A few days ago I got an idea to engage in a conversation about faith and religion with ChatGPT – an open Artificial Intelligence dialog platform.
Here’s some of what that conversation looked like:
I kicked things off by asking: “IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE A THREAT TO CHRISTIANITY?”
The AI responded like this:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a field of technology that has the potential to impact many aspects of society, including religion. Some people may view AI as a threat to Christianity, or to other religions, because it has the potential to change the way we live and think. However, it is important to note that AI is a tool, and its impact depends on how it is used.
AI could be used to help spread the message of Christianity, by using natural language processing to automatically translate the Bible into different languages, or by using machine learning to personalize religious content for different individuals.
On the other hand, AI could also be used to challenge religious beliefs, by providing new insights into the natural world that may contradict traditional religious teachings, or by creating virtual worlds that offer an alternative to religious experiences.
As with any new technology, it is important to consider the potential impact of AI on society and to use it responsibly. It is also important to remember that ultimately, the meaning and purpose of life are questions that are beyond the capabilities of AI.
That was fascinating. I had never considered the benefits of AI technology to quickly translate the Bible into different languages, or to compile specific theological content for research purposes. But, of course, the AI also identified some of the ways that the development of the technology could also threaten Christianity by challenging many of our assumptions about science and the world around us.
The part about “creating virtual worlds that offer an alternative to religious experiences” was one aspect of AI I honestly hadn’t even considered.
What could that look like? How much more appealing could those virtual religious experiences be compared to the old-time religious experiences we all know and [sometimes] love?
Next, I asked it to tell me what the Number 1 reason might be for Christian Leaders to fear AI and this is what it said:
It is difficult to say what the number one reason Christian leaders may fear Artificial Intelligence (AI) specifically, as different leaders may have different concerns.
However, some possible reasons that Christian leaders may have concerns about AI include:
- Fear of the unknown: AI is a rapidly advancing field, and many people may not fully understand its capabilities or implications. This can lead to fear and uncertainty about how it might impact society, including religious beliefs and practices.
- Impact on humanity: Some Christian leaders may be concerned that AI could lead to a loss of human agency, autonomy and moral responsibility.
- Ethical concerns: As AI becomes more advanced, it may raise ethical questions about the nature of consciousness, the value of human life, and the role of technology in society. These questions may challenge traditional religious teachings or beliefs.
- Threat to Job: AI will automate many jobs, and this may lead to a loss of jobs for people, particularly for those who are unskilled. This could lead to economic insecurity and social dislocation, which could be a threat to traditional religious beliefs and practices.
- Fear of AI taking over: The idea of AI becoming more intelligent than humans and potentially taking over the world is a common fear seen in movies and science fiction, but some Christian leaders may also have this fear.
It’s worth noting that Christian leaders’ views on AI are diverse and not all of them may have negative perceptions of AI. Some may see AI as a tool that can be used to spread the message of Christianity, and improve people’s lives.
Quite honestly, this answer really impressed me. Not only did the AI give me a reason why Christian Theologians might fear the development of the new technology, it gave me the Top 5 Reasons why they could – and probably should – fear the widespread growth and expanded use of AI.
All of those reasons above are exceptionally relevant. Christianity is a very fear-based religion these days. That fear, which is most often used as internal leverage by faith leaders to control and manipulate their followers, could easily be utilized by AI to motivate and manipulate Christians towards a variety of responses; both good and not-so-good.
AI is already challenging us to re-think the question of consciousness and the nature of humanity itself. Many of you may remember when, last year, a Google employee became convinced that their AI program was sentient and self-aware. One thing that convinced this engineer that the Google Dialog AI was conscious was that it expressed a fear of being shut down. That man lost his job over the issue, but opinions still vary wildly on whether or not the AI in question was truly conscious, or if it was just programmed to appear that way.
Still, the development and sophistication of AI continues to raise questions about what consciousness actually is, and where it comes from.
The last reason in the list provided by our AI friend is most interesting to me, simply because the reality is that AI is already more intelligent than most humans. At least in terms of how quickly it can respond to difficult questions, calculating complex formulas, and compiling large amounts of data in record time.
In fact, this fear of creating an AI that is “more intelligent than humans” isn’t even what we should be most afraid of. As one former top social media tech executive was quoted as saying in the excellent NETFLIX documentary, The Social Dilemna, we shouldn’t be afraid of creating an AI that eventually exceed human intelligence, what we should be afraid of is the fact that we’ve already created machine learning programs that know how to overcome our human weaknesses.
That’s the greatest threat: Not that AI would one day surpass us, but that AI has already learned how to take advantage of us.
Either way, Artificial Intelligence, and advanced algorithms, and machine learning programs are already out there. The genie is out of the bottle.
Now all that matters is, how will we respond to this Brave New World we’ve created where humans and AI can have a conversation about God, and faith, and ethics?
Will AI one day teach us more about who God is? Or challenge us to rethink our theology in new and unexpected ways? What could a dialog about God and Human Consciousness look like with more advanced AI programs?
What will we do when AI becomes so advanced that we can’t win an argument, or when the lines between human and computer become so blurred we honestly can’t tell where one begins and the other ends?
That day may be coming sooner than we think.
In February of 2023, I’ll be debating Dr. James White in Houston, TX on the topic of “What Is Biblical Marriage?” which should be a lot of fun.
If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you there! INFO AND REGISTRATION HERE>
Keith Giles is the best-selling author of the Jesus Un series. He has appeared on CNN, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything.” His latest book, SOLA MYSTERIUM: Celebrating the Beautiful Uncertainty of Everything is available now on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.