Ever notice how ethical treatments of artificial intelligence always seem to come from the politically correct side of the aisle—even when approached from a Christian perspective? To follow God we must put away our anger and pugnacity in order to walk in love and peace. Yet, each day more of our religion is being used against us, to make us stand down, to mold us into conformity. There is such a thing as justifiable anger. Anger can cloud thinking and prompt rash action—or it can be used to think and plan appropriate responses to what’s currently going on in our country and across the globe. Patriots justifiably abhor the dissolution of our civil society, our education and judicial systems, our history and common belief in “Our Creator” and our country’s founding. Don’t believe people who tell you that our country is flawed as founded. The path to righteousness was built into our founding documents and the cost was paid in full by the blood shed during our first Civil War. We have long been in a cold second civil war, and in the last decade or so artificial intelligence has been slowly turning up the heat on our conflict. We’re at a boil, at this point. We can rebuild our dependence on God and liberty, in both a societal and individual way, or we will lose all it means to be made in God’s image and to be the stewards of his creation.
Jeremy Peckham is a British Christian who spent much of his career working with artificial intelligence (AI) and is now part of a growing movement to influence the ethical application of AI through biblical principles. He worked as a government scientist at the UK Royal Aircraft Establishment and then at Logica where he led a project on speech understanding and dialog called SUNDIAL. His book “Masters or Slaves? AI and the future of humanity” is terrific, provided we make allowances for some differences of opinion. And isn’t that what a civil society is supposed to be about? We listen to each other, agree on commonalities, acknowledge differences, and determine how far we can advance together and where we must part ways.
Peckham’s thinking on how to approach AI in our lives and in our world from a Christian perspective is detailed, biblically based, and clearly presented. He defines narrow and general AI—the difference between, say, a robotic vacuum and a fully self-driving car with moral implications baked into the intelligence—and explores how technology is not neutral. Two examples—not from the book, but from life—illustrate his point. My most recent phone’s microphone feature absolutely could not understand a Boston accent. It didn’t matter how many years I spent “training” it. It was a useless, time-sucking “convenience” that left me annoyed with each manual correction I had to make, after having sent, of course. The result was that I tried to enunciate, separating my words and mimicking Midwesterners. It never worked. I couldn’t pronounce my vowel-flanked Rs, or not pronounce Rs at the end of words that weren’t actually there. The technology is not neutral; it’s forcing people to all speak the same. It was an affront to my New England sensibilities, my low-brow Boston pride, my high-brow demand that I be treated as the unique individual that I am. On my new phone, I only text. I refuse to activate the microphone.
The other example involved GPS, or global positioning system, which in the U.S. is owned by the government and operated by the U.S. Space Force. After what can only be described as a frightening experience in which I was sent in a circle, I decided to eschew all GPS and go old-school. On the ground, I can orient by terrain, but no matter how many military or civilian courses I take in land navigation, I know I’m weak in that skill. What I’m not weak in is reading a road map. Since vacationing in Vermont and New Hampshire as a youngster with my father, I’ve loved road trips, especially the map reading and planning. As he said, the best way to learn a new place is to get lost. It sure builds confidence and tests your internal navigational system.
Now, I found that I had to teach myself some things over again, like judging distances without the miles and minutes constantly being fed to me. It wasn’t that I forgot the tricks, but that I had to remind myself to add mileage to my odometer as a ballpark signal that I was nearing my exit or next turn. What had Dad said about odd and even numbered interstates? And what about loops, bypasses, and spurs? One evening I found myself wishing I had thought to consider the topography of a certain secondary road. What had GPS done to my brain? For one, it lulled me into thinking I could just get in the car and go. Traveling by map took planning and basic skills. GPS also kept me to main roads with time always being the determining factor. It took me a while to regain my sense of confidence and adventure on roads less travelled. Sure, I went the wrong way a few times, but each time, I recovered quickly. Every time you use technology, you lose an aspect of your humanness, like your internal navigational compass. Technology is designed to be addictive, but I kicked the GPS habit. Who knew paper maps would be a thing again?
I certainly had nothing to argue with Peckham about so far. He then opened a roadmap to what it means to be a human created in the likeness of God. We were meant to be holy, to create, and to be in relationship with God and each other. To break it down further, we were meant to reason like God with the moral freedom to chose and the ability and mandate to love: God, ourselves, our friends, and if you’ve mastered being Godly, our enemies. We were meant to be stewards over God’s creation: planting, growing, building, creating, subduing, ruling. In other words, we were made to work, just as God worked to make heaven and the earth and everything contained in both. And, we are hardwired to be in relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are also built for relationship with ourselves and each other.
Before launching into the specific ways that artificial intelligence upends our Christianity and our very humanness, Peckham summarizes seven ways in which how we are made in God’s image can serve as guideposts in determining when to avail ourselves of artificially intelligent technology, or not. Christians need to read this book for themselves, but it’s worth summarizing Peckham’s list here with examples so we can begin immediately to throw off our oppressors and begin the long slog of putting legislative limits on what can be highly seductive and dehumanizing technology.
- Because we’re made in his likeness, we bear some of God’s essence in that we are moral beings of intellect and reason, and are capable of love based on our freedom to choose.
- Our allegiance is to God first, above all others, so we should not allow technology to become a God. (We also need to be hyper vigilant of how artificial intelligence is trying to mimic God to lure us more deeply into its addiction.)
- We’re to love our neighbors as ourselves, therefore we should abstain from AI that interferes with authentic relationships and care of each other. In other words, relationships are messy and a sex doll or a doll an Alzheimer’s patient can care for makes us even less capable of empathizing with each other.
- All life is sacred and other people should be afforded the respect and dignity to live in God’s creation in peace. The right to privacy in life, personal information, movement, and legal activities must be non-negotiable.
- We are to bear the image of God, so we need to avoid any technology that tarnishes that image. Think God bearing like you would military bearing.
- God holds men and women responsible for being His moral representatives on earth. Anything that cedes that authority to technology is right out, such as fully self-driving cars that determine who lives and dies in an accident or automated weapons that do not require a human to be in the decisions-making process.
- We are responsible for God’s creation. We must walk in righteousness and justice, so anything that takes away human dignity or privacy, or is used to oppress people, should never be allowed to even be tested. And needless to say, testing on human beings without their consent is a crime against humanity, period.
The problem is, the horse has already busted down his stall. AI is being used to find cancerous tumors, but what if the data set the technology was trained on doesn’t include new or evolving cancers? AI is being used far beyond chatbots in customer service, but you have the right to know if you’re interacting with a human or a machine. Augmented reality—think “Predator”—and virtual reality have become so intertwined with our brains that we’re losing our ability to determine what is real. The same applies to information, and as Marxists say, once someone doesn’t know what to believe, you can do anything with them, including enslaving them. The “data collection for free services” business model can no longer be allowed to stand. Informed consent is not given when you are forced to read page after page of legal-ese before you can use an app. If we want Facebook, we should pay for it and be allowed to keep our privacy and our data, period. Breaking up Big Tech will not change anything unless it is simultaneously prevented from collecting and selling our data. And, of course, “seeking to augment the human soul or to create superintelligence is to seek to become God and is also idolatry,” Peckham writes.
One of the more immediately disturbing aspects of AI concerns work. God created, then he rested. We are to create, and then rest. But what if your LinkedIn resume includes 10 out of 10 keywords, but the algorithm only picks up three. Is LinkedIn derailing you to potential employers? One of the ways that Peckham sounds like he has conformed to the church of political correctness is in his discussion of justice. What if human data, which is racist, produces racist algorithms? In one example, a young black girl with prior misdemeanors is rated as more likely to offend than a white career criminal in his 50s. In another, a middle-aged white male is given preference for a job over others, not necessarily because he’s best for the job but because middle-aged white males did the job most frequently in the past data sets. But what if the algorithms are fed by humans prejudiced against white people, people with obviously Republican or pro-Second Amendment jobs on their resume, or those listing volunteer work with a church that is perceived to be sexist or pro-traditional family? Next stop: Patriot impoverishment.
If a computer can do your job better than you, then what is your purpose? In past eras, advances caused lost jobs and then more jobs came up in other sectors. What happens when both blue and white collar jobs are affected, along with the arts. If a computer can write this article, then what is my purpose? God called us to create, to make, to build, to work. We are following the example Our Father set when we harness our talents to His calling. Perpetual leisure is not how God made us. Though he built in rest on the seventh day and, arguably, the seventh year, he made us to be stewards of his creation and that was before the fall. It was His original intent for us to work, if only in naming things. If AI takes over our work, or targets any segment of our society in a malevolent way, humans will be robbed of their uniqueness in God’s Kingdom. How likely is this?
Every time AI takes over a cognitive skill, humans lose an aspect of their minds, be it the ability to reason, make decisions, or create. Every time AI imposes on a human-to-human relationship, we lose the ability to relate with each other. The costs go beyond the intrusion of personal assistants like Siri, the personification of sex robots, or healthcare robots to which we abdicate our accountability to our ailing relatives. AI stunts a child’s emotional and social growth, as well as his or her ability to empathize, and once we personify a robot, we open the door to feeling an ethical obligation to the machine, leading to legal issues regarding rights. AI robs us of our freedom to chose and our privacy. We can abdicate our moral authority to AI, or lose our livelihood to it, or even our sense of reality.
Is there anything good about it? Absolutely! Robotic surgery—overseen by a human—is just one example. But as humans and especially as Christian humans, we have an obligation to future generations to take our faces out of our phones, straighten our neck and shoulders, pray for God’s guidance and discernment, and seriously access each and every interaction we have with artificial intelligence. We need to pressure our highly unresponsive government to curtail any use of AI that is meant to control the population or any segment of it.
The other way Peckham showed his British hand was in his assessment of firearms. He says their only purpose is to kill; I say their main purpose is to prevent killing by their very existence. So, you see, I would not want someone like him to have access to the data set that is somehow used to further erode the Second Amendment in this country. The very nature of machine learning means that we don’t know how these algorithms are affecting our lives and government policy. Transparency is elusive when trying to explain how a data set taught the machine to “think.” Patriots are naïve; we think that everyone understands that lack of freedom does not buy security—it buys oppression. We need to educate ourselves and participate as God’s sons and daughters in the ethical discussions surrounding the use of AI in our lives and the lives of those who follow us. I’d venture to say, based on how addictive Big Tech designs technology to be, that our very freedom depends upon our fighting for our rights within artificial technology. What if you just like to drive, to take road trips? They act as if driving is only for commuting, or that humans should not have the freedom to go where they want! You will all have a self-driving car—or else!