artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Technology and Islamic Ethics – Essay Entry 5

AI Artificial Intelligence

Syed Ali K submitted this as part of the second essay competition.


t was just a matter of time before the concept of the world being at our fingertips was actualized and a reality. Indeed, this very concept continues to evolve with the introduction of smartphones and now artificial intelligence (AI).  However, the advent of such man-made technology, even though beneficial, can certainly come with a cost for the human race, especially for the less fortunate and minority populations.

It remains important to remember that AI is only man-made and built to follow commands within its domain.  It is to be seen whether this technology can advance on its own to think critically and to be capable of making independent, rational and ethical decisions. It is key to understand that the creator of such technology is at the very end one of the many gifted creations of the supreme being.

For humans to wisely and safely use AI in our lives, and certainly this applies to the upcoming youth and children who live in a world that is very different from the one we were brought up in, we need to fall back to the foundations and fundamentals of Islam.  Human beings are unique in that they can make decisions and formulate their path independently.  They can reason and think.  This is certainly influenced by a myriad of factors including one’s upbringing, family dynamics, the environment and other key factors.  Belief in the unseen remains crucial and it guides us to make sane and wise decisions when faced with our daily challenges.  Knowing that we are being watched and have to be accountable for our actions allows us, for the most part, to make the correct decisions. How does this apply to AI? Is there accountability to decisions made by AI and how do we gauge such actions on a moral scale? This remains unclear and needs further discussion and understanding.

Islam puts a great deal of value on human privacy and dignity and the right to defend it.  This implies that the use of AI should also value and protect the above. Infringing on any other human’s privacy or dignity or using this for illegal matters contradicts the principles of Islam. Currently, the ability for AI to imitate and copy voices, images, and faces can certainly be used for ill and wicked reasons as recently demonstrated causing fear and panic among populations.

Honesty and accountability to each other and oneself remain key to the religion.  The use of AI can certainly tarnish the above key principles.  Plagiarism of scientific or other work can and has caused turmoil in today’s world.  The value of hard work cannot be underestimated for various reasons, but mainly because it helps build character and makes us appreciate the value of what we have.  More so, because The Almighty loves his creation who works hard to make ends meet.  The use of AI can jeopardize this concept allowing humans to degrade and de-value the concept of hard work, diligence and effort.

AI uses a world of immense data to generate what it is asked to do.  Fairness and justice remains a cornerstone to Islamic ethics.  One questions the availability of this data and its use in a just and fair manner for the benefit of the greater population.  How can we better improve the quality of life for everyone?  It remains crucial to develop international policies and codes of ethics that ensure the appropriate use of AI for the benefit of all and not just a few, especially those in low-middle income countries and minorities underrepresented populations.  Furthermore, there have been some cases of AI used for social reform and such AI programs were shown to be biased against certain people especially black Americans.  AI programs used to shortlist candidates for recruitment at Amazon were also flawed and favoured male to female applicants.  How do we as a society founded on the principle of fairness and justice mitigate this and who ensures fairness, equity and justice in a world of AI?

One of the greatest fears is the future ability of AIs to take over mundane tasks that many humans rely on for their daily bread and to feed their families.  This mostly pertains to lower-middle income countries.  How do we, as a religion, cater to the financial and social needs of the people potentially ousted by AI? Furthermore, are AIs capable of showing empathy and emotion?  Many of the jobs and tasks we engage in are influenced by emotion.  One’s relationship with a doctor, for example, is centred around empathy and the ability to emotionally relate to medical issues.  Caring for others without secondary gain is strongly encouraged by all religions especially Islam.  Is this something we can realistically expect from AIs?  AIs can answer questions and queries but lack the experience that humans have and that is often needed to make rational decisions.   Can we truly expect AIs to cater to ethical, moral and religious queries?

Homes are a blessing from God.  However, little is known about the carbon footprint that AIs can have on the environment and our homes as well.  It is estimated that training of large language models can emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide as well as usage of large amounts of energy each year.  Imagine what impact this will have on the greater world mostly the low-middle-income countries that will probably not be able to support such energy needs and will likely suffer the consequences of massive carbon dioxide emissions.  We are already witnessing a change in the global climate that is likely to be worsened by technologies such as AIs.

There are multiple areas of AI implementation in our lives that remain unanswered.  We need to better understand, develop and equip ourselves, both religiously and socially, so that this technology helps us make the world a better place and not one where segregation, animosity and divide is widened.

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