BibleGPT and the emergence of AI and spirituality

BibleGPT and the emergence of AI and spirituality

Ten years ago we should have predicted the proliferation of AI, we all had Siri on our smartphones and we have been using Google to search the internet for years – the sandbox for rudimentary versions of AI.

Fast-forward ten years and we now have generative AI. Generative AI can respond naturally to human conversation and serves as a tool for applications like customer service and personalisation of customer workflows. AI-powered chatbots, voice bots, and virtual assistants have become common place.

Today’s spiritual landscape has boomed in the aftermath of the global pandemic as well as access to large language models. This has been a confusing, transitional era in which new tools are upending every industry. In this period, AI has emerged as a powerful tool that can find new links between the ethereal and the tangible, directing our attention to information we might have overlooked.

From Bible interpretations to astrology readings, spirituality start-ups have found a way to unleash generative AI into new digital frontiers that we wouldn’t have thought possible.

The Bible – there’s an AI for that

Take for example BibleGPT, which is a large generative learning AI trained on the teachings of the Bible. It is presented as an interactive website where users can ask questions (“Explain the resurrection to me?”) and receive biblical passages or answers in response through its chat function.

The answer given to this question was brief but succinct: “The resurrection is a central teaching in the Bible. It refers to the belief that Jesus Christ, who was crucified and died, rose from the dead three days later. This event is significant because it demonstrates Jesus’ victory over sin and death, and it is the foundation of the Christian faith. The resurrection is mentioned in several places in the Bible, including in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as well as in the letters written by the apostles. Christians believe in the resurrection as a key tenet of their faith, as it provides hope for eternal life and salvation.”

Perhaps this tool can help tech-savvy Christians level up their practice or provide new interpretations of the text by juxtaposing different pieces with each other. Or perhaps people new to faith who haven’t yet darkened the door of a church get the answers they need. It is hard to believe, however, that this would ever replace the sense of belonging one gets in a Christian community, but perhaps as a tool or enabler it has potential.

AI like BibleGPT via large language models brings the feedback of an imagined minister or priest to your screen, promising to deliver a “spiritual” experience in the comfort of your own home. Perhaps a “spiritual” experience is to be questioned, given that AI can only recite information already available.

The rise of the Covid Chat bot

In an era when people have essentially been trained to interact with Chat bots, such as during the pandemic when people were asking Covid related questions in the US, this technology is only set to increase.

As AI researcher Shira Eisenberg points out in Wired, future models can be trained on any text, religious or otherwise. The question becomes, which model will you choose to interact with?

Someday, each person’s base model will be trained on their own sets of values, she postulates, adding that this will result in conflicts in information and advice between different people’s devices. That is not dissimilar to theological conversations that take place off the screen, however. All of it depends on whether you believe in a higher power, but if you do, it can become a way of connecting with your faith.

What is Artificial Spiritual Intelligence?

Dr Alex Lui, a thought leader in data and AI, wrote in his column Exploring the Frontier of Artificial Spiritual Intelligence stated that: Artificial Spiritual Intelligence (ASI) represents a pioneering endeavor in AI development, with the aim of crafting systems that embody not only cognitive intelligence but also a deep understanding and integration of spiritual values such as compassion and moral reasoning. This initiative is driven by the ambition to replicate human-like spiritual experiences, broadening AI’s capabilities to encompass an appreciation for existential inquiries, empathy, and the deep-seated human quest for meaning and purpose. ASI is identified as a critical milestone in the quest to achieve Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), envisioning the creation of machines that mirror human intelligence in its entirety.

This area of study and the thinking that, at some point in our future, there may be computers able to mimic the human brains’ capacity for emotional and spiritual experiences bringing on an age of “spiritual machines” taps into every piece of scary speculative science fiction over the years.

Can AI make the world a better place?

Alessandro DiSanto of Hallow in her article Artificial Meets Spiritual Intelligence – How AI and Faith Can Make The World a Better Place posited that, rather than being scared of generative AI we needed to look at it in another way.

“Maybe the idea of artificial intelligence is scary for the same reason raising children is scary. Children are mirrors that force us to look at our true selves – how we actually live, not the idealized facades we try to project into the world. “Do as I say, not as I do” never works as a parenting strategy, because the human mind learns by mimicking the actions it observes in others, not just by listening to commands.”

She continues that just like our children, AI “learns” from real world data that it can use to navigate future scenarios.

“Maybe we are scared of AI concluding we should become extinct, because we know that the “training data” that we have created in the world might not show the best we have to offer.”

“We will never be perfect, but what if we use this moment in human history as a chance to reflect on God’s example as the ultimate parent – loving and sacrificing unconditionally? What if we lived every day trying to teach by example so that our AI could also work to make the world a better place?”


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