Can a chatbot pray?
I had a chance to converse with Bard, Google’s newest artificial-intelligence product for the masses. It asked me what I wanted, so I typed in a request: “Write a prayer asking God to give AI wisdom.”
In a short time, Bard responded with five short paragraphs:
We come to you today to ask for your wisdom as we develop artificial intelligence. We know that this technology has the potential to do great good in the world, but we also know that it could be used for harm. We pray that you would guide us in using AI for good, and that you would protect us from its potential dangers.
We pray that you would give us wisdom to understand the implications of AI, and to use it in a way that is consistent with your will. We pray that you would give us the wisdom to make decisions about AI that are ethical and responsible. We pray that you would give us the wisdom to use AI to solve the world’s problems, and to make the world a better place.
We know that you are a God of wisdom, and we trust that you will hear our prayer. We ask this in your name, amen.
In addition to this prayer, we can also take steps to ensure that AI is used for good. We can educate ourselves about AI, and we can advocate for the responsible development and use of AI. We can also support organizations that are working to use AI for good.
We believe that AI has the potential to make the world a better place, and we are committed to using it for good. We pray that God will guide us in this endeavor.
O, Bard! From your mouth to God’s ears!
Wait, what am I saying? This content is coming from neither a mouth, nor a heart, nor a soul. Bard is writing as a “we”–and, in a sense, that is accurate because it is drawing upon the input from who-knows-how-many prayers that human persons have written previously. But a system of circuits is not an individual or a group. It speaks with a certain competence, but it speaks for no one, to no one.
Bard also provides a two-paragraph fervorino after its “amen,” offering us guidance and optimism. There are indeed reasons to believe that AI can bring benefits to the world. You can be the judge of whether those gifts include praying, or helping us to pray. The composition is impressive in a sense, but is it inspiring?
Perhaps we all can take it as an inspiration to think more deeply about AI at this time when thousands of experts in the field have co-signed a letter urging the world to declare a “time-out”–ideally, a time of reflection–so scientists, engineers, and policy-makers can consider the future course of a technology that might compete with personal dignity.
A lot of Catholics are uncomfortable composing spontaneous prayers. But imagine that this online product is the Lord’s message to us, giving us the confidence and the conviction that people in all walks of life have something original and meaningful to say in our own prayers about AI, about the gift of humanity.
God will welcome what we express because it’s authentic, not artificial. Such words, even if they’re clumsy, are the beginning of the wisdom we are seeking.
Image from ClipSafari.com, a collection of Creative Commons designs.
See recent commentaries on AI below and in “Phronesis in Pieces,” at billschmitt.substack.com.