Artificial Intelligence and the Christian Response
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” –Genesis 2:15 (NASB)
As Christians living in our modern world, we’re going to have to deal with the issue of what to do with artificial intelligence (A.I.). Far from being science fiction, we are already living in a world where artificial intelligence is fully operating all around us. This leaves us to answer the inevitable question- is A.I. good or bad? The short answer is “no.”
To first answer the question of whether or not A.I. is a good or bad thing, one must first define what is meant by the term. Also, forget about robots for a minute because that is rarely what one actually means by A.I. While the robots in movies certainly use A.I.- it is the software itself that is in view here.
For example, there exists a fringe cult group that seeks to use A.I. to create a form of deity that they hope will ultimate replace humans with artificial beings… this is obviously a bad thing. It’s this type of crazy nonsense that gives A.I. in general a bad name.
The official Merriam-Webster definition of artificial intelligence is “a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.”
Before going into ministry, I actually worked as part of a team that developed and used A.I. to optimize ad campaigns in real-time. Here’s the how and why:
In the olden days, a client would begin paying for an ad campaign and, after a few weeks, a person would go into the campaign to see how it was delivering and what sort of results were being generated. Then, based on some educated guesses, this person would make some tweaks to the campaign. Then, another two weeks would pass, and the cycle would repeat.
As an advertiser you can imagine why this process could get frustrating. It was a lot of guess work and waiting to see if the guess was correct- all while spending the advertiser’s real money.
Then we developed a proprietary programmatic A.I. platform that was based on machine learning. Basically, it was a program that mirrored what the human was doing. It would look for patterns and trends of the campaign and adjust accordingly. The main difference is that it worked 24/7. It could tweak the campaign, analyze the results and make continued changes every second of the day throughout the entire campaign.
The result was a much higher return rate for advertisers and a lower overall cost. In other words, thanks to the A.I.- the campaigns cost less and work better.
A question that often comes up concerning A.I. is that of “moral choices.” It should be noted that, at the time of this writing, the idea of a “moral” A.I. is the stuff of science fiction. It’s theorized that there is a point of singularity where an A.I. platform will begin to form an Artificial Super Intelligence (A.S.I.) that would begin to make moral choices apart from its programming. This too would be a bad thing from a Christian worldview, but I personally feel that this hypothetical scenario is unlikely. The reason that this is unlikely is fairly complicated, but the essence is that it would require a program to go against its own programming, which is a logical contradiction.
The ultimate thing to remember is that A.I. is a tool. It can be used for good, and it can be used for evil. It can make human lives easier, healthier and fuller. It can be used to empower genocidal cults.
A.I. platforms and programs, like all tools, are devoid of their own worldview. They are programmed with one. While A.I., by definition, makes its own choices, it does so based on the guidelines that it is given.
This is why it is so critical that Christians not abandon this new frontier of computer science. A.I. has the potential to be used for many great good works. But unless Christians are heavily in that space, then we can only assume the worst.
The Christian response to A.I. should be the same as the way we embrace any new technology- praise what is good and denounce what is evil. We cannot be uniformed, passing broad judgments. Now is NOT the time to bury our head in the sand.
Let’s do all we can to ensure that A.I. is used for God’s glory!