Spiritual Intelligence in an Artificial Intelligence World

Professor of Computer Science

WITH THE REMARKABLE ADVANCES IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI), MANY QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS ARE ARISING: How powerful will AI become? What effects will AI have on employment and on education? Can a machine really think? Will it surpass human intelligence or make it obsolete? How can we ensure it will be constructive and not destructive?

Much human attention is focused on these issues, and more will be in the future. But even the best-intended human efforts cannot ensure a perfect outcome, nor answer deep questions on the nature of mind. That requires a higher spiritual perspective.

All the issues surrounding AI seem to center on three essential questions: First, what is the source of intelligence? Must it be biological, or can it be digital? Second, what is the nature of intelligence? Might it be destructive? What limits are there on its increase? And third, how does man fit into the picture? Can a manmade machine surpass us or make us obsolete?

Per usual, Christian Science offers clarity to apparently complex questions like these. Mary Baker Eddy answers the question “What is intelligence?” in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 469: 10-13): “Intelligence is omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. It is the primal and eternal quality of infinite Mind, of the triune Principle, – Life, Truth, and Love, – named God.”

So, what is the source of intelligence? Can a machine think? No, no more than can a brain. Intelligence is neither biological nor digital. It is primally and eternally “a quality of infinite Mind.”

And, what is the nature of intelligence? As a quality of God, it can only be constructive, manifesting Life, Truth, and Love, and there is no limit on its capacity.

The third question—whether humans might be surpassed by AI—assumes that our intelligence is limited and could become inferior or obsolete. But another quote from page 475 clarifies that man “. . . possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker.” Nothing can surpass infinite reflected intelligence, and such a reflection is never obsolete.

This Christianly Scientific understanding of our unlimited intelligence is fundamental to education at Principia. Policy Three states that each of us “reflects the intelligence and strength of our Maker” and “. . . refuses to accept as final any belief of limitation.” Those truths have guided us for over a century in dealing with the belief of limited human capacity in our teaching, and they are just as applicable now to addressing new challenges posed by artificial intelligence.

As this important new technology advances, we will have the human opportunity to use it positively, both as individuals and as a society. But the Christian Science perspective enables all of us to bear witness to the true source and nature of intelligence, and to our own boundless expression of it. We can know that this source and nature informs and guides the positive and constructive unfoldment of intelligence in our experience.

Dr. Clint Staley is a professor of computer science at Principia College. He has 35 years of combined experience in academia and industry. He has taught computer science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Principia. Staley has built software and managed software development for large and small organizations, and he cofounded several software companies. He holds six U.S. patents.