God and robots: Will AI transform religion?

artificial intelligence ai the technology that allows a computer to think like a human and it’s everywhere you look online shopping virtual assistants like siri and alexa welcome to the church of england but as ai gets smarter and smarter how will it affect religion ai helps people get closer to their spirituality different faiths are starting to use it robots can deliver

sermons give advice santo does god exist and pray with you it’s a bit like catholic alexa but could it be dangerous for some people that’s a concern that we are stepping into god’s shoes or even sacrilegious the robot will never replace a rabbi because he has no soul as every major global faith is discussing its relationship with ai we want to find

out if it will transform religion [Music] this buddhist temple is more than 400 years old and inside is a robot it’s designed to look like canon the goddess of mercy [Music] it’s called minder it’s neither man nor woman it’s made of aluminium its hands shoulders and face are covered in silicone to resemble human skin monk tension thinks this robot can teach people the true essence of buddhism is delivered by a robot [Music] um is monk got all right will other religions

be as open to robots and ai [Music] here in poland catholicism is the predominant faith gabriele trovato has been building this for the past year and it’s almost ready its name is santo gabriele says this is the first ever catholic robot it was clear to me last year during the lockdown when many people started complaining they couldn’t go to church so in this sense a machine like santo can give a hand are you proud of santo yes it’s kind of it’s my son it’s my baby santo is programmed with 2 000 years of knowledge about the catholic faith he’s ready to meet worshipers for the

first time my name is santo what brings you here on this beautiful day santo is there a heaven it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of god so he wouldn’t answer my question directly about whether there is a heaven but i did reply with a verse of the bible that i thought was quite relevant [Music] i think it is impressive it’s a bit like catholic alexa do you think that it gave you a satisfying answer well i think that’s the problem with artificial intelligence that sometimes those answers are very vague you’re not asking where the closest restaurant is you’re asking about spiritual things so he’s helping you finding the own

answer but not everyone is sold on santo would you the little emotion he’s stressed he knows we’re talking about him people here have mixed feelings about the robot most of them said they prefer a human priest but they were surprisingly open-minded one of them said anything that brings you closer to god is a good thing where did you get the inspiration to start building santo looking at my grandmother’s house she keeps a lot of icons and small statues that are commonly used for for praying and i realized that if these statues could talk back then they would make her company so santo is meant as a prayer companion not as a priest replacement he’s not as high-tech as

minder from japan but because he’s built to look like a statue of a catholic saint people find him more familiar santo tell me about resurrection please let us pray yes i think we can use the robot or artificial intelligence to help understand the christian teaching not to replace the priest because it has no soul it is not person and this is important in the catholic faith a priest is in persona christi it means that he acts in the place of christ how do you feel about a robot marrying a couple in a church marrying yeah like a priest a couple like a priest it’s impossible the

the robot gives you the blessing it’s not the same gabriele thinks that robots like his can play a big role in religion and it’s already happening in many faiths apps that help muslims pray have been downloaded by hundreds of millions the vatican has launched a smart rosary bracelet that tracks your prayers alexa is linked up with the church of england alexa what is god christians believe that god is the source of all being from the church of england to the catwalks of paris lior is a model from america she’s just appeared at paris fashion week but there’s something

else she’s working on she’s developed robo rabbi an algorithm that helps you be the best version of yourself inspired by my interpretation of your parsha i will create your challenge the robo rabbi uses artificial intelligence to answer questions and to give people a personalized daily challenge by sending you a text message what robo rabbi does is it makes the tech right in your home you wake up with a text it’s it pushes you towards being your best self more than seeking out a rabbi from people who maybe wouldn’t do that otherwise i think it makes religion maybe more accessible more integrated into everyday life rather than being this separate thing

that you have to go seek out it’s more it’s seeking you she’s been trying it out on her family have you done the robo rabbi challenge i did i did um i actually signed up along with my grandma and my favorite one um was it challenged me to turn my phone off for an hour which for me is very difficult now that i’ve done it i can definitely see um the value and i could see you know tagging friends on social media to participate and pass it along so could

an algorithm and a rabbi work together [Music] we created it because we were really interested in using ai for good so it’s helps people be their best selves rather than using ai to like make money online so would you like to see how it works sure let’s try and this is your first challenge to talk to a person today that you would normally not talk to very nice a very nice challenge i think an ai could be an equal and it could work with a human rabbi as an equal rather than a tool but you don’t think that i’m sure not you’re sure okay what did you make of robo rabbi

it’s a very good thing to use technology to improve the spirituality to help people to do good things we we’re blessing that aren’t you afraid you might be out of a job no this is for sure not the robot will never replace a rabbi because he has no soul could ai be dangerous for religion a big danger in the ai is if the ai is becoming crazy and this one of the biggest danger the machine is controlling the human and the religion i don’t think it’s what god wants [Music]

so what we found talking to people from different faiths different countries different continents is that ai can enrich religion as long as we don’t let it replace interaction with humans but is there a danger that people could place too much faith in artificial intelligence or even that science fiction becomes reality and we start worshiping machines i think there’s a danger in assuming that artificial intelligence has super agency that is in fact making beneficial decisions

on our behalf intentionally because it wants to so we’ve got to be careful we don’t trust ai too soon do you think that is happening though to some people absolutely i don’t necessarily think that people are having real religious experiences when they say they feel blessed by the algorithm but it’s a way of talking a metaphor that inherently gives ai

supremacy over their lives and their choices and that’s bad because sometimes machines give the wrong answer ai can quite frequently be artificially stupid rather than artificially intelligent most faith communities are only at the beginning of discussing ai and robots but whether we like it or not this technology is here to stay and with many religions contemplating it or developing tools and techniques based on it it could change the way we worship  

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