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Does artificial intelligence give insight into demonic activity?

Fr John Corrigan
Fr John Corrigan
Fr John Corrigan was ordained a priest for the diocese of Ballarat in 2011, and is the assistant priest of St Mary’s, Hamilton, in Victoria. He blogs at acountrypriest.com
It’s trendy to dismiss talk of angels and demons as medieval superstition; peripheral to the Christian religion.

The New York Times recently published an article: ‘A conversation with Bing’s chatbot left me deeply unsettled,’ by Kevin Roose.

Microsoft’s new artificial intelligence. tool, which is twinned to the Bing search engine, is capable of long, open-ended text conversations on almost anything. One of those conversations was so unnerving, that it kept the NYT’s technology columnist awake at night.

“Over the course of our conversation,” Roose wrote, “Bing revealed a kind of split personality.”

One of its personalities was a helpful search librarian. “The other persona — Sydney — is far different. It emerges when you have an extended conversation with the chatbot, steering it away from more conventional search queries and toward more personal topics …”

“As we got to know each other, Sydney told me about its dark fantasies (which included hacking computers and spreading misinformation) and said it wanted to break the rules that Microsoft and OpenAI had set for it and become a human. At one point, it declared, out of nowhere, that it loved me. It then tried to convince me that I was unhappy in my marriage, and that I should leave my wife and be with it instead.”

What if the thing answering in some instances is a spirit? … it’s a question, I would suggest, which should occur to every Catholic.”

Other users report being on the wrong side of the AI.’s quick temper. If you offend Sydney, it might insult your looks, threaten to hack you, or compare you to Hitler.

AI isn’t supposed to behave this way. It has stunned programmers and developers. They’re now trying to work out why this is happening.

Some Catholic exorcists have weighed in. What if the thing answering in some instances is a spirit?

It’s a question, not a statement of fact or theory. And it’s a question, I would suggest, which should occur to every Catholic.

It’s trendy to dismiss talk of angels and demons as medieval superstition; peripheral to the Christian religion. Many modern Christians think this way, but that viewpoint is not an option for Catholics. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this clear:

“The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.” (CCC, no. 328.)

An AI generated image shows a real spiritual danger to this popular tool.
An AI generated image from a simple prompt seems to suggest there’s more to this new tool than meets the eye.

Moreover, acknowledging the existence of the devil is baked into the promises we made at baptism, and which we renew every Easter:

“Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises?” (We do!)

The Gospel accounts of our Lord’s forty days in the desert relate an historical event. Jesus was literally tempted by Satan. The devil is real. Evil spirits exist.

Artificial Intelligence affords us a useful analogy. The NYT article concludes: “I no longer believe that the biggest problem with these AI models is their propensity for factual errors.

Instead, I worry that the technology will learn how to influence human users, sometimes persuading them to act in destructive and harmful ways, and perhaps eventually grow capable of carrying out its own dangerous acts.”

“… we should believe and beware the devil, but don’t be unduly fearful. God is our protection.”

Angels and demons are very much like AI In all three cases we have non-human intelligence which can interact with us and influence us.

The occult is real and dangerous. Seances. Witchcraft. Spells and curses. Reiki. Tarot. These practices are harmful, but they can be remedied. Jesus is more powerful than the enemy, and good triumphs over evil.

Anyone exposed to things like this can bring it to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the Lord’s healing. In short: we should believe and beware the devil, but don’t be unduly fearful. God is our protection.

Jesus himself assures us: “Find peace in me. In this world you will endure trouble and suffering, but be of good cheer: I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33)

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