While all this may sound rather interesting and perhaps even helpful to society, technologists believe that this is only the beginning of AI’s transformation of our world. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (the creator of ChatGPT), has said jestingly, “AI will probably, most likely, lead to the end of the world, but in the meantime, there’ll be great companies.” Elon Musk has also said that AI is facing exponential growth, and with that comes danger: “The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year time frame. Ten years at most.” James Barrat, a writer on AI, has said, “I don’t want to really scare you, but it was alarming how many people I talked to who are highly placed people in AI who have retreats that are sort of ‘bug out’ houses, to which they could flee if it all hits the fan.” What could cause these people and many others to consider AI so dangerous as to be an imminent threat to humanity? There are several concerns.
Destruction. Recently, a simulation allegedly occurred in which a military drone was trained using AI to eliminate certain targets, except when the operator said no. The AI reasoned, however, that its prime objective was to eliminate targets, so it cut off its communication with its operator. That way, it didn’t have to receive any commands to stop. The Air Force later denied aspects of this story, but the hypothetical situation still leads to questions. Imagine a world in which AI is operating behind the scenes of not just our national defense but also our financial, medical, and logistical world, but it suddenly and autonomously comes to a conclusion that leads to catastrophic consequences. AI has, as one researcher put it, no “common sense”; it makes mistakes. This is, at least in part, the reason that many technologists talk about AI as an imminent threat to humanity. So much of our world is already connected to the internet and is, in some sense, run by software. Think about the destruction that just four planes caused on September 11, 2001. Now imagine a world in which thousands of planes, cars, and perhaps most of our infrastructure is operated by or vulnerable to AI. Christians are called to think about these sorts of concerns, because our God is a God of peace, and He has called us to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9).
Job Loss. There is a fair amount of fear among those familiar with AI technology that a tremendous upheaval in the job market will take place as the technology diminishes the need for human workers. Because man is created in God’s image, we are called to work unto His glory (Gen. 1:28; 1 Cor. 10:31). What will work look like for men and women if many more things are automated or done by robots in the future? Questions will need to be asked about the dignity of work, what it means to be human, and how we can take satisfaction in what God has gifted us to do.
Disappearance of Truth. This sort of challenge is already being encountered with various “deep fake” videos circulating on the internet. These videos convincingly imitate anyone—a president, a celebrity, a news commentator—saying or doing anything, so that what’s fake is indistinguishable from what’s real. While the advantages of web3 technology and proofs of authenticity (see previous article in this issue) may help alleviate this concern, the volume of disinformation could become so large that truth and falsehood become almost impossible to sort through. Eventually, this could lead to more societal chaos and further disintegration of institutional authority. Christians are called to discern and know the truth (Prov. 2:2; John 8:32), and this may become even harder in the future.