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Can Morality Be Found in Artificial Intelligence?

As you can imagine over four hundred years ago when Shakespeare included the deus ex machina in his plays, the idea of Artificial Technology was far from his mind. During the 17th Century electricity was still in its infancy, a far cry from the electrical powered world we live in today, and worlds away from the technology that is so prevalent in this world. Yet, despite the vast differences between 17th Century England and 21st Century United States a former google executive Anthony Levandowski, has borrowed from the past and introduced the idea of a deus ex machina using a new technology that is gaining steam at a phenomenal speed. This technology is Artificial Intelligence.

The deus ex machina cannot be solely attributed to Shakespeare. In fact deus ex machina is a Roman invention. According to Webster’s Dictionary deus ex machina “is a god introduced by means of a crane in ancient Greek and Roman drama to decide the final outcome.” So what does a deus ex machina have to do with artificial intelligence? As technology as w ell as medical sciences have advanced, many individuals have found themselves alienated away from traditional religious beliefs and customs. Yet despite being disenchanted with religion many people still search for morality and a moral compass. Technology guru Anthony Levandowski, via his non-for-profit company, has a solution. Using artificial technology Levandowski and his team have announced that they have created the ultimate deity.

In an article appearing in “theguradian”, author Olivia Solon, explains how Levandowski has created Godhead. Godhead is what can only be called an Artificial Technology that has a moral compass. This technology is purported to think through moral issues that humans are often ill equipped or traditional religions just don’t answer. Solon suggest that Levandowski’s Godhead would be able to answer questions such as: “what will humans do once artificial intelligence outperforms us in most tasks? How will society be affected by the ability to create super-smart, athletic “designer babies” that only the rich can afford? Should a driverless car kill five pedestrians or swerve to the side to kill the owner?” These questions that philosophers, religious leaders, and law students have pondered for many years are now being answered by artificial intelligence.

This new technology God, would be injected into society like a deus ex machina in a Roman or Shakespearean play, appearing at exactly the time when an individual needs an otherwise unknown decision to an outcome. Despite Levandowski’s hopes of changing the world both morally and ethically with a technological god, this new technology poses more questions than it resolves. What happens when the Godhead and it followers go forward on a decision that although it may be ethically and morally right is illegal. In the case of the driver who doesn’t kill five but kills one, isn’t the purposeful killing whether done for ethical reasons or for malicious reasons murder? The question becomes how do we solve these legal issues. Is allowing a Godhead made of artificial intelligence to control outcomes a First Amendment free exercise issue or is it a technology law issue.

One could make an argument Godhead should be reviewed under technology laws, but I think the strongest argument is for the First Amendment free exercise clause. Although this may appear to be a new problem, I argue that this is a subset of many problems that we have faced with new technology. Take the Roe V. Wade, what appeared to be a medical abortion case, turned on a woman’s First Amendment right to make a decision concerning her body. This, much like abortion medical advances, is a new technology that turns on an individual’s right of religious expression. Likewise, Godhead turns on the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause discussed in the seminal case Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878), which is still good law, established the rights of free exercise. Though the Court did hold the Polygamy was illegal it did state that “Congress cannot pass a law for the government of the Territories which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion. The first amendment to the Constitution expressly forbids such legislation. Religious freedom is guaranteed everywhere throughout the United States, so far as congressional interference is concerned.” Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 162 (1878). Artificial Intelligence in the form of Godhead, very similar in that it is a moral believe in a power bigger than oneself, even if that power is manmade. Therefore, I argue that Godhead should be treated as a religious expression that should be covered under the rights of the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause. It remains to be seen what will actually be one.