One of the most innovative and ground-breaking tools that has sped to the forefront of the tech industry is artificial intelligence. Every day we hear more about the growing capabilities of computers and the things they can now do for us. It can control our music selection, secure our house, turn our lights on and off, and now even drive us around. While people argue back and forth about the benefits versus the physical dangers of robots and increasing their capabilities, what influence do such innovations have on our spiritual growth or decay?
Last week on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale talked about the big changes coming to the world through the power of artificial intelligence and how to analyze it within the context of our Faith.
At the World Economic Forum in 2018, Pope Francis was quoted as saying, “Artificial intelligence, robotics, and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary as some assessments unfortunately foresee.” In other words, the Pope wanted to address the concerns that most skeptics saw as the main issue with AI: the possibility of its use for evil, control, and enforcement. Pope Francis made a general, but clear announcement to say that these new technologies should contribute to the uplifting of humanity and the earth, not for the benefit of a few.
A caller Buster commented on the culture surrounding Silicon Valley and the issues that a Catholic might find in tech. He said that growing up there, he was exposed to the atmosphere that almost seemed to suggest the worship of technology and analyzing what it can do rather than what it should do. When developers start looking at the “can” versus the “should”, they lose sight of the perspective Pope Francis was trying to instill. We are no longer pursuing innovation to help the common good. We are pursuing innovation for its own sake.
While the duties of artificial intelligence continue to grow ever more extensive (manufacturing, machine learning, menial/everyday work, etc.), our dependence and time spent interacting with machines grow with it. The more time spent interacting with a robot rather than a human person will inevitably affect the way we communicate with things and people alike.
For instance, ten years ago, you might imagine yourself sitting in the living room. You turn to your brother and say, “Hey, can you turn on the radio, please? I want to listen to some music.” Fast-forward to today. Would you ever hear that phrase now? Probably not. We say, “Alexa, turn on Spotify”, “Siri, give me directions to this restaurant”, “Hey Google, tell me the weather.” How long before we start demanding things from one another? How long before we lose the standards for etiquette and courtesy that we had instilled in us? Will this newfound innovation eliminate the need for jobs? What will that do to the Theology of Work? What happens to the sanctification of work, mortification, finding grace in suffering?
Another caller Nicki addressed another problem with machines and new technologies, namely virtual and augmented reality. Virtual reality is the creation of a completely fictional world or situation and uses a headset to place the user in this entirely artificial plane. Augmented reality is similar but uses the space and real-world setting around you to configure the fiction it sets out before you. Nicki works in AR and prefaced her thoughts by saying that there are a lot of beautiful things you can do with augmented reality, including the virtual placement of loved ones who might not be present with you for whatever reason.
But while this is a starting point, there is no shortage of virtual spaces in which users can lose themselves. And at some point, Nicki wondered when people will grow so tired of living out their realities where God is present and there for us, and start living in a fictional world, a made-up headspace. Instead of putting themselves in the presence of God, they’re imagining themselves in a digital, computerized world where robots and artificial intelligence dictate their lives.
Of course, that is looking at the darker side of what is possible and while it is a realistic take, technology is a “double-edged sword”. There are many positive outcomes from digitalization and artificial intelligence. In fact, recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick talked extensively about the life-changing AI that was developed to give Val Kilmer his voice back after he lost it to throat cancer (click here to listen).
Listen to the whole talk (and Cale’s daughter’s stand-up set) below:
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT