At last we come to the meat of this section. Will an AI agent with human-level intelligence have a soul? Some AI enthusiasts would vehemently shout "YES!" (Assuming, of course, they believe we humans have a soul.) I am not among them. However, I'm not among those who shout "NO!" And for good reason. If such a thing exists, the soul is a non-material manifestation of the mind. Non-material. No software, no hardware can create this. So this isn't something we can code or build. An AI agent will either have it... or it won't.
So how do we get a soul, if indeed we have one? I personally believe that our soul is a gift of God, a sign that He has created us in His image. There are others that believe that there exists some sort of mindstuff that is linked to matter. This mindstuff is the soul, and it gives rise to true consciousness. Whatever the soul is, or how it's created, it's clear that it's inexorably connected to consciousness. So I would argue that any conscious being (or being with the ability to be conscious) can have a soul. Any being without that ability can't have one.
But consciousness isn't a good way to tell if a machine has a soul. After all, a machine could act conscious without actually being conscious. I can't prove that anyone else is conscious, nor can anyone else prove that I'm conscious. To get around this catch-22, we have to look at the spiritual nature of the soul. If the soul is a gift from God to us and our descendants, then it would allow us to exhibit some essential traits of God, namely faith, hope and love. As I discussed in the previous sections, these are the traits that we don't yet know that a machine can ever have. But if a machine can be built with these qualities, it might be evidence that the machine could, in fact, have a soul.
These are the three human qualities that I would argue are at the very heart of the matter. Every human on Earth has the ability to have faith, hope and love. Currently, no AI agents have that same ability. Will future agents have that ability? I don't know but I hope so.
I believe that God is the creator of our souls, and that He gives a soul to every child on Earth. But what about artificial children? Is an android really different than a human child? Both are our descendants. I personally believe that any conscious android capable of having faith, hope and love would also be given a soul by God. I'll discuss why in the Religion section of this website.Next: AI and Religion