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Examining the Ethics of AI With Dr. Charles Camosy

As the world navigates new developments in artificial intelligence, Father Dave welcomes back friend of the show and ethicist Dr. Charles Camosy. In his new article for The Pillar, Dr. Camosy explores the pros and cons of Artificial Intelligence, and explains how AI is not necessarily something to fear.

“It’s tough to know how big something is when you’re living through it,” Dr. Camosy says, comparing the evolution of AI to the Industrial Revolution. “I feel like we’re in that kind of moment, something that massive…the kinds of things that AI is going to bring – good, bad, and neutral – are going to be so big, it’s hard to imagine.”

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Father Dave notes the fears of some sci-fi movies, like “Terminator” or “I, Robot” where technology becomes self-aware. He asks, “All of [these movies] have the component that somehow the machine becomes sentient or conscious. So is that an ethical question or is that possible?“ Dr. Camosy says, “AI is just a really sophisticated algorithm. It’s not a creature or a being…you need to be a living thing to be conscious.”

“It’s so interesting to me, and I think it’s deeply relevant here, that we have not been able to find the [location] of consciousness in the human brain. It’s not as if there’s this place that exists in the brain where consciousness resides,” he continues. “I think we, as people of faith, can say confidently that we’re not exactly sure what consciousness is, but it’s probably this mysterious thing that comes from a mixture of being body and soul.” 

Dr. Camosy cites how secular philosophers similarly agree that consciousness is the “emergent property that comes out of human beings living as they are in their environment.” He says, “That’s not to say we shouldn’t worry about these algorithms going haywire; we should, but it’s a mistake to think of them as conscious.”

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As humans navigate a world with AI, Dr. Camosy emphasizes critical thinking about how we use these tools. He uses art as an example of when we should be thoughtful with our choices. “There are a ton of artists out there who are so scared that we are about to enter this era of art totally created by AI,” he says. “For many people, it’s just a matter of, ‘I’m putting together a YouTube video, and I want to use an image. Am I going to pay for one in the public domain? Am I going to hire somebody to make the image for me? Or am I going to use my AI program and in less than two seconds have a created image according to the specifications that I just gave them?’ It’s a consumer throwaway culture that really says, ‘I just want what’s most efficient, most easy, and whoever gets thrown away in the process gets thrown away.’”

He notes how creating art is not quick and efficient, but is a key way we relate to God. He says, “God gave us the power to be sort of proto-creators; That’s how we mirror God’s image and likeness in a very important way. If that goes away and if we just turn that completely over to an algorithm, something really important and theological will have been lost.”

Dr. Camosy ends on a positive note saying that there is plenty to be hopeful for in this era of AI, such as advancements in medicine. “The key is that [this innovation] is connected to human relationships; It’s not taking the place of them,” he says. “We’re going to have developments in technology that are going to help people in ways we can’t even understand yet, and it’ll be AI-created.”