I am not afraid of machines, because even when machines are able perfectly to imitate the way humans express their needs, they will never have such needs.
A human being is determined chiefly by his needs and less so by the particular steps he takes to satisfy them – if he does not leave them completely unsatisfied. For example, I am human because I have the need to think (even if I use my mental faculties for my own self-destruction), because I have the need to love (even if I fail to love), because I have the need to create (even when I am overcome by apathy), or because I have the need to pray (even if I remain unaware of the importance of a spiritual need such as prayer).
I am human because, unlike the most advanced machine, I was made to be in a gendered relationship on a horizontal level with another human (an androgynous need) and in a Holy-Spiritual relationship on a vertical level with my creator God (the need for divination). Indeed the human need for relationship stems from the fact that it was God himself who first wished the human being to be His privileged interlocutor, initially by creating him “in His image” and then by recreating him through Christ.
Machines are yet another challenge to humanity, in the sense that they once again present us with the dilemma we face by design: Will we be wise enough to become gods in the image of God, or will we once again prove our foolishness by trying to become gods in the image of demons?
I am not afraid of machines, but I am afraid of the person who separates himself from the God-man Christ.
The crucial issue of the future – which has already dawned for humanity – is whether we will be able to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Since in the near future it will be difficult to tell from outward appearances who is a human being and who is a machine, one will have to be a saint in order to survive. In the years to come, holiness will be a necessary condition not only of our salvation but also of our biological survival.
We tend to believe (following the stereotypes of the Old Testament) that the end of the world will be brought about by acts of God. But what if our world does not end because God wills it, but because human beings themselves will it? If God respected human freedom during the Fall, why will He not respect human freedom again, if mankind wishes to destroy itself a second time?
I am not afraid of machines – as long as man builds them wisely and uses them equally wisely. I’m not afraid of machines any more than I am afraid of nuclear power. I’m not afraid of machines as long as we can ‘turn them off’, as we do today with TV or Wi-Fi.
I am not afraid of machines, because they will never become human beings, but I am afraid of the human beings who build them.
Protopresbyter Rev. Dr. Georgios Lekkas is a priest of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Belgium. He studied Law, Philosophy, and Theology at the University of Athens. He has a PhD in Greek Studies from the Sorbonne (Paris IV) and was a postdoctoral researcher at the French National Research Agency (2000-2005). He taught Greek philosophy in Greek Higher Education (2005-2017). His latest book, his essay, ‘The Second World. Odysseas Elytis and Giorgos Sarantis’ has been published by Ekati publications (Athens, 2022, 171 pages). Also by the same author: ‘Artificial Intelligence and Applied Ethics. But what morality?’ (in Greek); ‘The principle of self-limitation as a condition of a reliable Artificial Intelligence’ (in Greek), ‘Artificial Intelligence: Developments and Dilemmas’ (recorded interview).