Artificial Intelligence or A.I. is a fairly hot topic lately. And who doesn’t like seeing a video with Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Little Orphan Annie singing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” to Joe Rogan as Daddy Warbucks? (And, yes, that is a real thing. Saw it this morning on social media as I was prepping for this piece.)
But I’m old enough to remember movies such as the Terminator and Matrix series, and I, Robot where artificial intelligence turns on humanity with devastating results. Shoot, I grew up with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy’s War Games. (Spoiler alert: never choose Global Thermonuclear War as your game selection.)
There have been great technological advances and achievements in every age. But to suggest that each progressive movement didn’t come with a downside, or some negative consequence is a bit naïve. As we moved into the Industrial Age, for example, people were displaced from their jobs. The same thing was true when automation took over manufacturing production lines.
Every innovation may bring a level of degradation or even devastation.
Does that seem too harsh? Think of factory-based towns where machines replace the workers. Consider artists who always created in certain mediums now competing with computer-generated and 3D printed imagery. What about when photography and motion pictures moved from film to digital? Or how about when music went from records then tapes then CDs and now exists primarily in the digital space?
Some careers just don’t survive the transitions. And some experiences will never be known by the next generation. I give you the following as an example: browsing through a record store, exploring each album cover and appreciating all the artwork, creative choices, lyrics, pictures, etc. Contrast that with downloading a song through an app.
Video killed the radio star.
That’s an early 80s reference I challenge you to research on your own. I lived through it, not only the song it came from but the world-changing time period when MTV was born. I was a teenager and music videos were everything! Sure, in the early days it was the same small catalog of mostly British and European bands I didn’t know very well, and the quality of the production left much to be desired, but it was new, and I was in for all of it.
Within a short period of time, almost every band or artist jumped on the trend. Now you didn’t have to wait for your favorite group or singer to appear on some show. They were in rotation 24 hours a day! Soon you had groundbreaking artists who pushed the boundaries and turned 3-5-minute videos into epic events. (Michael Jackson being one of the most prolific of the time.) It was “must see TV”. And we did. A lot.
These days MTV rarely plays music videos at all. Times changed once again. With the proliferation of cell phones and advent of social media, many users won’t stop to watch anything if it runs more than 90 seconds, let alone 3-5 minutes! It’s all about quick hits, short clips and soundbites. Is that healthy? How are our attention spans being affected? Negative consequences.
Now, let’s get back to A.I. and why I’m more than a little concerned about the direction we’re going down.
Technology is a tool. It’s neither good nor bad.
I used to agree with this sentiment. The same technology in different hands can bring about very diverse outcomes. Someone developing programs and robotics to assist in cancer detection or to help those with critical injuries should be applauded. Someone employing programs and devices to spy on or steal from private citizens should not.
Is there potential bias in A.I.?
It appears that way. (As one example: at the time of this writing a certain high-profile chat bot would supply you with jokes about Jesus if you asked it, but it wouldn’t if you asked about a certain other religious figure. Seems a little suspect to me.)
When the leaders behind A.I. suggest a pause, is it time to panic?
Elon Musk and other prominent voices in the space have suggested pausing the push forward with this technology. This seems a bit troubling, doesn’t it? And it sounds like all the warnings ignored by others in the movies right before the machines become sentient, take over and blow everything to smithereens!
These thought leaders and researchers claim they need time to get their hands around it. What now? So, what I’m hearing is those who pushed the little snowball down the snowy mountain are shocked that it picked up speed and grew larger as it rolled. And now that ball is huge and about to crush the village in the valley below. Good job, everyone!
See the thing about A.I. is it learns as it goes. Let me write that again: it learns as it goes. It has a powerful appetite and is a sponge. Its ability to absorb information and generate content based on any subject within a few seconds or minutes is already astounding and getting faster.
Will you be able to believe your own senses soon?
Well, right now I know Arnold wasn’t Orphan Annie, but what’s coming in a few months or years? Will we all be susceptible to deep fakes where someone using technology with the wrong intent will generate something so realistic that we’re all duped? Suppose that content is enough to create panic or motivate people to do something terrible as a reaction.
Along similar lines, what’s the likelihood of fraud and cyberattacks increasing? I’m a resident expert on absolutely nothing, but my educated guess would be leaning toward more likely rather than less.
What if A.I. decides we’re expendable?
That could never happen, right? After the last three years, I’ve learned to never say never. But I don’t want to leave you guys in a panic. As I’ve mentioned before, you can’t surprise God. Nothing has ever happened, does happen or will happen without His awareness. Because He’s the Alpha and Omega (beginning and the end), He already warned us of times ahead.
You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, (Matthew 24:10-12)
So, whether it’s A.I. becoming self-aware or other manipulative techniques, the Lord is warning us of a time when people will turn from faith, betray and hate each other. During this same period, false prophets will pop up everywhere to mislead many. (Thank goodness, none of that is happening, am I right? Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.)
How can we avoid being deceived?
One of the many, many things I love about the Bible is God doesn’t just warn us of problems, He presents the solutions. Check this out:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
What I read in this verse is if it doesn’t align with the Bible and Christ, run from it. (Think about this: down the road there’s a chance A.I. may become ambitious or bored and decide to create a new Bible. Will it be the best deep fake of all time? Who wants to wait around to find out? My strong suggestion: if you don’t have a Bible now, don’t hesitate! Get one!)
Now this next verse is both a warning and a comfort. Check this out:
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Again, whether A.I. or other force is the catalyst, as a believer we are targeted. But God! If we remain in His word and in our faith in Christ Jesus, we will overcome.
As I close, my best advice is if you don’t have a Bible, get your hands on one asap. Don’t rely on an app alone. If you have one and haven’t read it in a while, dust it off and start reading. I suggest the New Testament first starting with: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
If you don’t know or believe in Jesus, today is a perfect day to get to know Him. He loves you. He died and rose again for you. He’s with you. And He is most definitely not artificial in His intelligence, love or any other aspect. He’s the Son of the Creator of the universe. Invite Him into your life today and ask His Holy Spirit to come upon you, so you can spot the deep fakes in your world from miles away.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you, and I’m not a robot!