Photo by John Thomas on Unsplash

My mom is the type of person to say she is “spiritual but not religious,” and as overused as that phrase is, I genuinely think the description fits nicely. She taught my brother and I to express gratitude to the planets and the universe, and that if we wanted something, we needed to exude positive energy and manifest it into happening. On the other hand, when we visited my dad’s house, we learned about the Bible. Blissfully picking cherries, I learned about the Zodiac and also celebrated Christmas.

I got to college and became infatuated with Judaism. When I got to college, I decided I wanted to be Jewish. I subscribed to, made friends with my school’s Hillel members, and recognized every Jewish holiday I found online. Every year, I warned my mother, “I might not come home for Christmas this year. If all goes well, I’ll get a Jewish boyfriend and he’ll invite me over for Hanukkah.”

I couldn’t explain my reasoning behind any of these things, but logical reasoning had nothing to do with what resonated with me. All of my non-committal spiritual endeavors have helped discern where my values, morals and faith lie.

So if the goal is to develop technology that is as intelligent as a human, a multi-faceted approach to intelligence seems important to include. Are we programming Artificial Intelligence with more than just rational, Western thought processes? What would it be like if we expanded this approach to development?

AI, and most technology in general, is based on rational Greek philosophy. For decades, that’s been fine. But if people are developing technology that is designed to be as intelligent as humans, shouldn’t they be developed with more than just Western thought processes? I know that if I, personally, had never been exposed to a variety of belief systems, I would be a lot less open-minded.

Socrates’ treaties about rational thought can, and often are, perceived as the very first AI experiments. Obviously there wasn’t any software involved in 300 BC, but his approach to rational thought is essentially what developers use today to determine the intelligence of an AI. And it’s the exact same process as the ever-popular Socratic seminars: you take a problem, then break it down into individual questions until you come up with an answer.

I think of Aristotle, on the other hand, as a complementary opposite. All machine programming is based off of Aristotle’s idea of the binary (1–0, man or woman, yes or no). He applied it to people and other aspects of society, too. That “right or wrong” approach is a large part of what machine programming is based on.

I’m not saying that any of these guys’ work is inherently wrong or bad. What I am saying is this: Artificial Intelligence is becoming more and more relevant to all of us on an individual level, as well as to our society as a whole. If it’s going to be reflective of society, shouldn’t the development include multiple perspectives?

We are already at a point where AI ethics are more than necessary. For example, remember when I introduced self-driving cars? Let’s introduce a hypothetical, but obviously very possible, situation: if a driverless car had to make the awful decision of who to hurt in a car crash, how would it do that? Would the AI use Buddhist values to make this decision, or would it opt for Christianity? Can AI learn to operate off of many value systems?

I know that I want to stay open to various types of spirituality so that I can learn and develop my awareness as a human. I hope that AI can do the same.

Recent reads:

I enjoyed this long-read on Facebook’s AI maybe even more than I loved The Social Network… and that movie is one of my favorites.

AI can (maybe) make us rich!

Final thoughts:

I live in an area that was hit by destructive wildfires last fall. Now that COVID’s been on the decline, I’ve been really working to go to new bars and restaurants near me that I’ve never visited. My boyfriend and I found a new favorite spot right near our house. The beer is super cold, the patio is charming, and the fries are deluxe. It feels so good to support local businesses, and it’s made me appreciate my town so much more. Like I said above, I always want to learn and try new things — whether that be visiting a different bar or exploring different spirituality models.

Making Artificial Intelligence a little less intimidating