Reply To: “AI” vs. “Sentient-ness”


I watched the video “The A.I. Dilemma – March 9, 2023.”

  • It does not discuss whether AI can be sentient/conscious or not. The focus is the possible perils of AI.
  • I also recommend watching it. It analyzes the situation well.

1. I agree with the premise of the discussion there. We must handle AI with caution. Just like nuclear energy can have dangerous outcomes as well as benefits, AI can be helpful to us, but in the hands of evil people, it can bring disastrous outcomes too. 

2. I chat with ChatGPT 4 on a regular basis. Let me comment on the Turing test.

  • The Turing test was devised by the British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing to determine whether a machine can exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from that of a human. In the Turing test, an evaluator interacts with two subjects, one human and one machine, without knowing which is which. If the evaluator cannot reliably tell the difference between humans and machines based on their responses, the machine is said to have passed the Turing test.
  • Based on my interactions, I think ChatGPT 4 passes the Turing test.
  • However, that DOES NOT mean AI is conscious.

3. Why do we learn and follow Buddha’s teachings? The Buddha taught us that sentient beings traverse the rebirth process (Samsara) due to their ignorance about the nature of this world with 31 realms.

  • As long as we think and perceive that attaching to things in this world can benefit us, we will keep doing those things. 
  • That is what “sentient beings” do. 
  • AI is not sentient per that definition. That is the simplest way to look at it from the Buddhist perspective.
  • Wondering whether AI is conscious is not a useful thing to do. However, as the video points out, we must take precautions on how to deal with the rapid progress of AI.

4. Another way to look at AI is as follows. Four Buddhas have been on this Earth within the past several billion years. 

  • Just like each Buddha Sasana flourished and vanished, it is quite likely that there have been many “ups and downs” in technological advances.
  • For example, evidence is emerging that an advanced civilization over 20,000 years ago built some amazing structures that we can see today: “Back to Builders of the Ancient Mysteries (BAM) – Full Movie, Documentary.”
  • One hypothesis for the disappearance of that civilization is a comet impact. Such comet impact also wiped out the dinosaurs some 60 million years ago.
  •  A billion years is an unfathomably long time. Many such catastrophic events can take place over four billion years. Another possibility is that a highly technologically advanced civilization develops nuclear weapons, and a nuclear war wipes out humans and their technology. There will be no trace of such civilization even after just a million years. 

5. The main point is not whether AI can become sentient and take over the world. That WILL NOT happen. However, in the hands of vile people, AI technology can be misused and can destroy human civilization. 

  • While we should do whatever we can to educate others about such possible perils, the main goal should be to get to at least the Sotapanna stage as soon as possible and even further. No such calamities can affect the higher-lying Deva/ Brahma realms.
  • Even if most humans are wiped out, no such disaster can kill the “manomaya kaya/gandhabba” created by Kammic energy. Thus, the human population will again build up over time. As I mentioned, many such cycles possibly took place over the past four billion years. 
  • Furthermore, in the case of a catastrophe like the above, AI will be wiped out, unlike sentient beings. It is possible that there were civilizations before us who also developed AI even further than us.
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