Thursday, July 8, 2010

Artificial Intelligence

Computers these days are getting smaller, yet their power is increasing at an exponential rate. However, as technological aspects of life improve, the grasp of materialism tightens on the hearts of mankind. Artificial intelligence, in particular is a growing scientific field and obsession. It has been predicted by artificial intelligence scientists that within only a few decades, computers will have surpassed the processing power and cognitive capabilities of human beings many times over. Some have said that before this century is finished, a single computer will have the processing power of nine trillion human brains!

Now, this may be exaggerated and a bit overly optimistic. Nevertheless, the prospect is quite possible and brings some intriguing questions to mind. Will computers or robots ever have consciousness? If so, should they be granted the same rights as humans? Could the human race be eventually taken over by ingenious, self-aware machines? Indirect answers to these questions can all be found in Some Answered Questions by 'Abdul-Baha. When demonstrating the proofs and evidences of the existence of God, 'Abdul-Baha states that:

"It is certain and indisputable that the creator of man is not like man because a powerless creature cannot create another being. The maker, the creator, has to possess all perfections in order that he may create.

Can the creation be perfect and the creator imperfect? Can a picture be a masterpiece and the painter imperfect in his art? For it is his art and his creation. Moreover, the picture cannot be like the painter; otherwise, the painting would have created itself. However perfect the picture may be, in comparison with the painter it is in the utmost degree of imperfection."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 3)

Humans are obviously not perfect in any way, let alone all ways. Thus, man is incapable of creating an artificial intelligence that possesses consciousness and self-awareness. Moreover, machines do not have free will like humans. All machines are limited by their physical design and their programming, their hardware and their software. They do and will unhesitatingly comply with all reasonable orders given to them if programmed properly and as long as viruses don't interfere. Unlike humans, machines don't take the time to consider if an act is morally right or not. Machines, somewhat like animals, can't go against their programming or instincts, although animals are capable of some voluntary actions. A major distinction in the Baha'i Faith between human beings and animals is that humans have souls, can know and love God, and can control their instincts. 'Abdul-Baha asserts:

"But when you look at Nature itself, you see that it has no intelligence, no will. For instance, the nature of fire is to burn; it burns without will or intelligence. The nature of water is fluidity; it flows without will or intelligence. The nature of the sun is radiance; it shines without will or intelligence. The nature of vapor is to ascend; it ascends without will or intelligence. Thus it is clear that the natural movements of all things are compelled; there are no voluntary movements except those of animals and, above all, those of man. Man is able to resist and to oppose Nature because he discovers the constitution of things, and through this he commands the forces of Nature; all the inventions he has made are due to his discovery of the constitution of things. For example, he invented the telegraph, which is the means of communication between the East and the West. It is evident, then, that man rules over Nature."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 3)

There are people who channel the majority of their attention, time, and money towards attempting in vain to create an inorganic life-form that can rival humans in all aspects. It will be interesting to see how close man can come to making an intelligent, conscious entity that surpasses even himself in humanity's present condition. Robots can undoubtedly be valuable in doing labor and calculations. In the future, numerous computers may be used to operate houses, cars, and numerous other things, yet hostile takeovers by machines will remain in the realms of science fiction. Overall, no matter how much potential machines may have, our resources should be completely devoted to relieving the world's ailments and uniting the human race, rather than trying to construct an artificial race.


  1. let you know if I ever do that. I'd be interested to see those distributions as well.virtual assistant program

  2. Thank you for sharing this.