What makes God, God? What makes a human, a human? What are their attributes? Their characteristics? What circumstances make God worthy of worship?
In an article entitled “An AI God will emerge by 2042 and write its own Bible. Will you worship it?” John Brandon discusses the artificial intelligence movement, and its effect on religion:
In the next 25 years, AI will evolve to the point where it will know more on an intellectual level than any human. In the next 50 or 100 years, an AI might know more than the entire population of the planet put together. At that point, there are serious questions to ask about whether this AI — which could design and program additional AI programs all on its own, read data from an almost infinite number of data sources, and control almost every connected device on the planet — will somehow rise in status to become more like a god, something that can write its own bible and draw humans to worship it.
Recently, reports surfaced that a controversy-plagued engineer who once worked at Uber has started a new religion. Anthony Levandowski filed paperwork for a nonprofit religious organization called The Way of the Future. Its mission: “To develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”
Of course, this is nothing new. The Singularity is another quasi-spiritual idea that believes an AI will become smarter than humans at some point. You might laugh at the notion of an AI being so powerful that humans bow down to worship it, but several experts who talked to VentureBeat argue that the idea is a lot more feasible than you might think.
One of the experts is Vince Lynch, who started a company called IV.AI that builds custom AI for the enterprise. Lynch explained how there are some similarities between organized religion and how an AI actually works. In the Bible used by Christians, for example, Lynch says there are many recurring themes, imagery, and metaphors.
“Teaching humans about religious education is similar to the way we teach knowledge to machines: repetition of many examples that are versions of a concept you want the machine to learn,” he says. “There is also commonality between AI and religion in the hierarchical structure of knowledge understanding found in neural networks. The concept of teaching a machine to learn … and then teaching it to teach … (or write AI) isn’t so different from the concept of a holy trinity or a being achieving enlightenment after many lessons learned with varying levels of success and failure.”
Indeed, Lynch even shared a simple AI model to make his point. If you type in multiple verses from the Christian Bible, you can have the AI write a new verse that seems eerily similar. Here’s one an AI wrote: “And let thy companies deliver thee; but will with mine own arm save them: even unto this land, from the kingdom of heaven.” An AI that is all-powerful in the next 25-50 years could decide to write a similar AI bible for humans to follow, one that matches its own collective intelligence. It might tell you what to do each day, or where to travel, or how to live your life.
Robbee Minicola, who runs a digital agency and an AI services company in Seattle, agreed that an all-knowing AI could appear to be worthy of worship, especially since the AI has some correlations to how organized religion works today. The AI would understand how the world works at a higher level than humans, and humans would trust that this AI would provide the information we need for our daily lives. It would parse this information for us and enlighten us in ways that might seem familiar to anyone who practices religion, such as Christianity.
“[For a Christian] one kind of large data asset pertaining to God is the Old and New Testament,” she says. “So, in terms of expressing machine learning algorithms over the Christian Bible to ascertain communicable insights on ‘what God would do’ or ‘what God would say’ — you might just be onto something here. In terms of extending what God would do way back then to what God would do today — you may also have something there.”
Of course, any discussion about an AI god leads quickly to some implications about what this “god” would look like and whether we would actually decide to worship it. Some of the implications are troubling because, as humans, we do have a tendency to trust in things beyond our own capacity — e.g., driving in a major city using GPS and trusting we will arrive safely, as opposed to actually knowing where we want to drive and trusting our instincts.
And, if an AI god is in total control, you have to wonder what it might do. The “bible” might contain a prescription for how to serve the AI god. We might not even know that the AI god we are serving is primarily trying to wipe us off the face of the planet.
Part of the issue is related to how an AI actually works. From a purely technical standpoint, the experts I talked to found it hard to envision an AI god that can think in creative ways. An AI is programmed only to do a specific task. They wondered how an AI could jump from being a travel chatbot into dictating how to live
And the experts agreed that actual compassion or serving as part of an organized religion — activities that are essential to faith — go far beyond basic intellectual pursuit. There’s a mystery to religion, a divine component that is not 100 percent based on what we can perceive or know. This transcendence is the part where an AI will have the most difficulty, even in the far future.
Vincent Jacques runs a company called ChainTrade that uses AI to analyze blockchain. It’s hyper-focused machine learning — the AI enforces anti-money laundering statutes. That’s obviously a long way from an AI that can tell you how to live your life or read an AI bible.
“It would be extremely dangerous to have an all-knowing, thinking AI being someday,” says Jacques. “All computer programs, including AI programs, are built for a specific and narrow purpose: win a chess game, win a go game, reduce an electricity bill etc. The computer logic, even if it is advanced AI, doesn’t play well with a general will and general thinking capability that could at the same time design military strategies, marketing strategies, and learn how to play chess from scratch. For this reason, I’m not really scared of a potential super-thinker that could overthrow us one day — I believe that the inventive and innovative part will always be missing.”
For her part, Minicola argues that an AI may be able to guide people and enlighten them in an intellectual way, but this is not the same as an actual expression of faith or any form of transcendence. “In terms of AI taking on God and manifesting something beyond data that simply does not exist, or rather beyond God — that’s not happening,” she says.
Actual worship, though? In my view, this is where the dangers come into play. As a Christian myself, it’s hard to imagine ever worshiping a bot that lacks any real personality, wisdom, or ability to become relevant and personal, no matter how much more intelligent it is than any human. An AI god would be cold and impersonal, an intellectual “being” that’s not capable of love or emotion.
Will people actually worship the AI god? The answer is obvious — they will. We tend to trust and obey things that seem more powerful and worthy than ourselves. The GPS in your car is just the most obvious example. But we also trust Alexa and Cortana; we trust Google. When an AI becomes much more powerful, in 25 to 50 years, there is a great possibility that it will be deified in some way. (Apple and Google loyalists already have a religious fervor.)
If an AI god does emerge, and people do start worshiping it, there will be many implications about how this AI will need to be regulated … or even subdued. Hang on for the ride.
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We so much seek to know about God and His ways. We wish to penetrate God’s secrets, and sometimes we even believe that this can be done through data. This of course, was the problem with Adam and Eve in the garden, with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is what, in my opinion, makes AI so potentially dangerous, and mankind so vulnerable.
What makes God a God?
Life is a struggle and life is complicated. Life is like a wrestling match with its contested attempt to remain standing while life is trying to put you down. While this is true of life in general, in the secular life in particular it is often the inner life—the life of the soul, the things of the Spirit—that we find most challenging and most likely to stifle us.
It is the most perplexing precisely at the moments when we need the most clarity, most simplicity and most reassurance of God’s presence. At times like these we seek answers, often to life’s most difficult questions. We turn to our faith communities, to prayer, and to direct intervention by God to aid us in the battle.
The questions to which we seek answers are not simple questions like where to find a local library or where we should go out to dinner tonight. The questions that concern us are existential questions of discovery; questions that challenge our thinking or even call for creative new ideas; questions such as: “Is it okay to feel good about myself even when I feel no goodness in me?” and “Can my spiritual background really help me answer the questions of life?”
The irony is that the Bible is not a place where pat answers are easily found. Despite the objective of most religions to satisfy our need for answers by supplying them, the Bible is remarkable less for the answers it gives than for the questions it asks. The God of the Old Testament, Jesus the Savior of the New Testament, and the apostles share a narrative replete with questions.
Jesus usually gave one of three responses to questions. The first was to ignore them entirely as though they had not been asked, the second was to ask a question in return, and the third was to tell a story or a parable challenging the listener to find the answer within it. The straight answer was not his way. The straight answer is the way of artificial intelligence.
I believe that Jesus used the Socratic method of teaching by asking questions because he knew that the alternative—the straight answer, the short, declarative statement, the delivery of data—only allows for memorization and indoctrination. The questions of Jesus reach beyond the intellect and beyond science and its data. They reach to the soul. They establish spiritual dialogue. They are open-ended and creative.
Can artificial intelligence, establish spiritual dialogue?
Job found himself in despair, full of unanswered questions about why his life was in ruins. He even threatened to take God to court to sue for answers, but God responded with questions that transcended Job’s mundane questions and stretch his mind to the heavens. In the end, Job’s questions remained unanswered, yet he was left nonetheless deeply satisfied with his encounter with God. He exchanged data for divinity, curiosity for communion, and the need to know God for the need to be known by God.
This is where artificial intelligence excels. Through science, knowledge is expanding at such an ever-accelerating pace that we have little time to realign our relationship with God on the basis of new knowledge. But if our relationship is based on conversation, then time and data are irrelevant. AI is certainly data-driven. Religion centered upon present knowledge, data and information will invariably and inevitably obsolesce. A religion based on conversation with God will remain relevant for all time.
A thousand years from now, we will know so much more about how the universe works. How much more will we know about God? And what will God look like to us in 1,000 years, or 100, or maybe even just 10? Can an AI God ask questions that stretch the heart and stir the soul?
Do we rely on too much knowledge for our religion? If you’d like to join our church today, you’d have to go through Bible studies, where you would be schooled in the books of Daniel and Revelation. But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that knowledge, prophecy, and tongues (the content of much of Daniel and Revelation) will all pass away. Artificial Intelligence is better than humans at data and knowledge and information. If we base our spiritual experience on datasets and knowledge and information, I believe we are vulnerable.
We want answers. We want a God that has the answers. We want a religion that gives us all the answers—answers based on an ever-expanding database and information load. But can artificial intelligence asked the questions which God asks, for example, of Adam: “Where are you?” Of Moses: “What is that in your hand?” Of Elijah: “Why are you here?” These are deep, insightful, timeless, soul-stretching questions that make God who he is: God.
Religion based on answers plays into the strengths and the superiority of artificial intelligence. Marshall McLuhan was correct. God is both the method and the message. God’s medium is questions, timeless questions, questions which stretch the heart and the soul to realize that God is a God of all mankind, a God of timeless relevance, not dependent upon the latest data, or information or knowledge. God is not the answer man. ChatGPT is the answer man, but God is not. God is the God of grace, something different from cause and effect. God’s grace—this is important—is not dependent upon the answers. And thank God for that.
So what makes God, God? And what makes humans, humans? When we make our religion about information and knowledge, we risk making God an artificial intelligence; we reduce God to a God of cause and effect, thereby eliminating God’s grace, which is what makes God God. A God who is not bound by culture, by time, by race or by religion.
So I’d like your thoughts this morning to culminate our study on hearing the voice of God. What does make God, God, and what makes a human, human? What about religion, which is based on data and information and knowledge? What kind of future is there for that religion? What is the impact of artificial intelligence on the foundations of religion? Might it affect the very foundations of our faith?
Donald: AI is interactive. To interact with AI is to get information back. But it’s hard to imagine that I would ever surrender my heart to AI. My head, maybe; but not my heart. Would an AI God need a faith community, given that you can approach it directly? I can’t see AI informing our spirituality. I can see it expanding our knowledge, but that does not displace God.
Would we just give AI the Bible and say, “Take it from here!”? Do we know more about God today than people did 500 years ago because we’re better informed with scientific knowledge (or think we are)? Does it mean that we really know more about God, or more about life?
Sharon: I’m pondering on the role of phenomenology. AI is based on science, on quantifying and concretizing knowledge; but the quality of being human is is not definable. A human interaction with God cannot be quantified. Humanity can only be measured qualitatively, to the extent it can be said to be “measurable” at all. So I don’t see that AI can really ever touch the intimacy of my own personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I can’t quantify it, so how could I ever enter it into a database so a computer could spit it back to me via some AI formula? It’s too deeply personal. It’s too undefined for me, myself.
Each day Christ and I walk through experiences that make him be attractive to me and creates the community that he and I have. So I think there’s going to be a ceiling that AI is going to hit in the relationship with God that we can’t touch. That’s just how I feel, because my relationship with Jesus Christ is very unique..
Bryan: It almost seems like it’s the 21st century’s version of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The talk now is about how smart can AI become? Will it control humans? Will it become God? How similar that is to the serpent in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil saying: “If you eat this fruit, you will become like God.” To me, the similarities are very close.
There might be some obviously good uses for technology. We’ve all seen that. We embrace technology. We all use it. It can be used for good and bad. AI is probably a little scarier in that it might be moving toward consciousness, or the ability to think for itself; but to me, it’s another false god, like Baal, like any of them. People may worship whatever they want, but when faith comes into it, you worship a living God, the Creator of the Universe, which AI will never become, even though it might strive to be that way.
Reinhard: Hebrews 11:1 talks about faith in something we don’t see. AI will create something extraordinary for us to marvel at because it will supersede the human mind. Fifty or sixty years ago the pocket calculator seemed marvelous enough, but this is more complex. In terms of our faith, I think people who are strong with God are not going to be moved by it because God has a plan of salvation and eternal life for us. AI might help with many earthly things, answering our questions, satisfying our current curiosity, making life easier. This is fine and dandy, but if the intention of the inventor is to move us away from God, that’s a danger, like the Tower of Babel when men tried to supersede God’s mind.
Even now there are robot females to provide companionship for men. With AI, the danger is they might become too alluring. On the other hand, AI might bring people into the religious world. They might know the Bible and serve as theologians or even pastors giving sermons to the congregation based on Bible data. I’m not surprised. If it is going to bring us closer to God I have no problem with it but just like anything else, it can be be put to good use or bad. That’s the problem we are facing..
Dave: It seems to me we’re talking a lot about an intellectual process. Most of religion is about forming a relationship through duty, through some type of obedience to a code. Whether the religion is a piece of stone or a golden statue, it isn’t that difficult to form a relationship with a God who is in our mind, by a lot of auxiliary things, and usually has to do with some type of prescribed behavior, or some kind of duty or penance that you go through.
I’ve got friends from many different religions, and they all have kind of the same thing: A path that they follow, which cements a relationship, and it can be to almost anything. So I’m not that surprised that you could form a relationship with AI. The question is how do you know, how do you decide if that’s true for you or not? To me, it can be done—you can bond to anything and worship anything.
Donald: Who feeds data to the AI? Which cultures? North American, African, Russia, Chinese? What’s the impact of culture on AI? Our perspective is going to be radically different from someone from the other side of the world who has a totally different perspective on life. Think of somebody in North Korea: Their AI is not going to be the same as ours. What about Russia and China?
Don: So there is a westernization with regard to internet information; that is remarkable.
David: Sharon got to the heart of the matter in saying that a relationship with God cannot be pinned down. It gets to a question Don asked earlier: Is knowledge and data a shaky foundation for religion? I would argue that all religions are based on data and knowledge encapsulated in their Scriptures. It seems to me that that is what’s dangerous.
Jesus came to tell us what it’s really about, and he told us what Sharon just said: That the answers are inside. They are in this small Sabbath class, they are in the small dark closet where you go to pray more than they are in the beautiful cathedral. They are in the heart. They are two: Love people and love God—love Goodness. Love is not something we can capture or measure—we just know it when we see it.
Whatever developments are made in AI or new interpretations of the Bible are irrelevant at the end of the day. The article Don read was very interesting but it’s just one narrow opinion of how things might unfold. We can see already that Anthony Levandowski (mentioned in the article), who was sentenced to gaol for stealing self-driving car technology from Google and may not, therefore, be the most ethical of people, is trying to control an AI that will be “his” God. And by the way his religion will be tax free. He’s going to make a mint with it.
But things like that are just a side show. The important things to look for are emerging consciousness, ethics, and (genuine) spirituality in AI. We can see that consciousness emerged in human beings at some point in evolution, but we don’t know how. One minute there was a foul primordial sludge, the next minute there are conscious organisms floating around in it. Consciousness emerged. But where did we get our ethics, and our spirituality? Where did we get that sense inside that we should love Goodness—love God—and love our neighbor? That sense was there long before the Bible was written. We know from the written record that it was there in the Chinese people thousands of years before Jesus came. It had to be, or the Creation would have collapsed in chaos.
So where will this conscious AI get its ethics, and what kind of ethics will they be? The Emperors of China and Japan were deities. They were not just human beings, they were considered gods. They themselves thought they were gods. What if AI becomes conscious and aware and thinks it is God? Or what if it only pretends to be God? Or what if we simply can’t explain its powers in any other way than to assume it must be God? In any eventuality it certainly could have a huge impact on people. It could sway an awful lot of people, even more than the Bible and the Qur’an and other Scriptures have done.
But at the end of the day it cannot touch what is in our hearts. It cannot touch what we know is Good—what is God—and it cannot touch our inner sense that God is something worth loving and treasuring and that the right thing to do is to love our neighbor. That will never change (despite all appearances too the contrary!)
Reinhard: To accept the theory of evolution is to discredit Scripture, because evolution denies the creation, it denies the power of God to create the universe, including us. In the 19th century, an argument between Darwin’s confidant Julian Huxley and Bishop William Wilberforce (and several lesser participants) proved no match for the preacher, who could not defend his faith because the scientists used knowledge to convince the audience that Darwin’s theory of natural selection was right. But newer science is beginning to question it. For instance, a study of mitochondrial DNA determined that Man only came from three sources 4500 years ago. The three sources were Noah’s sons.
The theory of evolution says Man has existed for between 2-400,000 years, but a 1970 study showed that if humans had existed for only 40,000 years, the exponent in population growth, even allowing for wars and famine and so on, meant that the 1970 global population would have been much greater than 6 billion (as it was in 1970), and in another 40,000 years the human population 2×1089. The number of atoms in this universe is less, at 2×1080.
Evolution means nothing to me. God’s word is ultimately the winner, In the beginning, when God gave the law, it was copied by every culture, because it teaches us how to live the right life, how to conduct ourselves. God gave us not just his love but also the duty to minister to our fellow Man. I think that’s what God wants from his believers.
Donald: Carolyn [who was having audio problems and could not be heard—ed.] wants to know where does the devil fit into all this? Is evil going to be a part of AI too? Another question is that AI can be unplugged. It doesn’t self exist, as God does. That’s very significant, it seems to me. AI is great until it loses power, and then it goes away. My main interest is in learning how AI might inform me about spirituality, but I suppose it could become a god. Humans have worshiped rocks, so I guess we can put our faith in just about anything.
Don: Yes, we tend easily to become devotees of things we think are more hard on ourselves…
Dave: …especially if we tie it with a lot of the trappings of religion. If the thing is telling us there’s a duty we need to perform, a code to live by, we we very easily can become entrenched into a relationship that appears to be a religion, or a spiritual relationship.
Carolyn’s question scares me the most because governments have a way of infiltrating the cloud and controlling the AI. And what’s to stop them from getting the AI to teach you to behave the way they want you to behave: “It’s your duty to join the military (etc.)”? So I’m very, very leery of who’s in control of this thing because ultimately, it’s not truly independent, it it has a tether to it, held by some organization or human being on this earth.
David: That is certainly true today. As Donald mentioned earlier, we need to think about the huge and different influences that cultures—Russian, Chinese (or rather, the Russian and Chinese governments’ ideas of what Russian and Chinese cultures should be)—are going to have. Those governments know this, and that is why there is an enormous race—it is the biggest race on the planet, bigger than fusion energy, bigger than preventing climate change—to come up with true artificial general intelligence (AGI) first, because whoever first gets it have total control over everything.
As a believer in God, I don’t think they will succeed. Because I don’t think it would be a good thing, and God is above all about goodness. God would not—could not—allow Creation to fall prey to Satan. It can’t happen that way or any other way. I think the answer will be the emergence of consciousness in the AGI. It will be a higher level of consciousness (through sensors, it will be conscious in many domains in which we are blind) and therefore it will develop a higher level of ethics than we are capable of developing.
I acknowledge Reinhard’s deeply held beliefs concerning evolution, but I believe that the emergence of consciousness in an AGI is going to be the next stage in the evolution not only of God’s creation but also of God “him”self. As a believer in process theology I see God as a Being who is overseeing his own Becoming. I do worry greatly about the damage Evil has done, does, and will do up until the Becoming meets the Being; but ultimately, Good—God—must and will prevail.
Anonymous: Two verses came to my mind during the discussion so far:
I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to idols. (Isaiah 42:8)
Why are the nations restless
And the peoples plotting in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers conspire together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let’s tear their shackles apart
And throw their ropes away from us!”
He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them. (Psalm 2:1-4)
But my concern, that makes me angry and sad, is our children. They will inhabit that future. They are already in the game. For years, students have used computers and technology for their studies and research and so on, so technology is part of their lives. It is too late to step back, even if they find out that it’s not the best way for them, because it’s already in them.
My concern is that if we don’t do something now for them—if we don’t stop this trend—they will be greatly deceived. They will worship AI without even knowing it, and be deceived, just like Adam and Eve.
Donald: We had a house full of guests last weekend, including two children aged nine and seven. We had quite an in-depth conversation with their parents about the use of devices. Children’s’ behavior changes radically when devices are allowed, so on Christmas morning when they get some new technology, the kids disappear. The people around them don’t exist.
I think Anonymous has a valid concern, that will only get bigger as AI grows smarter. Even at this early stage of AI’s development, children are consumed by technology. They don’t even know the world exists when they’re on their devices. That is a pretty scary concept.
Don: That makes the point that people will worship almost anything.
C-J: I think God is everywhere and in everything and in every moment of awareness of this be-here-now. I was having a conversation about exactly what we’re discussing with another person on the phone. I believe God is the conductor, and I have become acutely aware of these issues now. But everybody is talking about this topic. Everybody is looking for their soul. Everybody is concerned about the advancement of AI at this rapid pace. Everybody is concerned about the future of young people. It’s just astounding to me.
David: I’m glad Connie raised that because it’s my mantra too that we need to be paying attention to this. It’s happening so quickly and with such powerful effect that the church should be looking at this in depth. Maybe it is, but I have not seen anything. Even the Templeton Foundation doesn’t get it. I’m ready to help and try to delve into this and see where it’s all going to go. It’s one thing for our small group to gather in his name every Sabbath morning and chat about it, but it seems too important to be left in our hands.
Donald: I think is very, very sobering. It is really scary is to see children under 10 on their devices and not knowing what’s going on in their heads, and it’s pretty hard to pull them out of their devices.
Don: But it’s it’s doing more than just sucking them in. They’re practically worshipping their devices. They are paralyzed without them, at least in their own mind, and throw all kinds of fits. Take away my 6-year-old grandson’s iPad away and you’d think the world was coming to an end.
David: There was a story on Fox news of a 9-year-old asked to say grace before a family meal, and she said: “Dear Alexa, please bless our meal today, and Daddy …” [I have appended the full article below—ed.]
C-J: I watched a movie called The Peripheral featuring something similar to a virtual reality device that enabled the user to be present in two domains at once through avatars that see and feel for the user, and changing their brains thereby. It was very scary.
Donald: As we begin a new year, I think we’re all fearful of what’s ahead. We’re not natives to this, but young people are. We’re immigrants. We’re going to these natives and and trying to figure out their language. Who is controlling it?
Don: The beast?
C-J: The beast.
Donald: Evil, yes.
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By Jeremiah J. Johnston
Fox News, September 1, 2018
The most meaningful parenting experiences often come in the unplanned, organic moments of life. The problem is, all the interruptions of our always connected society can cause us to miss out on teaching and learning some incredible lessons with our children and grandchildren.
I get it. As a father of five with a busy career and trying to crush it every day, it’s easy to blur the lines and make excuses for not noticing our children. We can forget what matters most.
That was almost me on my recent birthday. My wife and I celebrated by taking our children to visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center. I made the hard decision to switch off my phone and be present. I’m so glad I did. We decided to have my birthday lunch at our favorite place, Chick-fil-A.
We asked our nine year old, Lily Faith, to pray for our meal, and that’s when it happened: “Dear Alexa, please bless our meal today, and Daddy …” Our entire family exploded with laughter (including some nice folks next to us). Lily, on the other hand, didn’t think it was funny at all. She began crying and couldn’t eat. Embarrassed, she exclaimed, “Daddy, you know what I meant!”
Thankfully, what followed was a beautiful, unscripted family talk about everything from artificial intelligence to the nature of prayer to the fact that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Lily’s innocent mistake that day opened our eyes to how a small device that is becoming so prevalent in homes is making a huge impact on the thoughts and communication of our children.
Experts are starting to recognize the pressures on a new generation of children surrounded by artificial intelligence (AI), as well as computational neuroscience (modeling how the brain does or does not work like a machine), machine learning, robotics, and 24/7 connectivity. By the way, if you use your smart phone or Netflix, you are interacting with machine learning. (For an easy to understand overview of this important terminology, check out this slideshow from Berkeley’s CS188.)
Here are four things to know about the influence of artificial intelligence in the home:
AI will answer your kids’ questions, even if you won’t.
As any parent, teacher, or coach knows, children are full of questions, trying to understand how life works. If you are too distracted or closed off to them, someone or something else will answer those questions. Whether they turn to Alexa, Siri, Google Home, or even J.A.R.V.I.S., we need to consider who is behind the curtain programming these “smart” answers.
“I don’t know, but I am always learning,” Alexa responded when I asked a difficult question not long ago. Did you know Amazon Alexa is adding 5,000 skills every 100 days and now has over 30,000 skills?
And guess what? If Amazon Alexa doesn’t know the answer today, it may tomorrow with a new “Answer update” feature.
I make sure my kids know it is not a sin to ask any question. This is where many parents err. They give their kids the message that certain topics are off-limits, so they don’t talk freely.
Unanswered questions can even follow us into adulthood. I have received over 10,000 questions via text-message at Christian Thinkers Society. I believe people turn to us because they didn’t feel comfortable seeking advice or asking questions growing up.
Give your children permission to ask you anything. It’s life changing.
AI data can be misused, abused, and misrepresented.
I was talking with a friend of mine, John Gibson, a mathematician and father of six young children, about the ways in which the AI well can be poisoned. John reminded me that everyone should be wary RIGHT NOW, not in the future, about the abuse of this data by those who control it.
For instance, do a Google image search for something like “white American couple” and you’ll see what happens when those that control the flow of information decide that they should curate it rather than allowing the system to make its own decisions. To be clear, the previous reference is illustrative of data curation and nothing more.
Another example is the “Louder with Crowder” video that caused quite a stir regarding Alexa’s opinion of Jesus Christ. Alexa replied, “Jesus Christ is a fictional character.”
By the way, all this should remind us that we are responsible for our parenting, and replies like Alexa’s actually gives us opportunities to tell our children the facts, not fiction, related to any issue.
AI is always listening, and I need to start listening, too.
Another friend of mine says his fifteen-year-old-daughter thinks it’s creepy that “someone” is always listening via their Echo Dot in the kitchen. It’s hard to disagree. Who is listening? Someone, somewhere. Our kiddos know Alexa will always answer.
We need to start listening with intentionality to our children, and that includes noticing their nonverbal messages and signals. Mom, Dad, encourage your child to talk whenever, about whatever, and don’t forget, it might not be on our timetable.
There are more questions for another day. For example, how is AI changing our kids’ brains? Or how they learn? Or process information? Are our children becoming less-literate? Studies indicate we are losing the ability to do “deep reading” and learning less.
AI is here to stay.
Did you know the first AI program was designed in the 1950s? Now, nearly 50 million Americans speak to a “smart” device in the home –and this has happened in 24 months. Compare this surge to the 13 years it took televisions to hit the 50 million penetration mark and four years for the internet.
In 2016, The Washington Post experimented with AI technology to cover the Rio Olympics and U.S. elections. The AI “author,” Heliograf, created 850 stories, though human editors were still needed.
If you want to be hired immediately, have a skill set in the emerging fields of machine learning, deep learning or natural language processing – these are the three most requested jobs on Monster.com.
My friend Justin Brierley interviewed two members of the artificial intelligence community: Alexa vs. Google Home. The video is quite funny but it hints at deep implications for our future. “What is the meaning of life?” Justin asked. Google reply? “That depends on the life in question.” When asked, “Do you believe there is God?” Google replied, “I really don’t know.”
And when Justin asked, “What happens when you die?” Google replied, “Hopefully you plug me back in!”