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Artificial Morality

Updated: Sep 25

God cautioned Adam and Eve, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

For over a century, the human race has become smarter and smarter. We have increased our collective knowledge at exponential rates. In his book, Knowledge Doubling Curve, author and inventor Buckminster Fuller showed that human knowledge had doubled every century up until 1900, and then it doubled every 25 years through the 20th century. It has been estimated that we are now doubling our knowledge every 12 months, and with further advancements in computer technology, and expansion of the internet, human knowledge will eventually double every 12 hours.

“Knowledge” is more readily available than ever before. Computers and technology are driving this expansion of our collective knowledge. We google everything we need to know these days. We type in what we want, and information is displayed on our screens within seconds. But is there be a danger with the ease that we access knowledge? Isn’t there a real value to doing the work, conducting the research to acquire the knowledge for ourselves? Won’t we respect the knowledge more if we earn it, as opposed to frivolously tossing around the bits and pieces of information that is just handed to us? Maybe that is why misinformation spews forth so readily on the internet. And maybe information is presented out of context because it was acquired out of context. Albert Einstein warned of this when he said, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.”

Computers are doing more and more for us every day, correcting our spelling, driving our cars, making our financial decisions, diagnosing our diseases, but there is no more vicious or vile place than the Internet? Whether it’s the scams, identity theft, cyberbullying, pornography, catfishing, cyber predators, sex trafficking, technology is fueling the worst parts of humanity. There are over 42,000 pornography sites on the internet and it has become $15 billion per year industry. There are over 500,000 predators online every day, and 89% of all sexual advances toward children occur on the internet.

All of this new knowledge and technology has also made our lives easier, and more sustainable. In 1820, over 90% of the people in the world lived in extreme poverty. That number fell to 37% by the year 1990. Today, only 9.6% of people worldwide are living in extreme poverty.

But as we have increased our knowledge, improved our standard of living, and extended our life spans, is life better, more worthwhile? Are we happier? Are we more connected with one another? We have become lonelier, more isolated, more in need of love. Over the last 20 years, suicide has increased 35%, and is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States. Over the same time span, overdose deaths have more than tripled in this country. For all that we have gained, something is clearly missing.

In 1899, Teddy Roosevelt warned against the “ignoble ease”, and spoke of the “splendid triumph” of the “strenuous life”. Has making life easier, caused us to take more for granted? Has expanding our minds crowded out our souls? We are better off financially than ever before, but are we better as a human race? Are we becoming more moral, more loving, more caring, more compassionate, more willing to sacrifice for another?

If you go by the Internet and social media, you will see that human division is at an all-time high. Social media drips with vitriol and hatred. Accusations, mostly unfounded, fly around left and right. There is very little civility or decorum anymore. It is now accepted and even praised to disparage the people who truly sacrifice for others, the military and law enforcement. We throw out empty platitudes like “support the troops” while we disrespect the flag and country they risk their lives defending. We say “honor the first responders” while defunding and vilifying them.

Have we seen what passes as art in our culture, whether it’s Netflix critically acclaimed “Cuties” or Cardi B’s award-winning song “WAP”? Is all this new knowledge and technology causing us to forget what it is to be human? By embracing our baser instincts and desires, we have become less human not more human, more connected to the animal world rather than separating and elevating us from them. Are we human beings created in the image of God, or are we simply highly intelligent animals?

And now there is a strong push for Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence has become the holy grail of scientific and technological advancement. Has technology become our God? Will this quest for artificial intelligence make computers so intelligent, so intellectually superior to us that they will eventually replace God?

With artificial intelligence does artificial morality follow? Increasingly our morality has become more virtual, than real. It has become intellectual exercise more than physical action. Our morality is displayed by a virtuous tweet, a Facebook post or a superficial gesture. It is almost as if proving to the world how virtuous we are has become a video game. Who can get the tweet out the first? Who can create the cleverest Facebook post? Morality and virtue are not a social media post, chanting a slogan or wearing a certain t-shirt. But how many are actually performing good deeds or sacrificing for each other?

Has true morality become unnecessary? Has our wealth and our ease insulated and obscured us from our immorality? Are we able to purchase our virtue like one of the many creature comforts we use to make are lives seemingly worthwhile? Technology has made virtue and morality so easy that it has cheapened it. These virtuous tweets, posts and displays have become so self-aggrandizing that it’s hard not to question their sincerity.

Is anyone real anymore? Most of who we are is filtered through electronic devices. How much of our celebrity’s virtue signaling is part of a long-range plan created by their PR firm to enhance their public image and thus increase their wealth. Like the widows offering, most of us give out of our wealth, not our poverty. And we are judged by how much we gave, not how much we sacrificed. Bill Gates giving $100 million is equivalent to a person making $50k per year giving $62.50.

With all of the new knowledge and information, with the advances of artificial intelligence, we have not yet learned that the best way to improve our lives is not to gain more knowledge or develop a new algorithm, but to eliminate hate and expand love. But it seems that the smarter we get, the meaner we become, the more hate grows in our hearts, the more pain we cause one another. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we doubled how much we loved, how much we cared, how much we sacrificed every 12 hours?

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