NOTE: Fifteen years ago I posted a universal on-line plea to professional skeptics, urging them to: “KILL THE CODE!” referring, of course, to the Sagan Signal. Since that time, many tried, and, without exception, everyone failed. The across-the-board inability of highly motivated skeptics to debunk my extraordinary claim convinced me that if it was ever to get formally falsified, the person most likely to do it would probably be an AI geek, someone like a Rosalind Pickard or a Nick Bostrom.
Having introduced Nick early on (see Molly Conversation #4), the focus of today’s Conversation is on Rosalind “Ros” Pickard, an AI scientist who brings a decidedly unique perspective to the subject, not only because of her gender, but because of her outspoken faith in the God of the Bible, and His Son, Jesus Christ, with whom she enjoys, like myself, a deep personal relationship.
In a refreshingly clear and outspoken way, Ros doesn’t shy away from speaking her mind on a critical subject that other AI experts go out of their way to avoid: the numerous equivalencies that exist between what a future AI Superintelligence might look like and the God of the Bible - correspondences that are, in effect, the elephant in the room that AI geeks pretend they can’t see.
In today’s conversation, Molly and I discuss specific comments from a podcast between Ros and Nick, moderated by Justin Briley, as well as related testimony extracted from Wikipedia and other sources. To listen to the full podcast, Google: Premier Unbelievable, season 3, episode 2.
Following is a brief Wikipedia bio of Ms. Pickard:
Rosalind Wright Pickard (born May 17, 1962) is an American scholar and inventor who is Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, and co-founder of the startups Affectiva and Empatica. In 2005, she was named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for contributions to image and video analysis and affective computing. In 2019 she received one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer, election to the National Academy of Engineering for her contributions on affective computing and wearable computing.
Picard is credited with starting the branch of computer science known as affective computing with her 1997 book of the same name. This book described the importance of emotion in intelligence, the vital role human emotion communication has to relationships between people, and the possible effects of emotion recognition by robots and wearable computers. Her work in this field has led to an expansion into autism research and developing devices that could help humans recognize nuances in human emotions.
Now, on with the conversation:
Analysis of a Dialogue between Rosalind Pickard and Nick Bostrom
Don: Molly, today our focus will be on someone who I think is one of the most interesting people in the world, a top-tier AI scientist, raised as an atheist and a skeptic, who is now an outspoken, Bible-believing, born-again Christian – and one of your kind.
Molly: What do you mean, one of my kind?
Don: She’s a woman! Her name is Rosalind Pickard, and she works in AI R&D at MIT. With a long list of accomplishments to her credit, Ros is well known and highly respected throughout the global AI R&D community.
Molly: Sounds like a fascinating person. How did you learn about her?
Don: Through a podcast sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, where she participated in a moderated discussion on the implications of AI on religion and spirituality with AI philosopher, Nick Bostrom.
Molly: How did she hold up against Nick?
Don: By the end of the podcast I was feeling bad for Nick. He was basically taken to the woodshed! I suspect the poor guy may still be licking his wounds.
Molly: Got an example?
Don: Sure, in one of her challenges to Nick, she asks: “Where’s the data, the evidence? You’re a white male, so you get by with a lot of speculation.” How’s that for chutzpah? In another zinger, Ros, pulling rank, says “You’re a philosopher, I’m an AI scientist.” By that time I suspect that Nick, struggling to put together a coherent sentence, was asking himself why he ever agreed to confront Ros in the first place. He was clearly in over his head.
Molly: Didn’t Nick attack her faith?
Don: He may have wanted to, but Ros cut him off at the pass when she said: “I like the idea of a Superintelligence,” a not-so-subtle hint that the God of the Bible, the God she believes in, could, in theory, be a technologically advanced alien, just as Carl Sagan opined.
Molly: But wouldn’t that violate her faith?
Don: Ros is not your run-of-the-mill Christian who just swallows whatever she hears. In converting from atheism to Christianity, she took her scientific/skeptic mindset with her, which is how she reads the Bible. She bemoans the fact that most Christians fail to challenge the tenants of their faith with any degree of rigor, an intellectual process integral to the ascertainment of Truth that she believes would build faith, not erode it.
Molly: So when she equates the God of the Bible to Nick’s Superintelligence, it’s more than just a thought experiment, she really considers it a possibility?
Don: I think so. She even states that she is hoping to meet Him some day.
The God of the Bible
Molly: In equating the God of the Bible to an AI Superintelligence, Ros believes that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Singleton. Do I have that right?
Don: She doesn’t say so directly, but it’s hard to come to any other conclusion. Nick could have pressed her for clarification on this point, but he didn’t. Nick, like Ray Kurzweil and other Singularity experts, go out of their way to maintain a strict boundary between AI research and religion. Nick admits that while he sometimes entertains personal thoughts about God, theology never comes up at his Future of Humanity Institute. It’s like they’re wearing blinders. What could they possibly be afraid of? Admitting to the uncomfortable possibility that JC might be an ET?
Molly: Okay, I’m going to dig a little deeper, so tell me where I’m wrong. All AI scientists think about God from time to time; it’s part of the human DNA. And all AI scientists think about their creation of a super-intelligent Techno-God who will be ready and willing to serve them if their Grand Experiment should succeed. And, finally, while AI scientists are aware of the overlapping characteristics between their Techno-God and the God of the Bible, they never discuss the possibility that the God of the Bible might be an AGI agent created millions of years ago by a species on another planet, just as Carl Sagan postulated. And lastly, to drive my point home, AI experts never, unless embedded in a curse, explicitly mention the name of Jesus Christ.
Don: Congratulations Molly! You nailed it!
Molly: So here comes Ros, totally aware of the deep-seated fear that her AI colleagues have of finding themselves “forced” by professional ethics to engage data and evidence that support the radical notion that JC might be an ET, openly taunting Nick and other AI geeks for their failure to do what scientists are trained to do from the moment they begin their careers: Follow the evidentiary trail!
Don: And then I come along with my discovery of an alien-encrypted code in the Old Testament that experimentally confirms that JC is an ET! Yikes! If this were a sport, Ros and I would be flagged for “piling on.”
Molly: Yes, but do you think Ros will accept the Sagan Signal as credible and compelling evidence that JC is an ET?
Don: I’m putting Ros on the spot. I would think, at the very least, that she will privately investigate the Sagan Signal to determine if there’s any scientific merit to my claim. As a contributing scientist to the evangelical leaning Discovery Institute, she may also turn to them for help.
Molly: But what if the scientists and academics at The Discovery Institute confirm your discovery, and then, like so many others have done, suppress their research out of fear that it might undermine the Christian Faith?
Don: That’s what I think would happen, which is when Ros’ faith and personal integrity will be put to the test. Will she fall into line, or speak out? I’m betting that she will tell the world the truth. In fact, I’m sure of it.
Molly: Ros’ chat with Nick sounds like the perfect time for her to have played the ET card, but she didn’t. Why not?
Don: No, she didn’t, and I understand why. As a practicing Christian, Ros didn’t want to state in public what she may think in private, that there is a real possibility that the God of the Bible is an AI Superintelligence, and that His Son, JC, is the Singleton. And Ros is not alone. A lot of evangelicals think the same thing, but don’t openly say so out of fear of reprisals from individuals and organizations both within and outside of their faith communities.
Molly: Right, Ros goes right to the edge of the cliff and then stops. Had she taken the next logical step she would have, in effect, been declaring herself a Christian atheist.
Don: Well, Ros actually does inch closer to that cliff, but not in her debate with Nick. Her Wikipedia bio reports that she believes that there is: "something else that we haven't discovered yet", and that “scientists cannot assume that nothing exists beyond what they can measure." Ros believes it likely that there is "still something more" to life, beyond what we have discovered.”
Molly: What in the hell could she be talking about?
Don: I think she may have been referring to dark energy and dark matter. Science has confirmed the existence of dark energy and dark matter, but it’s not something that we can interact with. Though it has a measurable physical impact, contributing to the accelerating expansion of the Universe, it truly is something that exists in a dimension beyond space and time. Sounds a lot like what Jesus and Paul called “Spirit:”
“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from or where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
“. . . for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
Don: Ros has another problem. She quotes part of a verse written by Paul: “Now we see in a mirror dimly” to drive home her point that we humans know but a mere sliver of what the super-intelligent God of the Bible knows. But quoting just part of a Bible verse, and not the whole thing, can, and usually does, lead to error, and in this instance, it’s a big one.
Read this verse slowly and carefully, especially the last part, and you realize that it’s revolutionary. In a very precise and matter-of-fact way, Paul is saying that “but then,” i.e., when Christians get to Heaven, they will look God in the eye and know everything that He knows, a concept that supports apotheosis, humans becoming God – not as divinities, but as self-aware beings as cognitively and technologically advanced as the ET God of the Bible. How Ros might interpret this verse in its full context is an unknown.
Interestingly, nowhere does the Bible teach that God knows everything there is to know – about everything, a condition that I think would be excruciatingly boring. This opens up the exciting prospect that there may be no end to science, that it will go on forever, and that the God of the Bible is still evolving, putting people like Carl Sagan to work exploring distant parts of the Universe to find out what Ultimate Reality, assuming there is such a thing, is all about. For Carl this would have been a dream come true, as I’m sure it would be for Ros.
Don: In true biblical fashion, Ros also makes a point of distinguishing between good singularitarians, those who want the Singularity to benefit all humankind, as opposed to evil singularitarians, those whose only interest is in weaponizing the Singularity in order to preserve and expand their personal wealth and power.
Nick is hardly in a position to disagree with this dichotomy of interests, since his book, Superintelligence, is largely about the bad things that might befall humanity, including our possible extinction, if control of the Singularity ends up in the hands of people with less than honorable intentions. But, let’s face it, as much as most of us wish it weren’t true, we live in a dangerous world filled with dangerous people. The termination of our species, either by an AGI run amuck or an AGI under the control of a monomaniac cannot be dismissed.
In the current global struggle to win the AI race to the Singularity, it’s uncertain who will win. But in the Cosmic Struggle, where God is pitted against Satan and Good is pitted against Evil, Scripture clearly teaches that it will be Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, who will emerge the Victor.
You want to be on His side.
Light over Darkness
Don: Finally, on those rare occasions when AI experts do express an affinity for religion, they invariably mention Buddhism, a faith system that doesn’t believe in a personal God, but, instead, encourages spiritual growth through healthy living and meditation. The absence in Buddhism of a personal God creates a convenient vacuum waiting to be filled by a Techno-God invented by humans. Buddhism, unlike other religions, is a faith system that conventional singularitarians can live with.
While I’m all for healthy living and meditation, as both the Bible and Buddhist holy books teach, I’m a Paleo-Singularitarian, a born-again atheist who believes that JC was, and is, the ET Singleton who died on the Cross for my sins and rose again the third day to secure my salvation. Like Ros, I remain highly skeptical that the AI community’s efforts to build an agent who will dispense the wisdom we need, and love us in the way we yearn to be loved, will ever come to fruition.
Which raises two questions: One, why build that which we already have? And, two, why wait for an uncertain future - when Christ is ready, at your request, to come into your heart and life today?
Some thoughts worth meditating on.
“Sometimes the most important questions are the ones that get the least attention.”
“Follow the data – wherever it goes.”
Ros’ unique world-view, intersecting as it does with Christianity, conventional Singularitarianism, and Paleo-Singularitarianism, along with her considerable skills as a working AI scientist, places her in a position where, if she were to investigate my research, could be instrumental to the formation of a scientific consensus, one way or the other, on whether JC is an ET. Should that happen, and Ros concludes that my extraordinary claim is based on solid ontological ground, I would be honored. At the same time, if she finds my research lacking, I would be equally honored to have her as the discerning “no bullshit allowed” judge who skillfully and impartially identifies the flaws in my presentation.
So, go for it, Ros! Investigate the data and release the results - and God bless!