I was trying to recover after a long day. I should have known better than to camp on the news channels in my attempt to decompress. Every outlet was covering the historic Senate hearings related to artificial intelligence and its proliferation via tech like ChatGPT and Watson.
Instead of relaxing, I found myself tensing and growing fearful. So much of what was being reported was laced with doomsday, worst-case what-ifs, and other shocking potential repercussions of the rapid development of these new capabilities. After fifteen minutes of channel surfing (only to discover the same on every platform), I shut off the TV for better reading, prayer, and reflection.
Every indication is that such intelligent technology is not going to fade any time soon. Just think about smartphones, space travel, and social media. Like these, AI is here to stay. I’ve found myself asking, “What do we make of this?” Amidst my own reflecting, I am led toward several must-do, guiding concepts.
We must deeply ponder to discover ethical anchors.
I found it fascinating how many of the news media commentators were expressing desperation over the dark implications inherent within AI. Potential abounds for all manner of misinformation, proliferation of deep fakes, political interference, academic plagiarism, identity distortion, terror and war, as well as triggering of pandemic-level disease.
It all sounds scary, for sure. But when I climb a few rungs higher in perspective, I realize how similar fears have been readily linked to almost every human advancement. Institutions of higher learning, the printing press, modern medicine, high-speed transportation, the world wide web, and yes, even organized religion. All of these and more, when advancing in the hands of humans, are ripe grounds for hubris, distortion, and horrible malpractice. With all human progress, we are only a few bad conversations and twisted choices away from the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11).
Here is where ethical anchors become vital. But what are genuinely reliable anchors? Both the news commentators and those participating in recent Senate hearings expressed their uneasy sentiments and wandering wonderment over how to arrive at such guidance. Government regulation has limitations. Across the newsmakers’ voices, we can hear humans asking once again, “How do we really determine what’s right and what’s wrong?”
Right here is where social influencers and business leaders have the ripe opportunity to make bright choices based on a biblical worldview. Regarding such ethical dilemmas, Dustin Morley winsomely delves here:
Interestingly, key components of a Christian worldview perfectly prepare one to wrestle through many of these. Most technologies—not just AI—have the ability to be used for good or evil purposes. AI essentially takes this phenomenon to the maximum extent possible . . . Christians have a strong philosophical framework available for wrestling through this dilemma in the notion that humans are created in the image of God, but corrupted by sin. The former provides great creativity along with an inclination towards doing good, while sin drives humans toward selfish behavior. Technology can amplify either aspect toward extremes . . .
With biblical worldview, we have the opportunity to find better guidance, solid moorings for the AI phenomenon.
We must courageously recognize AI’s potential for good.
I sense an even bigger danger related to the AI landscape. Good people in business, churches, and social service might bury their heads in the sand, quake in fear, or just drag heels. What a shame if we arrive late to the game of harnessing AI’s potential.
What if instead we dare to view AI as another wonderful advancement flowing from the image of God in humans? After all, words and thoughtful proliferation of words were the Creator’s original ideas. (Note the recurring phrase in Genesis 1: “And God said . . .”) Some people will readily say, “Oh, but we are not God. We are fallen humans.” That’s true; however, we must recall there’s more to the story. For those in Christ Jesus, we are redeemed humans capable of amazingly good works when led by the Spirit, guided by the Word (Eph. 2:8-10).
Perhaps we should recall that even those arrogant events at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11) were turned for good by God. The scattering of people helped advance his redemptive story. In fact, opening scenes in Acts 1-2 reveal a stunning, Babel-like account. Awakened faith, baptism, and the move of the Spirit lead to an explosion of language and spread of the Gospel. Such lingual advancement as people departed Jerusalem was harnessed for Christ-honoring advancement of Jesus’ kingdom.
What if we see AI as holding potential for massively life-saving progress in medicine?
What if we view AI as holding marvelous potential for even greater academic discovery?
What if we leverage AI to help advance peaceful negotiations on the global stage?
What if we lead the way in artistry and design innovations, using AI?
What if we aim for AI to assist business leaders in more readily tracking data, plotting projections, and crafting strategy for future growth?
What if social and religious leaders harness AI to help in dissemination of more good news that proves even more life changing in the decade to come?
But how do we get after those necessary solid moorings?
We must discover and employ foundational virtues for working with AI
Most of us can cynically query: “Worldview is complex. Do we really believe that government officials and tech experts will sort through the broad array of biblical material in order to arrive at a truly safe and productive ethic?” My honest answer is simply, “I doubt it.” However, those who land at the table for formulation of regulations—especially Christian thought leaders—might employ foundational, age-old guidance. Let’s explore and contemplate these starting points, both personally and in tandem with others:
- Goodness and beauty found in creativity. See Genesis 1, Psalm 8, and Colossians 1-2.
- Life-giving truth that emerges from wondrous words. See Psalm 119 and Philippians 4.
- Wisdom that helps discern good versus evil, right versus wrong. See ancient wisdom in the Hebrew Proverbs, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and the Epistle of James.
While not all-inclusive of a biblical worldview, each of these Scriptural passages can supply a seedbed for catalytic conversation. Then we might lead others in asking three next-level questions of these biblical texts:
- What do we see as deeply loving, healthy, wise, and life-giving? What are the implications for AI?
- In our current day, when truth seems so subjective to personal whims, how do these texts supply long-standing, solid insight? What can we agree to be true about identifying truth?
- What might be core axioms or helpful principles for safeguards in AI programming?
- What might be core axioms or helpful principles for utilizing AI tools?
As we navigate the wild waters of artificial intelligence, we must navigate courageously while humbly heeding this sage counsel:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind (Jas. 1:5-6).