In reading the articles for this week, all I could think of were the several places in the Bible where humanity is advised not to fall into a place of utmost dependence on anything or anyone but God. We should be able to use what He’s provided us with for what needs to get done.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.Galatians 5:1, ESV
and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, ESV
In many ways, we are already pretty heavily enslaved to technology. Anyone else ever walked into a pole or tripped on something because you were on your phone? Ever witnessed that happen to someone else? Chances are at least one of those questions, when honestly answered, is a yes. I admit, I’m a yes to both.
This said, there is a scary element to AI that seems to be unfolding behind the major headlines of today. Ever hear of the Federal Reserve’s new FedNow system? It’s essentially a newly announced federal central online bank. Seems convenient, right? Well, let’s remember who’s running it– the government. Let’s also consider what other countries have similar systems already in place, like China, which now has the power to freeze and shut down accounts or take money from accounts when any particular citizen so much as jaywalks, let alone criticizes the establishment.
And AI has the ability to track these things and record them– the man behind the server being free to sell that information because even if it is illegal, the value that information holds will get him more than enough money to escape with hardly a slap on the wrist.
Now, this is hardly the first time that the idea of a central bank has been thrown around, but it is something to take into account with regard to how technology and AI might affect humanity. We can definitely look back to the short film we watched, frames.
Here’s one of the other things with AI: when we begin to rely on it, it’s like a pot that’s too small for a plant. Hear me out– a large plant in a small pot gets root-bound, meaning its own roots begin to suffocate one another as the plant grows until it just can’t grow or survive. In essence, when we hold heavy reliance in technology, we suffocate our own roots as human beings. We become the dry shrub rolling around that Jeremiah describes:
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”Jeremiah 17:5-8, ESV
But how is AI a small pot when its “brain” is so vast? The answer to that question is similar to the one I asked before regarding walking into poles or tripping on something because you or someone you observed was on…
We don’t pay attention anymore. We don’t learn to observe and we simply rely on internet searches and how-to guides and videos. We don’t learn to discover with our own hands, through our own mistakes when the use of this technology is so unchecked. Its pervasiveness isn’t what’s necessarily bad– it’s the fact that we have not addressed where the healthy boundary is so that we as humans can still survive without it. In many cases today, I doubt most people can, myself included (which as a Christian is definitely something I should seek more accountability on, hence why I include that detail here).
And there’s a quote that struck me from a book I’m currently reading regarding this (though not specifically AI) regarding writing. I highly, highly, highly recommend Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle, regardless of your faith. Even if you’re not a Christian, there’s a lot to be learned on writing and art from the A Wrinkle in Time author. The quote that struck me though is this:
When language is diminished, I am thereby diminished, too. In time of war language always dwindles… We think because we have words, not the other way around. The more words we have, the better able we are to think conceptually. … As a child, when I came across a word I didn’t know, I didn’t stop reading the story to look it up, I just went on reading. And after I had come across the word in several books, I knew what it meant… We were capable of absorbing far more vocabulary when we read straight on than when we stopped to look up every word. … If our vocabulary dwindles to a few shopworn words, we are setting ourselves up for takeover by a dictator. When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles…Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle (p.29-31)
There is a reason that The Word was in the beginning. God spoke everything into existence. Jesus is the Word that John refers to at the beginning of his Gospel narrative, demonstrating once again how the three persons of the trinity were present before, during, and after creation was created. Like I’ve said before though, the power of life and death is indeed in the tongue, whether in speech or on paper or on a screen.
It’s a really busy week ahead for me so I’m getting cut a little short on my thoughts here for time’s sake. I’ll just leave you with one more verse and a question though:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV
How is AI and other technology being used to encourage people, and is it actually doing a good job at it?
(I think particularly of the strong correlations between both certain imperative, life-saving advancements as well as those that plague the minds and mental well being of so many, especially young people).