In September, the British news website “The Guardian” published a story written entirely by an AI – an artificial intelligence that “learned” how to write from scanning the Internet. The piece received a lot of press because in it the AI stated it had no plans to destroy humanity. It did, however, admit that it could be programmed in a way that might prove destructive.
The AI is not beyond making mistakes. I noted its erroneous claim that the word “robot” derives from Greek. An AI that is mistaken about where a word comes from might also be mistaken about where humanity is headed. Or it might be lying. Not a pleasant thought.
Artificial Intelligence is based on the idea that computer programs can “learn” and “grow.” No less an authority than Stephen Hawking has warned that AI, unbounded by the slow pace of biological development, might quickly supersede its human developers.
Other scientists are more optimistic, believing that AI may provide solutions to many of humanity’s age-old problems, including disease and famine. Of course, the destruction of biological life would be one solution to disease and famine.
Hawking worried that a “growing” and “learning” computer program might eventually destroy the world. I doubt it ever occurred to Hawking that his fears regarding AI could once have been expressed toward BI – biological intelligence; that is, humans – at their creation.
Did non-human life forms, like those the Bible refers to as “angels,” foresee the dangerous possibilities presented by the human capacity to “grow” and “learn”? Might not the angel Gabriel, like the scientist Hawking, have warned of impending doom?
AI designers are not blazing a trail but following one blazed by God himself. For example, their creations are made, as was God’s, in their own image. And, like God’s creation, theirs is designed to transcend its original specs. There is, however, this difference: AI designers do not know how to introduce a will into their creations.
The capacity for growth, designed into humankind from the first, is seldom given the consideration it deserves. For one thing, it implies the Creator’s enormous self-confidence. God, unlike humans, is not threatened by the growth of his creation. In fact, he delights in it. He does not need to worry about protecting himself.
That the Creator wants his creatures to grow is good news, for it means God is a parent. That is what parents are like. They long for their children to become great and good. No wonder Jesus taught his followers to call God “Father.”
Given that God created such beings knowing what could – and if theologians are correct, what would – go wrong, he must have considered the outcome of creation to be so magnificent and good as to merit present pain and suffering. When people fault God for current evil, they do so without comprehending future good.
The present only makes sense in the light of the future, and the future only offers hope if we will become more and better than we currently are. Outside of the context of a magnificent future, present injustices, sorrows, and suffering appear overwhelming.
The hope presented in the Bible is audacious. It is unparalleled and unrivaled. The Marxist hopes for a better world. The Christian hopes for a perfect one: a new heaven and new earth, where everything is right and everyone exists in glory. The hope of the most enthusiastic Marxist fades before this shining hope the way a candle fades before the noonday sun.
This hope is not just that human pains will be forgotten, swallowed up in bliss. It is not just that shame will be buried when we die and left in the grave when we rise. Christian hope is not just that evil and injustice will be destroyed. It is that when God is all and is in all, we will be more than we have ever been.
The long story of weapons and wars, of marriages broken, and innocence stolen turns out to be different than we thought and better than we dreamed. It is the introduction to a story of astounding goodness, displayed in our creation, redemption, and glorious future.