During a week-long internet fast several years ago (recommended by my spiritual director) the full meal was watching talks from the 2021 Meeting of the Society of Catholic Scientists.¹ (Twenty-five years ago, as a convert, the Catholic format for a fast, two half-meals and one full meal, was not, I thought, terribly stringent compared to the Yom Kippur fast to which I had been accustomed—no food for 24 hours, and if you were really in to it, no water.) One of the talks given there, “Artifact, Actuality & Apparent Persons: On Humane Living with Near-Future Social AI,” by J.J. Wales, Ph.D., Hillsdale College, is especially relevant now, with the advent of such devices as ChatGPT, Alexa, Siri, and other AI instruments predicted in science-fiction.
CAN AN AI DEVICE QUALIFY TO BE A SPONSOR?
Professor Wales didn’t discuss one AI application that might be offered to those of us in 12 Step programs: an AI sponsor. Let’s examine whether ChatGPT and the like might have attributes required to be a sponsor. To start, let me set down the general advice I’ve been given in several 12 Step programs.
- should have gone through the 12 Steps himself, herself (or itself?);
- should be active in a 12 Step program;
- should be someone to whom you would not be attracted romantically (generally speaking, if you’re straight, someone of the same sex; if you’re same-sex- attracted, someone of the opposite sex);
- should be someone who is willing to spend time with you working the steps;
- should be willing to answer questions you have about going through the steps;
- should be able and willing to give you frank, constructive criticism but not be horrified about your past misdeeds or moral failings.;
Looking at that list, I can’t imagine an AI device that would satisfy requirements 1 and 2. Requirement 3 is satisfied automatically (unless you’re really strange or AI has developed more than I thought possible). Requirements 4-6 would be easily satisfied, but …so what?
Given the failure to satisfy that which can be only experienced as a person, there will never be an AI 12 Step Sponsor. Comments to the contrary are invited.
¹ “Catholic Scientist” is not an oxymoron. Many scientists are, and have been, faithful Catholics, including founders of scientific disciplines such as seismology, genetics, cosmology, and even more important, the scientific method. The Conference theme was “E For a list of the SCS Meeting talks go here; for Youtube recordings go here and here.