An AI Bot Granted Residency in Tokyo Teaches Us About Our Creator

Shibuya Mirai is an AI chatbot designed to interact as a seven-year-old boy. Mirai was granted residency status in Tokyo, marking another milestone in the journey to the development of consciousness in machines. Cognitive scientists Dehaene, Lau, and Kouider suggest that “consciousness arises in the only physical system that undoubtedly possesses it: the human brain,”1 and they essentially consider consciousness to be computations, report, and self-monitoring.

Mirai possesses at least computational aspects of consciousness and even personality, and gives occasion for inquiry into whether or not these attributes ultimately require a divine spark, or whether they can be demonstrated simply through natural processes. In short: if humanity can create machines that can fulfill core human functions, perhaps that would be evidence that no supernatural creator is necessary at all.

The pursuit of artificial intelligence is an incredible one, and significantly worthwhile, even if only for different reasons. Mirai’s existential setting illustrates the value of the process, and evidences some vital truths:

  • Mirai was created. Where that creation process actually began is certainly an interesting discussion, but there was a creative act (or series of creative acts) that resulted in Mirai’s existence.
  • Mirai’s creators attributed to their creation a name, and one that has meaning (Mirai means future).
  • Mirai was given a gender as a defining and identifying trait. Gender is embedded in Mirai’s design.
  • Mirai was created within a defined time-context. That time-context had nothing to do with the amount of time Mirai’s creation actually took, but instead has to do with how Mirai was designed to function.

In short, Mirai was created in the image of man, designed to function in its created capacities as human. Because of these inescapable truths, it is evident that even if consciousness and personality could be demonstrably reduced only to a series of computations, all that would be proven is design, not origin. In fact, Mirai’s creation is more affirmation of the biblical creation account than not:

  • Mirai did not happen suddenly by chance or through randomness and vast amounts of time. Mirai was carefully and precisely designed. Where did that process begin? Is such precision the likely descendant of randomness, time, and chance? Or is it more intellectually satisfying to understand that Mirai’s creation continues a chain of deliberate creative acts begun by a deliberate Creator?
  • Mirai’s creators exercised sovereignty over their creation to name it and give it meaning. They possess the creators’ right of sovereignty, and an evidence of that sovereignty is expressed in the identity of their creation. Who or what created these creators? If the creator of the creators was a “what” rather than a “who,” than from whence were these creators named? The creation week of Genesis 1 reflects a sovereign Creator naming His creation, and then crowning His creative work with a creation that could name created things. The Creator passed along some elements of His (earned) sovereignty, and that is reflected even in Mirai’s naming.
  • It is worth noting that Mirai’s creators recognize that gender is part of humanity’s core definition, and in trying to emulate human characteristics, thought it necessary to imbue gender. Gender and sexuality was a key element of humanity as originally created (Gen 1:26-27), and has remained inescapably central to design, function, and relationship.
  • That Mirai’s creators utilized their right to create Mirai with appearance of age is also significant. In this maneuver is an acknowledgment within a scientific context that time factors are not always as they seem. If the human creators — scientists — of Mirai can attribute to their creation a time context suitable for design and function, then why cannot the Creator of the heavens, the earth, and all they contain do the same?

Mirai’s creation illustrates much about a creator’s sovereign rights over that which was created, and gives us cause to think about our own origin and design.

In Matthew 3 and 4, Matthew records how Jesus was confirmed as authentic (1) by His own verification of John through baptism (thus confirming that John was the messenger of Malachi 3:1, and that Jesus was indeed the Messiah), (2) by His Father and the Holy Spirit at His baptism, and (3) by properly handling the temptation of Satan. Jesus came proclaiming the coming of “the kingdom of the heavens” because He — the King — had come, and He called His listeners to change their mind about how they could enter His kingdom (4:17).

In the “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt 5-7) Jesus explained that the righteousness needed to be part of God’s eternal spiritual kingdom (that would one day come to earth) was not simply external and based on obeying law (i.e., works), but was internal and was rooted in holy character. Jesus’ point was to illustrate that His listeners did not possess that internal righteousness, and needed a redeemer. Hence, the need for repentance (change of mind).

It is very significant that Jesus moves from simply verbally proclaiming this message with great authority (Mt 7:28-29) to demonstrating His authority (Mt 8-9). He showed He had authority over disease and sickness (8:1-4, 14-15), over physical brokenness (8:5-13), over demons (8:16-17, 28-32), over the winds and sea (8:23-27), and ultimately over spiritual brokenness (9:1-8). Jesus showed that if He had the Creator’s authority over nature, then He also had the authority to resolve the great problem of human separateness from God (because of sin).

Because He had the power to create and to command His creation, He had the power to straighten what was bent (Ecc 7:13). There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven by which humanity is saved (Acts 4:12). If He is indeed the Creator, as John claims (Jn 1:1-3), and as Paul claims (Col 1:16), then He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him (Jn 14:6). He is the One in whom we are to believe for eternal life (Jn 20:30-31).

The pursuit of AI is in itself a glorious pursuit, for in that pursuit we can clearly see God’s invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature expressed (Rom 1:19-20). Mirai’s creation is not a blasphemy — Mirai represents an incredible step in expressing the image of God in us, and invites us to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).

Notes

1 Dehaene, Lau, and Kouider, “What is consciousness, and could machines have it?” in Science, October 2017, Vol 358, Issue 6362: 486-492.

Christopher Cone 2016


Dr. Christopher Cone serves as President of Calvary University, and is the author or general editor of several books including: Integrating Exegesis and Exposition: Biblical Communication for Transformative Learning, Gifted: Understanding the Holy Spirit and Unwrapping Spiritual Gifts, and Dispensationalism Tomorrow and Beyond: A Theological Collection in Honor of Charles C. Ryrie. Dr. Cone previously served in executive and faculty roles at Southern California Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute, and in pastoral roles at Tyndale Bible Church and San Diego Fellowship of the Bible.

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There are 5 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

I'm still not sure what I think about "AI." We already have at least two working definitions of "AI" in the world: one is used increasingly in reference to any software that is extensively automated and does analysis and response tasks that humans used to do with software. So this is kind of a marketing definition. The other, more venerable and serious definition has to do with software that can collect information, learn, develop and grow. I suppose there is a third definition, for many the holy grail of AI science: software that is all of the above plus "conscious."

No AI in that third category exists. It's a bit like cold fusion. There's often somebody claiming to have figured it out, but it proves to be bogus. In the case of consciousness, though, there is a fair amount of wiggle room as to what consciousness is. So if you want to claim to have developed a "conscious" AI, simply define consciousness down to a level you can achieve.

What a human can never do with software and machines is create a living soul. And this is what most have really had in mind by "consciousness" for many, many years.

So is the pursuit of AI "glorious"? Well, I'm not as upbeat about it all as Chris is here, but he does point out some truly redeeming features of the effort, so I'm glad for that. But we'll never be able to create "a real boy." Without magic, Geppetto's work remains lifeless. 

Bert Perry's picture

I remember AI and neural networks getting started as an area of engineering back in the 1990s, and the joke was that the first slide in any presentation about neural networks and machine learning would always be a drawing of a neuron, and that the rest of the presentation would have nothing whatsoever to do with the first slide.

Looks like Aaron's telling me that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Really, even among people, creativity is all too rare.  My profession tries to use the work of Altshuller called "TRIZ" to help this, mostly without much success.  It's something that more often happens in the shower than in a cubicle, really. 

TylerR's picture

The system will become self-aware, and Skynet will rise.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

I always guessed that Tyler would be a fan of such romantic comedies!

(side note; I borrowed a signature knock from the sequel, which my family knows is me, but oddly, nobody ever connects it with the movie)

Update: as if on cue, the Bee delivers!

Aaron Blumer's picture

It's probably idle speculation, but what if "consciousness" and "being a living soul" are overlapping things but not essentially the same thing? In which case, a manufactured entity could have something very similar to consciousness but sill not be alive in any spiritual sense. So, speculating wildly even further, if the thing was conscious but not spiritual, it could not be fallen or depraved.  Seems to me these things would be likely to be much nicer than humans in general tend to be. It would be sort of like reinventing the family dog (which is arguably "conscious," if you compare it to, say, a cockroach) .

This seems like an awful lot of work, since it's already been invented. 

But I wonder if the AI in Japan is even as smart and self aware as a cockroach.

Edit: The Bee link... funniest part is the headline. He should do a followup about filming Tomlinator II.

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