Artificial Intelligence or AI….what do you think of when you hear those words?
For some of us, it brings to mind the stuff of movies (there actually was a movie called AI in 2001). For others, we think about some of what we experience today when we ask Siri to find a place for us to eat dinner!
Regardless, it’s a hot topic and one that many are eager to learn more about. That was the case at our recent AI seminar, attended by approximately 150 guests. During the mix and mingle time before the seminar, old friends reconnected and room began to buzz with interest in the topic of the evening.
The program was opened by the Executive Director of New Canaan Society, James Anderson and moderated by Vice Admiral Faison, Surgeon General of the Navy. Our panel included Dr. Tony Atala, who runs the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University and Dr. Andrzej Turkanik of the Quo Vadis Institute. Dr. Atala brought a medical perspective, with all of the advances AI has made in that area while Dr. Turkanik provided insights on AI in other areas and the future of this technology on our society and the world.
We started with an overall discussion on how AI technology impacts us in today's society. It has the potential to enhance the work done in almost every professional field. Dr. Atala shared how from economics, to medicine, AI working in tandem with Big Data can significantly reduce man-made errors and free up professionals to focus on issues that require a personal touch. Simply put, it makes our lives easier.
Like most concepts, AI is plagued with some misconceptions that Dr. Atala and Dr. Turkanik both wanted to clear up. Artificial intelligence typically engenders fear because of a far-fetched science fiction idea that the advancement of the technology will ultimately surpass humans and wipe them out. However, as with a computer program, AI can only act within the confines of the coding behind it. The data that AI collects is based on the programming we as humans give it. The capabilities cannot be greater than the programming, and they can be shut off at any point.
The positive aspects of artificial intelligence are numerous. AI is meant to help humans perform better and do things more efficiently. It can improve decision making (audits, facial detection, help to prevent crime). And in medicine, it improves the quality of care patients receive. The volume of medical knowledge provided by AI allows doctors more time to spend helping patients.
Some of the most interesting parts of the discussion involved exploring the spiritual aspects of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence shapes the greater sphere of society and the variety of institutions within, with opportunities to further God's kingdom with it. How are we to look at AI through a spiritual lens?
For starters, our panelists reminded us all that humans are made in the image of God and are creatures that embody that image. AI is not. Mistakenly, at time we humanize AI when it is only technology – not a person. We must work to change the posture that society has towards AI.
While AI is a neutral entity, its use can be either a boon or bane to society. On the one hand, it can greatly enhance the productivity of a variety of professional fields; on the other-hand, it has the potential to replace workers in existing professions such as telemarketing, truck driving, and bookkeepers due to automation. As a result, we (the church) must be cautious in how we proceed to use this technology. As Kingdom members, we need to:
Think about our family’s daily interactions with AI and set boundaries when needed (for example, screen time for our children).
Not allow AI and the digital society we live in interfere with family time (dinner every night, movie night on Fridays, etc.).
Be mindful of the needs of those whose careers might be affected by the advancement of AI (such as truck drivers, retail clerks, etc.).
Be creative in using technology to engage with your community and further God’s Kingdom.
The questions that AI brings up within us require a thoughtful Christian response and continued gathering of individuals to learn, exchange ideas and have conversation.