Indiana Jones, the power of artificial intelligence, and the future of our nation

Indiana Jones, the power of artificial intelligence, and the future of our nation July 7, 2023

My wife and I saw Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny yesterday. I won’t give away the plot, but I can comment on a feature of the movie that is getting a great deal of attention: the filmmakers’ ability to de-age Harrison Ford. For part of the film, his character is decades younger than his age today (which is the age of his character for most of the movie). I kept wondering how his “younger” self was so incredibly realistic.

It turns out, artificial intelligence is the secret. Ford explained: “They have this artificial intelligence program that can go through every foot of film that Lucasfilm owns. Because I did a bunch of movies for them, they have all this footage, including film that wasn’t printed. So they can mine it from where the light is coming from, from the expression.

“I don’t know how they do it. But that’s my actual face. Then I put little dots on my face and I say the words and they make [it]. It’s fantastic.”

“It’s sort of the perfect storm”

Using AI to generate lifelike video is now available to nearly anyone who can download and use a computer program. Consequently, it’s getting harder than ever to spot “deepfake” videos. Many are worried that the proliferation of what’s known as “generative AI” will escalate propaganda and campaigns by bad actors.

For example, a right-wing activist recently created a fake video of President Biden announcing a draft to send American soldiers to Ukraine. The video is so lifelike that I would have assumed it was genuine if I didn’t know otherwise. An AI-generated photo faking Donald Trump’s possible arrest circulated on Twitter and was soon viewed 2.2 million times.

Scammers are using AI to create audio that sounds like family members in distress asking for money, stealing thousands of dollars from their victims. “It’s terrifying,” said Hany Farid, a professor of digital forensics at the University of California at Berkeley. “It’s sort of the perfect storm . . . [with] all the ingredients you need to create chaos.”

“There are two wolves fighting inside you”

Like a hammer that can repair a house or crush a skull, the issue is not the tool but the one using it.

For example, AI is being used to detect cancer that humans might not find, revolutionize the development and testing of life-saving drugs, and translate the Bible into rare languages. But it is also being used to develop more advanced cyberattacks, bypass security measures, displace jobs, develop advanced weapons, and spread disinformation across the internet.

We see the same bipolarity in every dimension of human experience: cameras can capture priceless family memories or generate child pornography; cars can speed an expectant mother to a hospital to deliver her baby or kill her and her baby in a crash; palliative medications can be used to ease pain or enable suicides.

Ours is a microcosm of the cosmic story: God creates for good, then Satan seeks to use God’s creation for evil. From the Garden of Eden to today, humans cast the deciding vote.

A grandfather was discussing morality with his grandson. “There are two wolves fighting inside you,” he said. “One wants you to do what is right, but the other wants you to do what is wrong.”

“Which one wins?” his grandson asked.

The grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

“To forget God is to seal our own doom”

As we close our weeklong Independence Day series on America, let’s apply today’s theme to our country’s future.

Because “God is love” (1 John 4:8), he can only want the best for us and our nation. But because he is “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), he cannot tolerate sin.

Consequently, our future as a nation is in our hands.

The King who “rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28) will rule us as gently as he can or as harshly as he must. The binary choice is ours: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34, my emphasis).

The path to our best future is clear: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Psalm 33:12). But so is the path to our demise: “The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). Commenting on this verse, the longtime pastor and statesman Paul Powell warned: “To forget God is to seal our own doom as a nation.”

“To stand neutral is to stand for nothing”

Here’s America’s great problem: most secular Americans don’t know the peril they face.

They don’t know that their sins have separated them from God and his best for them (Isaiah 59:2). They don’t know that their rejection of biblical morality is poisoning their minds and corrupting their souls (cf. Isaiah 64:6). They don’t know that they are one day closer to divine judgment than ever before: “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

This is why we owe it to them to tell them. A person with the only cure for a deadly pandemic has a moral obligation to share it with everyone they can. Whatever it takes for America’s Christians to lead Americans to Christ will be worth it for all eternity.

Dr. Powell’s words are prophetic: “America needs you standing courageously before evil. The sin of silence is all about us. Our generation needs to remember that silence is often golden; but at times it may be yellow. To stand neutral is to stand for nothing.”

Will you pray, live, and witness for Christ as if America’s future depended on it?

It does.

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