Should Christians Be Concerned About A.I.?

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Eden Chen and Justin Buzzard discuss one of the emerging issues in technology, artificial intelligence, from a Christian perspective.

The following is a lightly edited transcript. Please check the video before quoting.

Justin Buzzard: Let’s see. Should Christians be concerned about artificial intelligence? Big topic. Eden, thoughts?

Eden Chen: I’d say, for artificial intelligence, I think they should be concerned, as concerned as they would be with any technology. There are lots of incentives for people to use anything at their discretion to try to make as much money as possible. That’s generally how we think about economics: supply and demand. People are trying to make money. With artificial intelligence, you have massive amounts of data, and you have the ability to sort of automate things, and people are going to use that to try to extract value. But I don’t think that’s any more unique than any other type of tool that they would use to do that.

There’s going to need to be regulation in place, and I think a lot of people are already working on that. Obviously, there’s a crazy amount of potential in AI. But generally we tend to overdramatize the pace at which things are actually developing. Things have always been moving fast.

Justin Buzzard: Yeah. I think most fears over artificial intelligence are overblown. I think there’s actually more opportunity, more that Christians ought to be excited about with AI than scared about.

I think a lot of people maybe see a movie, and see where AI is at in a movie. In movies, a robot may be able to do all sorts of human tasks. The reality is that we’re nowhere near that with artificial intelligence. A robot can’t even tie a shoe. The technology is not there. A robot could tie a shoe if it’s in this exact spot, and this exact type of shoe, and the sensors are all in the right spots.

We’re using artificial intelligence every day. We’re using it when you enter into your Google search bar. Google knows what you’re going to be putting in there. As we use AI, it actually is helpful because it frees up humans to do things we really care about more. It can make us more efficient. It can be helpful.

In a lot of ways, I think we ought to be thinking about artificial intelligence like people were thinking about the Industrial Revolution. Some of that technology did harm, sure. But it freed up humans to do things that humans can be great at like relationships, emotionally connecting. And AI robots will never be able to emotionally connect. AI’s designed for logical thinking, logical decision making, and helping with that. So, I think there’s actually much more opportunity rather than threat.

Eden Chen: Yeah. I agree with that. I definitely think that the concern with AI is that it eliminates a lot of potential job opportunities for those in manufacturing. Elon Musk recently had to get rid of a lot of the machinery that Tesla was using in their factory because it wasn’t able to produce the cars at the rate that he thought they would. They had to go back to using a lot of manual labor. So, a lot of it is ahead of its time.

I visited the Shinola watch factory in Detroit. They’re trying to be one of these companies that’s reenergizing American manufacturing in creating these watches. And I was on their line, and I saw the people assembling watches. It’s a very monotonous role. They sit there putting bands on these watches. Yes, it creates jobs, but at the same time, you have to wonder whether these are the things that we should be doing. Should we be paying people to sit there and put on a watch band for eight hours a day? Are those the kinds of jobs that we want? I think a robot should be doing some of those things and probably could do it with better precision.

Creating art and creativity, a lot of these kinds of things robots can’t do. But the question for me would be: yes, we may create jobs on the low end of the sphere, but are there ways that we can empower those people to do jobs that maybe would give them more satisfaction? You could just tell that some of these guys are bored out of their minds, doing the same thing over and over.

Justin Buzzard: Yeah. It’s certainly going to result in the loss of some jobs but also the creating of a lot of new jobs, and then I think will release human potential in some new ways because you’re not doing. In a lot of ways, it’s how we use calculators now. We don’t even think about it. But no one is doing long form division anymore. No one is working out those types of equations on paper if they can just quickly use their calculator to do that. Then there’s time, mental space, energy freed up to use in different ways.

Eden Chen: I think there will be massive disruption. But I think, to your point, those things don’t happen overnight. It’s not like, all of sudden, all of those jobs are going to exist.

Justin Buzzard: It’s not the movies.

Eden Chen: Yeah. Yeah. Over decades, those jobs will be eliminated. But yeah, I think new jobs will be created as well.

Justin Buzzard: I think the way we’ll be talking about this in 20 years will be very different than the conversation today. We’ll have made a lot of discoveries about how it works.