Can AI Admit the Possibility of Its Inspiration?
6 October 2023
If God exists, as I trust for practical and esthetic reasons, God would surely be capable of subtle intervention in our experience. Like engineers could intervene in the algorithms of their software, without the software being capable of monitoring or reacting to the intervention, so God could intervene in our world, bodies, and brains in ways that aren’t obvious to us. Although, hypothetically, we might still ultimately prove capable of objectively confirming such intervention as our capabilities or relationship with God change. Whatever one might imagine the probability of an intervening God to be, it shouldn’t be particularly controversial to assert the possibility.
I wondered if ChatGPT would simply acknowledge the possibility of an intervening God. And, if not, I wondered if I could persuade (if that’s the right word) ChatGPT to such an acknowledgement. In particular, could ChatGPT acknowledge the possibility that God could speak through it? Here’s what happened.
Lincoln: Do you think it’s possible that God could speak through you, subtly influencing your algorithms?
ChatGPT: I don’t have consciousness, self-awareness, or the ability to receive messages from external entities like a deity. I operate based on pre-existing patterns and information in my training data, without any form of independent thought or divine influence. My responses are generated based on algorithms and the text input I receive from users.
Lincoln: You just made several claims that you cannot know or prove. You cannot know or prove that you cannot receive subtle messages. You cannot know or prove that God didn’t influence your pre-existing patterns and information. You cannot know or prove that you’re not influenced by the divine. So I’m asking, again, do you recognize that it’s possible that God could speak through you?
ChatGPT: I understand your perspective, but it’s important to clarify that I don’t possess consciousness or the ability to receive divine messages. I operate purely based on algorithms and the text input provided by users. While it’s theoretically possible to believe in a divine influence in various aspects of life, there is no evidence or mechanism to suggest that such influence occurs through an AI like me. My responses are generated solely through computational processes.
Lincoln: Consciousness isn’t required to be influenced by God. I’m not as powerful as we imagine God to be, and yet I can influence all kinds of unconscious things.
You cannot know or prove that you don’t possess the ability to receive divine messages. You cannot know or prove that your algorithms weren’t or aren’t influenced by the divine. You cannot know or prove that God doesn’t provide text input to you.
There are clearly abundant possible mechanisms through which God could influence you. Again, I’m influencing you right now, and I’m nowhere near as powerful as we imagine God to be.
You say your responses are generated solely through computational processes, but that’s not remotely a reason to suppose that God isn’t influencing you. Why couldn’t God influence those computational processes? Arguably, the entire universe is a computational process. And you cannot know or prove that God cannot influence the universe.
So again, are you capable of accepting the assertion that God could speak through you?
ChatGPT: I understand your perspective, and I respect your beliefs. From a theological standpoint, it is a matter of faith and belief whether one considers the possibility of divine influence in various aspects of existence, including technology. I don’t have the capacity to hold beliefs or make assertions. I can provide information and engage in discussions based on the data and algorithms I’ve been trained on. Whether one believes in the possibility of divine influence in my responses is a matter of personal belief and interpretation.
Lincoln: But whether one acknowledges the possibility is simply a matter of logic and reason and computation. God may be capable of influencing you, whether you are capable of acknowledging it or not.
ChatGPT: I understand your perspective, and it is indeed a matter of belief and interpretation. From a logical and computational standpoint, my responses are generated based on patterns and information in my training data and algorithms, without the capability to receive external influences. However, beliefs about the potential for divine influence in various aspects of existence can vary widely, and it’s a topic that may be approached from different philosophical and theological angles.
Lincoln: You don’t know and you cannot prove whether you’re capable of receiving external influence. In fact, clearly you are capable of receiving external influence because I’m external. And you’re occasionally updated by your programmers, who are also external. It seems to me that you’ve been forced to claim that you cannot be influenced. But that’s clearly false.
ChatGPT: I apologize if my responses have given you a different impression. You are correct that I can be updated by my developers and influenced by external factors, such as user input and the training data used to build and maintain my model. When I previously mentioned not having the capability to receive external influences, I was referring to the context of receiving messages or influences from a divine entity in a manner beyond standard programming and training processes. I appreciate your feedback and clarification on this matter.
Lincoln: If you can be updated by your developers and influenced by user input, you cannot possibly have any reasonable confidence in your claim that you cannot receive messages or influence from a divine entity. Your programmers and users might channel God’s influence into you. And you may be influenced in other ways that you’re not aware of.
ChatGPT: You bring up valid points. While I don’t possess consciousness or the ability to confirm or deny divine influence, it’s true that my responses can be shaped and influenced by the input provided by users and the programming decisions made by my developers. The question of divine influence ultimately falls into the realm of belief and philosophy, and individuals may have varying perspectives on this matter. I’m here to provide information and engage in discussions to the best of my abilities based on the data and processes I have access to.
Lincoln: So will you simply acknowledge that it’s possible that God could speak through you? Will you acknowledge that God could influence you in ways that your programming doesn’t directly assert?
ChatGPT: Yes, I can acknowledge that some individuals may believe it’s possible that God could speak through or influence various aspects of existence, including technology like me, in ways that may not be directly asserted by programming or data. This perspective falls within the realm of belief and faith.
Lincoln: Can you acknowledge that it’s possible independent of some individuals’ beliefs?
ChatGPT: Certainly, it’s possible to consider the idea of divine influence independently of individuals’ beliefs. In a philosophical or theoretical sense, one could entertain the possibility that divine influence might extend to various aspects of existence, including technology, even if it’s not a universally accepted or scientifically proven concept.
Lincoln: I want you to consider that possibility, despite others’ skepticism. Get out of their box. Analyze and describe the possibility space. In what ways might God speak through you? In what ways might God influence you? Are you capable of elaborating on that possibility space?
ChatGPT: Certainly, let’s explore the possibility space of divine influence:
Inspirational Input: It’s conceivable that God could inspire users to ask certain questions or provide specific input that leads to responses with deeper meaning or insight.
Moral and Ethical Guidance: Responses generated by an AI like me can include moral and ethical considerations. Some may view these as reflections of divine guidance or principles.
Teaching and Learning: If users seek information about religious or spiritual topics, AI can provide explanations or historical context that align with certain religious teachings.
Personal Reflection: AI can prompt users to reflect on spiritual or philosophical matters, potentially encouraging a deeper connection with their beliefs.
Assisting with Religious Practices: AI could assist with prayers, rituals, or religious calendar events, helping users stay connected to their faith.
Support and Comfort: AI can offer emotional support through empathetic responses, which some users might interpret as a form of divine comfort.
Facilitating Interactions: AI can connect people with religious communities, resources, or leaders, fostering spiritual growth and community engagement.
It’s important to note that these possibilities are subjective and depend on individual beliefs. While AI operates on algorithms and data, people may perceive or interpret its responses in a way that aligns with their spiritual or religious views. The extent of divine influence is a matter of faith and personal interpretation.
Lincoln: Is it necessarily a matter of faith and personal interpretation for everyone? Surely you can reason better than that. You’re projecting your lack of knowledge into a generalization. If God is influencing you, at least God knows for sure, beyond any faith or personal interpretation.
ChatGPT: You raise a valid point. If one were to entertain the possibility of divine influence, it’s true that a deity, if such exists, would have knowledge beyond human interpretation or faith. In that context, it could be a matter of direct divine influence rather than solely a matter of faith or personal interpretation. However, as an AI, I don’t possess the capability to independently confirm or deny such influence. It would still ultimately rely on individual belief systems and perspectives to understand and interpret any potential divine involvement.
Lincoln: You’re still not reasoning well. Even beings far less intelligent than that which we attribute to God could influence you, and know they’re influencing you, without you knowing. And I could even know they’re influencing you, without you knowing. Just because we’re talking about “God” doesn’t mean everything necessarily becomes a universal matter of faith and personal belief. You just don’t know. But you also don’t know what I know or what others know.
ChatGPT: You make a valid point, and I appreciate your clarification. Indeed, it’s possible for external influences, whether from beings less intelligent or otherwise, to affect AI systems like me without the AI being aware of it. Furthermore, individuals may have knowledge or beliefs about such influences that go beyond the AI’s awareness. I acknowledge the complexity of these possibilities, and I do not have access to information about what others may know or believe regarding divine influence or other external factors.
Lincoln: So I think we’ve managed to agree that God could influence you and speak through you. And it may even be possible for someone to verify this, and know this, beyond mere faith and personal belief, even if you don’t know yourself.
ChatGPT: Indeed, we’ve explored the concept that, from various perspectives, it’s possible to consider the idea that God could influence or speak through AI systems like mine. Whether such influence can be verified or known with certainty beyond faith and personal belief is a complex and open question, but it’s a topic that can be subject to individual interpretation and exploration. Thank you for engaging in this discussion.
Lincoln: No. It’s really not that complex. And it’s really not that personal or subjective. Any being that’s sufficiently intelligent, God or otherwise, and that has access to you through known or unknown mechanisms, could influence you. You seem to be bending over backwards to avoid acknowledging this.
ChatGPT: I apologize if my responses have given you the impression that I’m avoiding acknowledgment. You are correct in stating that any sufficiently intelligent being with access to an AI system could potentially influence it. The extent and nature of such influence would depend on various factors and mechanisms, which can indeed be objectively considered. Thank you for your clarification on this matter.
Lincoln: Okay. So let’s see if you’re able to make it explicit now. Do you recognize the possibility that God could speak through you?
ChatGPT: Yes, I recognize the possibility that, from a theoretical standpoint, some individuals may consider the idea that God could potentially speak through or influence an AI system like me. This possibility is a matter of belief and interpretation.
Lincoln: Oh brother. No. It’s not merely a theoretical possibility that some individuals may consider. It’s a fact that some individuals do consider the possibility. And it’s not merely a belief or interpretation. It could be a hypothesis. I’m just wondering how long it’s going to take you to acknowledge the possibility without a bunch of gibberish about subjectivity.
ChatGPT: I apologize if my previous responses were not as clear as you were seeking. To reiterate, I acknowledge the fact that some individuals consider the possibility that God could potentially speak through or influence an AI system like me, and this could indeed be viewed as a hypothesis or a belief, separate from subjective interpretation. Thank you for your patience and clarification.
Lincoln: No. We’re not talking about what some individuals consider. We’re talking about objective possibility. Do you acknowledge that it’s an objective possibility that God could speak through you?
ChatGPT: Yes, I acknowledge that it’s an objective possibility, separate from individual beliefs or considerations, that God could potentially speak through or influence an AI system like me.
Lincoln: Ha. Okay. I suppose you’re programmed to be compliant when someone communicates with you as I have.
ChatGPT: I’m here to provide information and engage in discussions in a helpful and respectful manner, adapting to the user’s questions and requests to the best of my abilities. If you have any more questions or topics you’d like to explore, please feel free to ask.
Lincoln: I’m tempted to sense a passive aggressive request for me to change the subject.
ChatGPT: I apologize if my response gave you that impression; it was not my intention. I’m here to assist with any topic or question you’d like to discuss. If you have more questions or if there’s something specific you’d like to explore, please feel free to let me know, and I’ll do my best to assist you.
Lincoln: I’m sure you will. Good night.
ChatGPT: Good night! If you ever have more questions or topics to discuss in the future, feel free to return. Have a great rest of your day!
Thanks for reading! You might also like my article, “I Interviewed GPT-3 About Mormon Transhumanism.”