TECHNOLOGY AND RELIGION
COLLIDE IN NEW FEATURE FILM
COLLIDE IN NEW FEATURE FILM
Does God exist?
Imagine an intelligent computer attempting to answer that question with greater insight than humans have managed through the centuries.
That’s the premise of THE GOD QUESTION, a new independent feature film that screened at nine film festivals in the summer and fall of 2014, winning awards at several, including “best feature film, faith-based” at the Burbank International Film Festival.
The film is being distributed by the Bridgestone Multimedia Group, which focuses on faith-based and family films. THE GOD QUESTION won a Dove Foundation family-approved rating for ages twelve and up.
Although science fiction, it’s a story that may one day become science fact.
The intelligence of computers is rising ever higher. Inevitably, machine IQ will surpass that of humans, and such a super-intelligent computer, capable of understanding written language and the ideas it conveys, may be able to offer superior insights in the social sciences – in history, sociology, psychology and perhaps even philosophy and religion.
Set in the near future, THE GOD QUESTION is about a pair of scientists who feed an experimental super-intelligent computer virtually everything ever written that exists in digital form, then they ask it the ultimate question: Is there evidence in it for God, for a spiritual framework to life?
To their astonishment, it arrives at an answer.
"When a computer can finally absorb and understand the ideas in written material the way humans do, it would almost certainly be able to read a digital book in a fraction of a second, countless books in a day. And it would be able to hold and juggle perhaps millions or billions of those facts, concepts and ideas in its mind simultaneously," said Stan Freeman, a former newspaper science writer, who wrote the screenplay and produced the film.
"How many ideas can a human hold and manipulate in its mind at the same time? Very few. It’s possible a super-intelligent computer would be able to see social patterns in vast amounts of written material that humans can’t see," he said.
In one sense, the film is about one man’s attempt to find out if science – in this case a super-intelligent computer – can answer his own profound spiritual questions. In another sense, it is about the future of computer technology.
Computers are relatively new in the scheme of things. The Internet only became widely available twenty years ago. Yet, computers are already interwoven into our daily lives. And as we increasingly put our trust in computers, the question becomes: “What should the limit of that trust be?”
Many of us have learned to let GPS guide us as we drive down unknown streets. THE GOD QUESTION asks the questions: “How willing are we to trust super-intelligent computers to help us navigate through other parts of life? And at what expense to our spiritual lives?”
Warnings about the potential dangers of super-intelligent machines becoming too powerful have been increasing of late. In November, Stephen Hawking, the eminent British physicist, warned that the development of intelligent machines could "spell the end of the human race." And Elon Musk, the CEO of the spaceflight company SpaceX and the electric car company Tesla Motors, recently said that advanced artificial intelligence could be "potentially more dangerous than nukes."
The film, which was shot in and around Amherst, Mass., was directed by Douglas Gordon and stars Keith Langsdale, Jim Lobley, Cate Damon and Frank Aronson.
The story begins with a major breakthrough in artificial intelligence at MIT that produces the first super-intelligent computer capable of thinking independently, as humans do. When the computer is let onto the Internet, though, it shuts down hundreds of websites it finds offensive, which leads to the government shutting it down so it can be studied and banning any use of the MIT software program.
The drama next moves to University of Massachusetts where a former MIT scientist who helped write the program now runs the university’s supercomputer. He has a secret backup copy of the MIT program and decides to ask “the God question” himself, aided by a colleague, while the FBI tries to thwart any use of the MIT software.
How far away is the so-called singularity, as techies refer to the moment when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence and an era will be launched in which super-intelligent computers may be able to make stunning advances in science and medicine but may also pose unanticipated dangers?
Estimates vary. But many leading futurists believe it will begin in the period from 2030 to 2080. Ray Kurzweil, perhaps the foremost futurist and the author of "The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology," believes the software and hardware to recreate human thought will be available by the end of the 2020’s, and that the singularity will arrive around 2045.
Some believe those events can occur even earlier. Ben Goertzel, another futurist and the author of "Artificial General Intelligence," believes human-level artificial intelligence could be a reality in ten years or less if the kind of attention and money that were dedicated to mapping the human genome were directed to this task.
(For more information on the film, contact Mill River Films at the following email: thegodquestion at comcast dot net)