When faith and AI intersect - Would you visit a robot priest?
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Would you visit a robot priest? How about for a wedding, or confession? The thought of such a thing is anathema for most Catholics. How can a machine convey the blessings of God to parishioners? It can't, but that doesn't mean artificial intelligence doesn't have a place in the Church.
Is there a place for robot priests in the future?
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) -- Within the next century, artificial intelligence will exceed humans in every imaginable way. This is something that most people familiar with the progress made in artificial intelligence claim. It's a shocking, unbelievable claim, but technological development is on course to make this happen.
What will happen as robots equipped with sophisticated artificial intelligence take over human jobs? Will priests also be replaced?
God created humans as special and unique. Only humans have souls. It is impossible to imagine a robot priest.
The Bless U2 robot priest in Germany, which administers blessings to visitors, is more of an interactive machine than a proper artificial intelligence. It can barely even be called a robot. People who visit the machine are usually pleased with their experience, and their blessing.
With priests so overworked, it is possible that artificial intelligence could provide some services to parishioners that do not involve sacraments. For example, a Buddhist temple in Beijing uses a robot to answer questions, give directions, and witty advice. And it can also chant prayers.
In the future, an AI machine could serve as a receptionist for the parish church, routing calls, taking messages, and answering basic questions. Already, AI assistants such as Siri and Alexa can answer basic questions by performing an internet search. It isn't difficult to imagine a Catholic version of these bots which can answer distinctly Catholic questions.
AI will provide instruction, so catechism is a likely role. Students could access an instructive program via their tablets, with the experience augmented by virtual reality headsets. A virtual catechism teacher could take them on a tour of the Vatican. Better yet, great people within the Church, such as the pope, could be recorded and teach the lessons themselves! AI could then answer questions and quiz students.
AI will also spend a lot of time taking care of your parish Church. It could serve as your parish treasurer, schedule maintenance, and even drive the priest's car, ensuring he makes it where he needs to be on time.
However, at no point can anyone imagine a robot replacing a priest in the conduct of his official duties. Love, for example, can never come from silicon chips. It only comes from the heart and soul. A handshake or a hug from a compassionate priest, an understanding ear, or sage advice will always come from a person committed to emulating Christ. No substitute is possible, nor will one ever be accepted.
In this, there is good news. One job that is safe from robots and AI is the priesthood. Thank God for that.
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