Artificial Intelligence: Friend, Foe, or on the Fence?

June 2023 Magazine

The country that leads the world in Artificial Intelligence “will become the ruler of the world” (Vladimir Putin, 2017). At the time many were aware of Artificial Intelligence (AI) playing a part in their online games and helping to run your home heating system more efficiently. But none had imagined the development of ‘ChatGPT’ launched in November 2022 and by January 2023 had over 100 million users. Its power is a little overwhelming. For example: type in an essay title with a target word count and it will spew out a result in seconds. It gathers data and checks it over and again. Initially it was said to confidently provide inaccurate information, but things are swiftly changing.

The development of AI is now integral to military strategy of the superpowers. It is used to influence the thinking and decisions of the other side, can be used to monitor a soldier’s facial information and state of mind. In civilian life it can be used to influence public opinion, identify terrorists, or to provide social control e.g., facial recognition of minority groups have been reported in some countries. It’s been suggested that this could be a solution to the shortage of care workers with robots that quickly learn to provide bespoke care. When AI was used to compose music, make original artwork, or write poetry a flutter of concern was raised amongst the creative worlds. It can be used to diagnose medical conditions more accurately, since it can compare your data with many thousands of others.

Should we be concerned? Is AI neutral? Is AI a positive thing to embrace? Or something to keep at arm’s length? Christians need to think about the many issues raised by the charting of new territory, although in some ways the radically new technology is raising old issues.

Any tool in the hands of humans can be used either for good, or ill. Technology can be fascinating and addictive; it can be used to ease our lives or dominates them; it gives access to a world of information, but also demands much from us and can invade our privacy.

The Bible enables us to realise that we are wonderfully made: ‘God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female he created them’ (Gen 1v27). IT means we have great dignity, that we’re not merely “information processors” (as a professor friend once claimed). But we also learn of our fallenness, which means we can do great harm and make errors. That is why we need to be redeemed, restored to God’s origan purpose, empowered for his service and to seek his wisdom for life. We also must set a framework of ethics for using technology for the good of humanity and the glory of God.

Paul Kingman