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World News

Hundreds attend German church service led by avatars

by Donna Birrell

It’s being reported that more than 300 people in Germany have attended a church service that was generated entirely by artificial intelligence (AI).

The chatbot ChatGPT led a service for around forty minutes with prayer, sermons and blessings.

The service at St. Paul's church in the Bavarian town of Fuerth, was created by Jonas Simmerlein, a 29 year old theologian and philosopher from the University of Vienna. He told the Associated Press that while it was his idea, 98 per cent of the service “comes from the machine. I told the artificial intelligence ‘We are at the church congress, you are a preacher … what would a church service look like?’

“You end up with a pretty solid church service.”

Four avatars – two women and two men - led the service on a screen. The avatars preached about leaving the past behind, focusing on the challenges of the present, overcoming fear of death, and never losing trust in Jesus Christ.

The AI church service was one of hundreds of events at a convention of Lutheran Protestants in Bavaria.

One of those attending the service, 54 year old Heiderose Schmidt said :“There was no heart and no soul. The avatars showed no emotions at all, had no body language and were talking so fast and monotonously that it was very hard for me to concentrate on what they said.

“But maybe it is different for the younger generation who grew up with all of this.”

At a meeting with the US President Joe Biden last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that Britain will lead a global effort to regulate AI technology.

Speaking to Sky News earlier he said :

"The pace of that tech is accelerating at a rate people didn’t think was quite possible. We don’t fully know yet what [AI is] capable of doing, [even] the creators have talked about risks on a scale unparalleled with nuclear war and pandemics, and when people hear that they’ll rightly be worried. It’s going to reshape every aspect of our lives. Whilst that will bring many opportunities and benefits, it also poses risks not just existential, but also risks of misuse of the technology."




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