Fortress Press

The Artifice of Intelligence: Divine and Human Relationship in a Robotic Age

The Artifice of Intelligence

Divine and Human Relationship in a Robotic Age

Noreen Herzfeld (Author), Ted Peters (Foreword by)


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AI is becoming ubiquitous. Whatever its arrival portends for our future, whether riches or ruin, it cannot be avoided. The Artifice of Intelligence explores two questions at the heart of a theological response to AI. Is it possible for human beings to have authentic relationships with an AI? How does the increasing presence of AI change the way humans relate to one another? In pursuing answers to these questions, Herzfeld explores what it means to be created in the image of God and to create AI in our own image. It utilizes and expands Karl Barth's relational understanding of the imago Dei to examine humanity's relationship both with AI and, through it, with one another.

Barth's injunctions--look the other in the eye (embodiment), speak to and hear the other (communication), aid the other (agency), and do it gladly (emotion)--provide the basis for the main chapters, each of which concludes with a case study of a current AI application that exemplifies the difficulties AI introduces into human relationality. The Artifice of Intelligence concludes with an examination of the incarnation, one that points toward the centrality of embodiment for full relationality.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506486901
  • eBook ISBN 9781506486918
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 208
  • Publication Date February 28, 2023


"The Artifice of Intelligence is powerful reading for everyone interested in the religious implications of AI, including those outside the Christian fold. Herzfeld offers an enjoyable and clear explanation of AI, followed by a state-of-the-art theological analysis from a Christian perspective. She challenges us to look deeply at who we are and who we want to be, and reveals the importance of these tasks in the development of technology."

Robert M. Geraci, author of Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality and Futures of Artificial Intelligence: Perspectives from India and the U.S.

"In this clearly written and comprehensive book, the author introduces her readers to the whole gamut of applications of AI and their accelerating pace of development. Her assessment of the risks and benefits of AI takes its cues from Karl Barth's relational theology, weaving in broader anthropological issues of the risks of AI as a means to gain political or economic control. Humanity is at risk of being deluded by the very machines we have created, but at the same time is offered the more hopeful possibility of partnership. A compelling read that will be of great interest to students and ministers of religion."

Celia Deane-Drummond, director, Laudato Si' Research Institute, and Senior Research Fellow in Theology, Campion Hall, University of Oxford; author of Shadow Sophia: Evolution of Wisdom, Volume II

"Noreen Herzfeld has written an important book that impels us to consider why we pursue humanoid robots and artificial intelligence. Her discussion takes us through various levels of computer development and human personhood, but most important, she draws an intimate connection between a religious understanding of the human person and AI. This is a thoughtful book that asks us to consider the sacredness of the human person in a culture addicted to technology. What are we becoming with AI? More so, who determines our future? This is a book to be read for its wealth of scholarship but also as a meditative reflection, for it asks us to pause and consider what we are as humans and what we desire for our future."

Ilia Delio, OSF, Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair in Theology, Villanova University

"Continuing to show her position as a leading scholar in the field of theology and AI, Herzfeld here provides a sharp and sober take on the technologies that are already transforming our lives. She consults a wide and impressive range of disciplines to cut across much of the hype around AI, relating Barth's and Buber's wisdom to a world infatuated with this technology. This book will be important reading for anyone reflecting on what it is for us to be human alongside machines that are, in various ways, in our image."

Scott Midson, lecturer in liberal arts, University of Manchester

"What Noreen Herzfeld has written here is not just a work of intelligence, but a work of wisdom. It considers AI specifically, and technology more generally, and their interplay with us as human beings created by God. This is a profound book that I will read more than once."

Brian Patrick Green, director of technology ethics, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University

"There are few questions as pressing to the modern world as those of artificial intelligence. What is it? How does it affect humanity? How should it affect humanity? What ethical considerations should guide our approach to AI, and what should this mean for people of faith? Noreen Herzfeld's The Artifice of Intelligence brilliantly weaves together questions of faith, ethics, technology, and intelligence in a book that should be considered essential reading for anyone wishing to take seriously the value of humanity in an increasingly digital world. This book reminds us of what it means to be human, how to be in relationship with one another, and whether such relationships can or should extend to technology. A wonderful, incisive, and necessary book for the present and future."

John P. Slattery, Director, Carl G. Grefenstette Center for Ethics in Science, Technology, and Law, Duquesne University