The rapid development of artificial intelligence has many people nervous, and for good reason. Through data input and algorithms, artificial intelligence can learn, adapt, and ultimately synthesize human thought and interaction. One Google AI engineer claimed the AI program he was working on was sentient—possessing freedom of thought and expression without input or prompting from the user.
Before I begin on why we should be concerned regarding AI, I want to assure all of us that my reservations are not because I aspire to go back to the Dark Ages or are rooted in some superstitious belief that all technology is "of the devil." On the contrary, technology in and of itself is good, and Christians, especially, should work to improve and develop technological advancements for the glory of God.
However, we must acknowledge that AI is different. AI is not the same as an MRI or CAT scan that doctors use to diagnose medical conditions, nor is it the same as the fiberoptic internet that instantly allows us to disseminate information across the globe. Instead, AI is different because, given enough time and through logical sequences, it can influence the world around it by what it can create independently and therefore replace human involvement or at least limit its need for it.
For example, AI is used as a personal assistant, managing websites, and generating social media content with minimal user involvement. AI has created art and music through learning and using algorithms, replacing the need for the artist and musician. As if that wasn't eerie enough, AI romantic relationships are on the rise, with people signing up for subscriptions to have a chatbot to talk to and interact with, with the idea that the more time you spend with it, the deeper and more intimate it will be. Think of Star Trek's Geordie LaForge falling in love with the Enterprise’s computer without the sci-fi campiness and a lot more depression and creep factor.
With the creepiness of having an AI girlfriend/boyfriend aside, AI as a personal assistant, aiding website development and marketing sounds good, right? After all, AI frees up people to do what they enjoy and allows the tedium of researching, writing, and creating the program.
However, what happens if the "program" goes off the rails and is used for evil and not good? AI has already demonstrated the power to misinform by generating convincing photographs of things that never happened. For instance, images of the former president getting arrested caused an outcry from his supporters, which were later revealed to be generated by AI. In addition, media known as "deep fakes" are pervasive on the internet and show various celebrities and political leaders speaking, which are AI produced, mimicking the actual person's facial expressions and voice modulation. No longer can we believe what we see or hear anymore, and due to the rise of AI, the difference between reality and fiction becomes all the more difficult to discern.
How should the Church respond? We should proceed with extreme caution and be wary of any program that attempts to simulate humanity to the degree of AI. Unlike some who think this new technology will be a benefit to the Church in the aid of spreading the gospel, I am hardly convinced. AI replicates human interaction and creates synthetic human expression. In other words, AI is not real, yet it has the power to affect the real world to a devastating degree. The danger that AI poses is that, in essence, it communicates that people, and their humanity are irrelevant. Art and music can be created, language and ideas can be articulated, and relationships can be had, all without the ingredient that makes all those distinct, honored, and sacred—our God-given humanity. Furthermore, AI remains unchecked and unrestrained at this time, which means there is no limit to the damage it can do, and it can happen without any repercussions.
As AI technology advances, so does the opportunity to do evil with it. That is why we must proceed through this next technological revolution cautiously and honestly acknowledge man's sinful depravity. We also must ensure that humanity is held in honor and be vigilant against any threat to undermine its sacredness. In other words, we must be people who will not settle for the artificial but continually strive for what is real. Because no matter how real AI appears to be, it is not.
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