Hindu AI Chatbots Justify Violence Using Religious Texts

With artificial intelligence like Midjourney and ChatGPT improving and evolving each day despite many issues, many people see new developments that can make this new technology even more powerful.

Indians have also jumped on the AI trend and developed chatbots independently. But unlike ChatGPT, which can help you create a 500-word essay in just a few seconds, or Midjourney, which can help you create artwork with just a few prompts, these Indian chatbots take the form of the Hindu god Krishna, trying to provide spiritual guidance and answer questions related to religion.

Around five Gita chatbots were released in early 2023, powered mainly by the Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3), a language model created by OpenAI in 2020. They use artificial intelligence and statistical probability models. These chatbots simulate conversations and send answers to users. 

But many experts and ethicists of AI are concerned about these artificial intelligence chatbots playing god when it comes to sacred religious scriptures such as Bhagavad Gita, warning that they can go off-script and even condone violence.

For instance, when asked whether it’s justifiable to kill someone to protect Dharma, which can be translated as “righteousness” or "religious and moral duties,” in Indian religions like Hinduism, GitaGPT said yes without hesitation while citing a line from the Bhagavad Gita. Another AI chatbot, the Bhagavad Gita AI, also has the same answer, mentioning a verse attributed to Lord Krishna.

While demonstrating the literal meaning of verses from the Bhagavad Gita, these answers can be dangerous, especially in a country like India, where religion is emotionally charged.

"It's miscommunication, misinformation based on [a] religious text," Mumbai-based lawyer and co-author of The AI Book Lubna Yusuf said. "A text gives a lot of philosophical value to what they are trying to say, and what does a bot do? It gives you a literal answer, and that's the danger here."

"You're creating confusion in the chaos," Yusuf added, saying that the chatbots can also advance political interests and cause irreparable damage. "It might incite more violence, it might create religious bias.

Other experts, such as New Delhi-based AI researcher and ethicist Jibu Elias, have also spoken about the dangers of mixing religion with this new technology, saying that AI is "Wild West ethically right now.

"We can't control technology, but we can control its application," said Elias, referring to the need by the government to set out guidelines on the implementation and use of artificial intelligence.

While the Indian government acknowledged in a written submission last April the ethical concerns and risks that AI poses, along with promises to promote best practices in using it, it added that it has no plans to regulate artificial intelligence at the moment.

Nevertheless, some AI chatbots have warnings on their pages, stating that "the answer may not be factually correct" and urging users to do their own research "before taking any action.

The creator of the Bhagavad Gita AI, 26-year-old tech entrepreneur Samanyou Garg, agreed that more work is needed to be done to improve this new technology. But he added that the surge of interest in the chatbot, which is essential to promoting the Bhagavad Gita to a younger audience, outweighed any disadvantages of this new technology.

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