Digital Arts and Humanities - Masters by Research Theses

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    Artificial intelligence as religion: an evolutionary account and philosophical study
    (University College Cork, 2020-10-01) Darby, Max Hollis; Murphy, Orla; Walmsley, Joel
    Religions and religious behaviours have been documented in biological and evolutionary terms. This research considers how religions emerged as distributed, de-centralised biological extensions and evolved into centralised cultural organisations. This provides a model of the evolutionary mechanisms that contributed to the origin, development, and proliferation of religions. It establishes that religions encouraged, curated, and leveraged a specific mentality that has not disappeared despite humanity’s move toward secularism. This research interrogates whether the religiously primed mind will attempt to fill a cognitive void with artificial intelligence (AI) systems in a post-religious society. This comparison provides an evolutionary account for how AI systems will use existing religious mechanisms and behavioural tendencies to develop and proliferate from de- centralised extensions of cognition to centralised cultural systems. This research finds that the scenario described above has significant implications with regard to human individuality, moral responsibility, and individual freedom. The thesis will conclude with a proposal for the necessary requirements for retaining these three features in a future where significant amounts of cognitive processes are outsourced to AI systems.