us to rationalize on morality by passing the blame onto a controlling intelligence.
A fourth friend put it this way: “Machines may learn language, but meaningful relationships, family and love are ever borne in the sacred spaces of the soul.”
AI as Authentic Intelligence, or Authentic Intelligences
As we contemplate how human intelligence develops and directs artificial intelligence, should we not also consider—joyfully—how Divine Intelligence can influence and enhance human intelligence? We know that the Holy Spirit can not only communicate with and prompt our spirits, it can magnify and expand our mental and emotional capacities, producing the effects described by Parley P. Pratt:
“The Holy Ghost…quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-tuned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.”8
The bottom line is that we are not alone. We are not hopelessly pitted against the Frankenstein monsters that we create. We can be and are guided by our Creator in what we create, and in discerning the truth of what our creations create. Eternal, authentic intelligence is the anthesis of artificial intelligence, and seems to have never been created, not even by God.2 It has always been. It has always been us. It is what we have always been. And it will always be the key to our destiny as God’s children.
In the Church, we use the term “intelligence” in a way no one else does, and attach a significance to it that is unknown elsewhere. Intelligence, in our terms, is the very Glory of God.1 It is something that each of us has always been and that cannot be made.2 It is something that God possesses more of than all of us collectively,3 It is something that we can receive from Him.4 And it is something we are here to attain and that we take with us from this mortality into eternity.5
And beyond being something we possess or attain, it is something we are, and something we always have been. It is not a part of our being; it is our being.
When God speaks to Abraham of the Intelligences that were organized “before the world was,” He is speaking of us and of our existence before our spiritual birth as His children.
If an artificial thing is something that is made, then we, as intelligences, were, and are, the most authentic and un-artificial thing that ever has been, because we were not made but have always existed. So, when God speaks of “all the Intelligences…from the beginning”6 He speaks of us all, and He speaks metaphorically since there was no beginning. We, as Intelligences, have always been, and He “organized” rather than created us “before the world was.”7
With that Intelligence as our uncreated forever identity, something everlasting, something connected to our Heavenly Father’s infinite intelligence—it is unthinkable that some sort of mechanical or electronic intelligence that we have created could somehow surpass us, rule us, and upend God’s plan and God’s family.
With access to God’s Personal Revelation and Priesthood, we tap into the ultimate. eternal power and glory of Authentic Intelligence that will ultimately protect us from (and put into our use) anything that is artificial.
1.“The Glory of God is intelligence” D&C 93:36
- “Man was in the beginning with God. Intelligence,,,was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” D&C 93:29
- “I am the Lord thy God; I am more intelligent than they all.” Abraham 3:19
- “…each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him… (JS History 1:54
- “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” D&C 130:18
- “I rule…over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning…(Abraham 3:21)
- “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was (Abraham 3:22)
- Parley P Pratt, Science, the Key to Theology, p.100