“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
“AI, Bots, and Drones… Oh, my!”
Not very long ago, artificial intelligence (AI), bots (short for robots), and controllable flying machines were the stuff of science fiction movies, books, and comic books. Now they are a reality!
“Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to the natural intelligence displayed by animals including humans. AI research has been defined as the field of study of intelligent agents, which refers to any system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of achieving its goals… AI applications include advanced web search engines (e.g. Google), recommendation systems (used by YouTube, Amazon, and Netflix), understanding human speech (such as Siri and Alexa), self-driving cars (e.g. Tesla), and automated decision-making and competing at the highest level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go).” (Wikipedia.com)
In Isaiah 55:9 (NIV), God tells us: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” As we see in nature and in God’s creation, man’s technology and human inventions are merely imitative of God’s truths – a mere glimpse of God’s wonders. The Lord says that we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind through Christ (Romans 12:2). Access to the mind of God through Christ is vastly beyond the capabilities of AI. Active intelligence based on ultimate Truth is not artificial.
Bots are functional in our daily lives, both on the Internet and beyond.
“A ‘bot’ – short for robot – is a software program that performs automated, repetitive, pre-defined tasks. Bots typically imitate or replace human user behavior. Because they are automated, they operate much faster than human users. They carry out useful functions, such as customer service or indexing search engines…” (www.kaspersky.com)
Bots are often invisible as they go about their work, camouflaged as convenience. AI and bots are used in everyday life, even beyond our personal or job computer time. For instance, in industry: “The robots, drones and cameras that inspect machines to perform predictive maintenance and relay analog information to operations staff can now function autonomously. Even better – the longer they’re at their jobs, the better they do.” (Venturebeat.com, “Making Sense of AI”, May 17, 2022)
In contrast, we aren’t robots. God has given us the power of choice, a privilege greater than our earthly intelligence. Our actions are not pre-determined – we have free will. As David the psalmist expressed, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14, NIV)
Consider the application of AI with drones. “From security surveillance to aerial view monitoring, AI drone is now used by online retail giant Amazon to deliver the products at customer’s doorstep revolutionizing the transportation and delivery system by logistics and supply chain companies. A self-flying drone is built with various in-built with computerized programming and using technology like propulsion and navigation systems, GPS, sensors and cameras, programmable controllers as well as equipment for automated flights.” (https://medium.com, “How AI Based Drone Works: Artificial Intelligence Drone Use Cases”, Feb. 5, 2020)
Police, the FBI, fire departments, the military, farmers and ranchers, search and rescue organizations, disaster relief groups… the list is truly endless regarding the positive uses of drones with built-in AI capabilities. But drug cartels and human smugglers use drones, too. As with any tool, it is the intent that determines its morality.
Our GPS – our true north and compass – is God’s Word, our “grid of Truth”, to help us navigate the journey of our lives. Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) states: “A man’s heart plans his way. But the Lord directs his steps.”
Technology is neither good nor evil. For every appropriate and meaningful application of AI, bots, and drones, there are, of course, those who recognize the capabilities of these advancements and use them with malicious intent.
And how much encroachment upon humanity by technology will we tolerate in our current societies? We like facial-recognition software when it’s used to locate a criminal, but what about gathering information about law-abiding citizens – which is already in existence in China and perhaps elsewhere? We recognize the service that the National Security Agency (NSA) performs when tracking down terrorists, but are we willing to have them eavesdrop on and record our personal conversations? When Amazon and Walmart use drones to deliver our packages, that seems high-tech and useful, but drones can certainly follow and film our daily activities.
And what about the future of AI?
“In March 2018, at the South by Southwest tech conference in Austin, Texas, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk issued a friendly warning: ‘Mark my words,’ he said, billionaire casual in a furry-collared bomber jacket and days’ old scruff, ‘AI is far more dangerous than nukes… A year prior, the late physicist Stephen Hawking was similarly forthright when he told an audience in Portugal that AI’s impact could be cataclysmic unless its rapid development is strictly and ethically controlled.” (https://builtin.com, “7 Dangerous Risks of Artificial Intelligence”, July 6, 2021)
AI is not automatically family-friendly with embedded Christian values. In fact, those who program the rules for AI software are then responsible for the “behaviors” and outcomes of these systems. Those anonymous programmers indeed hold the future of AI, bots, and drones, but it is God who holds our future. Romans 8:38-39 (NIV) reassures us stating, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Conversations that stimulate thinking can make all the difference in teens’ lives. Adults who have a rapport with teens can help them consider what is happening in our culture without just blindly accepting it all. Here are conversation starters for your home, classroom, or church setting.
• “How does technology help us in our everyday lives? What are the benefits and possible concerns about technology?”
• “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used by the military, government, education, and industry. What are some of the advantages of AI?”
• “AI is just a technology tool and its use, whether good or bad, depends on the intent of the user. Do you think our government should attempt to control the uses of AI?”
• “Bots (short for robots) can be valuable tools. Chatbots answer our questions and direct us to information we need. Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa are universal. How do you use these ‘virtual assistants’? How much more do you think these tools might be developed in the future, and what kinds of things would you like to see them be able to do?”
• Together watch and discuss this YouTube feature:“Drones Getting Smarter with AI” (1&1/2 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–pp-_xtm_U
• “Drones serve as ‘eyes in the sky’ and delivery for everything from pizza and Amazon packages to emergency medicine and equipment. But what could be some malicious uses of drones?”
• “It is said that those who program the software determine the future. If that were your job, how would you program the future?”
• “What is your reaction to this scripture: ‘Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.’ Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV) Do you think we need to be careful about technology?”
Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a lesson for youth group gatherings.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
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