ENGULFING PRESENCE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTIONS – 46th Annual Research Seminar of Association of Christian Philosophers of India (ACPI)

November 3, 2023

Aluva, Kerala: The 46th Annual Research Seminar of ACPI was held at Jnana Niketan, Little Flower Seminary, Aluva, Kerala, from October 20th to October 23rd, 2023, on the theme, “Engulfing Presence of Artificial Intelligence: Philosophical Reflection of its Challenges and Opportunities.” The seminar was well organised by the host institution, the Rector, Fr Tomy Alumkalkarott, CST, the Local Secretary, Dr Augustine Pamplany, CST, staff, and students. There were about ninety participants at the seminar, ranging from Professors and research scholars to Master’s and Bachelor’s level students from various institutes of philosophy across India.

The 22nd Annual Series of ACPI, Emancipative Education: Policies and Practices, edited by Dr Raju Felix Crasta, was released by the Chief Guest, Bishop Joseph Kariyil, Bishop of Cochin. Another book, the 5th Special Series of ACPI, Thinking the Human and the Pandemic, edited by Dr Jojo Joseph, was released by Bishop Thomas Padiyath, Auxillary Bishop of Shamshabad.

In his inaugural address, Bishop Dr Joseph Kariyil stressed the need for careful examination and adoption of new technological developments with Artificial Intelligence. Enhancing the lives of people is the priority of all scientific and technological growth. The Keynote Address given by Prof. Dr. Santhosh Kumar, from Cochin University of Science and Technology, was enlightening in understanding the rapid growth of AI technologies. There were 21 papers on AI and eleven student responses to some papers.

Key insights and salient points emerged from the discussions and deliberations:

  1. We have become increasingly aware of the exponential growth and development of technologies using artificial intelligence (AI) in every possible domain of human existence. The engulfing presence of AI is even equated to revolutionary events like the Big Bang and the Origin of Life. However, the unsettling connections between AI and human existence raise several profound questions about our existence, human identity and dignity, the making and implementing of policies, safeguarding privacy, and asserting autonomy. Contemporary technologies obviously enhance not only our comforts and communication abilities but also shape our attitudes towards one another, nature, and God.
  2. AI’s evolution intersects science, philosophy, anthropology, ethics, and theology, prompting multi-disciplinary debates, including discourses on bioconservatism and transhumanism. This convergence offers an opportunity to have different perspectives where one can see AI as the realisation of our potentialities, enabling us to have a positive outlook on the interfacing of AI and humanity.
  3. It appears to be a legitimate fear that not only machines would enslave human beings but also that the huge data collected in and through AI may be used to manipulate to suit the interests of the societal elites, to the alarming disadvantage of the poor and the socially oppressed citizens. AI-powered surveillance capitalism puts the privacy and autonomy of individuals at greater risk.
  4. Though AI deals with unimaginably huge amounts and varieties of data and processes it with enormous speed, human judgement has to be involved not only in creating the algorithms for AI technology but also in interpreting and applying the outcomes of such technologies.
  5. Along with the considerations of consciousness issues, ethical dilemmas, societal responsibility, and our commitment towards nature and future generations, we need to pay attention to the linguistic difficulties with regard to the languages used by and for AI, as the philosophical analysis of languages makes it clear that languages always involve crucial ambiguities, not only in ordinary languages but also in mathematical and scientific languages. Similarly, AI languages might also lead to serious misunderstandings and communication gaps.
  6. AI is certainly capable of improving and enhancing the functional capabilities of human beings. However, it is a serious question whether it can replace human agencies with all their emotional, interpersonal, cultural, and spiritual aspects.
  7. While it is obvious that AI manifests a certain level of consciousness and the neural networking systems mimic the neural activities of the human brain, both machine consciousness (intelligence) and human consciousness (intelligence) are categorically different, with nuances. It is highlighted that Indian philosophical insights can enhance the understanding of the themes related to AI, namely, human nature, creativity, rationality, corporeality, consciousness, intelligence, intuition, aesthetics, morality, mind, and cognition.
  8. The contributions of Indians to AI, space, and bio-technologies at large are amazingly appreciable. However, the benefits of these technologies and the scientific temperament have unfortunately not reached the last person on the periphery of our societal strata.
  9. The rise of AI challenges our understanding of human labour and its value. AI has the potential to replace many forms of human labour, but it also creates new opportunities for creative and meaningful labour. We need to find ways to ensure that AI is used to enhance human dignity and welfare rather than to replace or devalue human labour.

Statement of the ACPI Annual Research Seminar:

We, the members of ACPI, sincerely commit ourselves to:

  1. Evolve an educational curriculum to create awareness of the serious need for updating ethical principles as technologies evolve, ensuring that human dignity and identity are not compromised at any cost.
  2. Use AI tools and technologies, starting from mobile phones to magnificent quantum computers, keeping in mind ethical implications, societal commitments, and safeguarding the rights of the marginalised in society.
  3. Keep away the AI technologies from interfering with the social fabric of nations, distorting democratic practices, and legitimising the discriminations that polarise citizens on different accounts.
  4. Revisit the understanding of traditional concepts such as free will, consciousness, and transcendence in the context of new developments in AI-related technologies and reaffirm the uniqueness of humanity.
  5. Be ready to avail of the healthy contributions of AI technology to human enhancement, provided they do not tamper with or meddle with the fundamental identity and dignity of human beings.
  6. Take advantage of the maximum benefits of AI technologies to uplift every section of humanity by reducing all inhuman discrimination prevailing in society and preserving the intrinsic value of nature.

From all these deliberations, we are convinced of the necessity that all those who are directly or indirectly involved in AI technologies need to be aware of the responsibility to ‘humanize robots’ (to the extent possible) rather than ‘robotizing humans’, acknowledging the potential dangers and irreversible consequences for humanity and Nature.