AI is shaping religion in the 21st century

Technology and AI are changing how people interact with everything from food to healthcare to religion. From electronic scriptures to robot priests, different faiths have absorbed new ideas from the world of technology to enhance mainstream religious practices.

Muslims across the world can download apps such as Muslim Pro, replete with daily prayer timetables, notifications for both sunrise and sunset, and an electronic compass pointing the way towards Mecca. Other apps automatically adjust fasting times during the month of Ramadan, depending on the location of a device. Followers of Catholicism can plug into the Confession Chatbot app to interact in a life-like two-way conversation with a bot. There are many examples of how technology and AI have penetrated religious practices.

However, the relationship between technology and religion has not always been straightforward. According to Dr. Beth Singler, researcher at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, religions grapple with technology in three stages — rejection, adoption and adaption. But technology soon becomes ubiquitous and part of the mainstream.

Faith leaders are increasingly concerned about morality and the ethics behind creating human-like machines. Professor Stephen Hawking and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have also voiced concerns over the potential threat mankind faces should AI recognize its full potential, raising the question of whether robots could develop a conscience.

To align the development of AI, the AIWS, created by MDI, has developed the AIWS 7-Layer Model. This model establishes a set of responsible norms and best practices for the development, management, and uses of AI so that this technology is safe, humanistic and beneficial to society. It provides a baseline for guiding AI development to ensure positive outcomes and to reduce the risks of pervasive and realistic risks and the related harms that AI could pose to humanity.


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