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What Artificial Intelligence Is Not by Rev. Dr. Russ Lackey

Recently, the world was introduced to artificial intelligence (AI) Chatbots. As the campus pastor at a church-related university and an instructor in the theology department, I decided to introduce my class to the technology. The assignment was to write a compare and contrast essay on the death of Jesus and Socrates answering the question: Who had the better death? Upon entering the writing prompt, the Chatbot began writing the paper. The students were amazing with the realization they might never have to write another paper again.

After the 90 seconds it took for the program to write the essay, we as a class examined it. I asked the students what was missing from the essay. One student noted that it was missing citations. Another student pointed out that the Chatbot was unwilling to take a side on whose death was better. A third student commented that I provided more reasons for Socrates’ guilty verdict than the Chatbot offered. This made the student ask: “Who is right, the instructor or the computer?” I reminded him that I was still the one grading the paper. Finally, after mentioning other insights, a senior raised her hand and said, “It’s missing me. The essay is missing my voice.” Bingo! She saw through the problem. The essay did not sound or argue like her because it was not her.

Maybe it is good that AI does not include us. In Genesis 1, God calls humanity to be fruitful and multiply and fill the entire earth. Instead of obeying God, we learn in Genesis 11 that humanity does not want to scatter across the earth. Their solution is to build such a tall tower that they will reach the heavens, make a name for themselves, and thus have no need to listen to God. The irony is that their great tower was so insignificant that God had to come down simply to see what they were building. Once there, God confused their language so that they would have to scatter across the earth.

Why did God do this? The late Rabbi Johnathan Sacks suggests, “When humans attempt to become more than human, they quickly become less than human.” History is filled with groups gathering together in the name of some ideology that leads to ruin: the slave trade, Nazi Germany, the killing fields in Southeast Asia, and much more. So maybe a technology, that is not human, could benefit others because it is not tainted by us.

If we are honest, AI has our fingerprints all over it. AI is basically a lot of math that runs algorithms to come up with solutions to questions. There are many beautiful potentials with this tool. We can better understand weather, transportation, disease, etc. Human lives will be saved because of AI. But there are a lot of potential problems with this tool because of what humans tend to do, namely: build towers that take life instead of promote life. The key is what we do with this tool. If we use it for good, it will be a good tool. If we use it for bad, it will be a bad tool.

The good news for us is that no matter how we use AI, God remains on the throne. Just as God had to dismantle a tower, God is not finished dismantling the sin. Let us remember Joseph’s words to his brothers: “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today” (Gen 50:20).

When we gather together in Christ, we need look no further than the cross to be reminded of this truth. AI is many things, but it is not God. For that we should give thanks.

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