Artificial versus real intelligence

A Christian Science perspective.

I remember once sitting in front of a computer as a systems engineer, trying to find a bug in a software program. It had tens of thousands of lines of code, and I’d looked in every part of the code where I thought there might be a problem but found nothing. My delivery deadline was approaching, and I really had no idea where to turn next.

When I find myself in a situation like that, whether it’s about software or something else, I often turn to these Bible verses: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

So I acknowledged God as the true source of all intelligence – as the divine Mind who knows all. I acknowledged God as my Mind, and myself as God’s child, as the direct, uninterrupted expression of that infinite Mind with unlimited capacity to know and do what is necessary to bring clarity and order to any situation.

The Bible also says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). That’s what I was striving to do: to rely on Christ – divine Mind’s impartation of itself to humanity – to inform my actions, as Jesus did.

Suddenly, the name of a particular computer file came to thought. I’d already looked in this file without success, but I reopened it. Again I saw no problem, but something in the file made me think of another file that seemed to have nothing to do with the problem. Because I was now leaning on divine direction instead of “my own understanding,” I concluded it would be wise to follow this leading of divine Mind. I opened the second file and saw very quickly the offending code: a semicolon was missing in one line. I inserted it, and a test confirmed that the problem was fixed.

That’s what I call relying on real intelligence. The field of “artificial intelligence” seeks to simulate human intelligence through computer technology. Much of what I’ve read about artificial intelligence bases its conclusions on the premise that man is a biological machine and that human consciousness is a glorified computer.

Experiences like the one I just shared illustrate to me a less limiting premise: that true intelligence is based in Spirit, or God, and that human consciousness imbued with the Christ-spirit is free to act from the basis of infinitude. As Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “The human mind, imbued with this spiritual understanding, becomes more elastic, is capable of greater endurance, escapes somewhat from itself, and requires less repose” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 128). Spirit has no biological or physical component and, therefore, no physical limitation. Neither does Spirit’s offspring.

Whenever I hear about advances in artificial intelligence, I am deeply interested in the ideas that have led to these technological breakthroughs. And I have taken advantage of some of those breakthroughs myself. At the same time, I reflect on the many awe-inspiring insights I’ve had turning repeatedly to Spirit as the source of true intelligence, and I realize anew the infinitude and omnipotence of divine Mind, encompassing all. Anything less is indeed artificial.

For a Danish translation of this article, see The Herald of Christian Science.

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