The AI End Game
By Mark Rodgers“It seems probable that once the machine thinking method had started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers. They would be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. At some stage therefore, we should have to expect the machines to take control."-Alan Turing, the computing pioneer whose life is depicted in The Imitation GameThere have been a surprising number of unexpected voices recently expressing concern over the seemingly unstoppable drive, should we dare say evolution, of technology toward artificial intelligence (AI).Steven Hawking told the BBC "the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." Earlier this year Bill Gates said "I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," in response to a question about the existential threat posed by AI. "First, the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that, though, the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern."Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla Motors and CEO of SpaceX, amped it up even more: “"I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that, so we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence. I'm increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish."AI is defined as the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that typically would require human intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. Naturally, this has broad implications ranging from the medical field, product assembly lines and gaming, where the most notable advances have been made.As one would expect, science fiction, whether through novel, film or comics, has been exploring temporal, moral and spiritual implications of AI for decades. Film has particularly enjoyed exploring the AI terrain.The Matrix, of course, is the mother of all AI-driven dystopian futures. But in the last year, films including Avengers: Age of Ultron and Transcendence also explored AI with wary lenses. Recently, Ex Machina did the same, suggesting that AI will ultimately pursue it’s own interests over the interests of others, including its creator.Sound familiar? God created us to love Him, but we put our interests over His. Why should anything we create be different?My friend Kevin Kelly has a slightly different take, one that I respect and would selfishly prefer to be truer than mine. In his book What Technology Wants, he suggests that the evolution of technology is literally akin to evolution in biology, driving toward a goal that will most likely serve the common good. From Turin’s “computer” beautifully and tragically told in The Imitation Game, to the (near?) future’s AI, it certainly seems that technology’s advancement is taking us somewhere.Kevin is a jack of all trades, and in addition to being a founder of Wired and author, he thoughtfully explores spirituality and technology through his beautiful graphic novel The Silver Cord, which was co-authored by the remarkably creative husband wife-team Keil Murray and Phil Lorin. I would strongly suggest you get hold of a copy while they are still available.I recently re-watched the Steven Spielberg film AI, which thoughtfully entertains the possibility that AI created out of love, to love, may actually serve a salvific role for humankind. Not a great movie, but an intriguing premise.It is unlikely that we will slow the bullet train speeding toward AI. It will arrive eventually, and I imagine in my lifetime, God willing. And that’s the point -- there is a destination. For the same reasons I don’t fret over eschatology, I don’t fret over technological advances that aren’t obvious violations of human life or other moral bright lines. There is a final destination, though, and as Revelation 21:4 tells us “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” The New will come, and I am looking forward to it!