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Should We Fear or Celebrate Artificial Intelligence?

For all the promise and controversy surrounding gains made in artificial intelligence, the research involved still has a long way to go. So much so that many of the fundamental ideas and definitions of such technologies are still being developed. AI as we know it is pretty much a part of our daily lives now but only in a narrow sense. Like most technology, advances in things like AI serve primarily to simplify daily life for users. It’s the reason why nearly half of Americans use some form of digital voice assistants.

Despite this level of proliferation, current implementations of AI either only simulate intelligence (think digital assistants like Siri) or match or supersede human intelligence, but only in one very narrow and specific area (think self-organizing email inboxes or self-driving cars). While AI can process an immense amount of information and derive answers or even carry out a specific task, we still don’t have machines that have the potential to learn to carry out complex, multi-step tasks with the ability to account for significantly varying degrees of random circumstances—an innately human ability.

For instance, a machine used to place a certain part of a car on a car assembly line may do it in a way that’s much more efficient than a human could. That same machine currently has no way of expanding itself past this particular role—something a human working at this assembly line would be more than capable of.  The idea of moving machine intelligence to the human level of real learning, adapting and expanding past initial limits is what many refer to as artificial general intelligence (AGI or “strict” AI). It is this type of AI that looks to rapidly push the limits of what current technology is capable of. It’s also this kind of AI that many science fiction apocalyptic films and stories are full of.

While many fears and ideas about AI are still too far out to call, more immediate concerns revolve around the unavoidable change in job markets.

Of course, AI stands to also create numerous job opportunities given the sheer potential size of the industry and the huge number of possible applications for the tech.

The long view for certain proponents of AGI isn’t just the expansion of machine thinking, but an eventual merging of technology and humanity for the prolonging of life to ultimately “solve the problem” of death. This is part of a larger idea referred to as transhumanism, and for those who are in support of this, perfecting AGI seems to be a pivotal piece of the puzzle.  For some transhumanists, the pursuit of this end is as close to a pursuit of God (or being a god) as they could possibly imagine.

For the believer in Christ, the response to this rapid push toward expanding artificial intelligence should bring about neither fear or excessive adoration. This past October, mathematics professor, author and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries’ speaker,  John Lennox gave an exhaustive lecture on AI and our response to it in our day and age. While the philosophical implications seem daunting, Professor Lennox gives a perspective that is clear, informative and follows in step with a biblical worldview.

 

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About Beres Marrast

Christ Follower, Full-time husband, Physical Therapist and part-time tech enthusiast for the fun of it.

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