Over the past weeks, news stories have told of the frightening prospects of artificial intelligence (AI) and the pace at which it is developing. Maybe, like me, you have felt a rush of fear as you have read headlines such as those quoting Rishi Sunak’s adviser on AI who warned that it ‘could kill many humans’ within two years. I won’t claim to be an expert in AI – to be honest, it is one big unknown to me. That is perhaps what makes the claims being made about it so scary. But it has got me thinking about how Christians, particularly those of us within the public square, interact with AI.
Fear not but take action
“Fear not” is one of the most repeated lines in the Bible. God doesn’t want us to live in a constant state of fear or anxiety about what is going to happen next. Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” When we think about the role that AI has to play in the future, and what this means for humankind, we know we can entrust the unknowns of that to the God that holds each of our tomorrows.
However, do not get me wrong, when the Bible says “fear not”, it does not always mean to sit back and let things happen. We can lean into the hope that we have through Jesus, whilst also taking action when necessary. When it comes to AI, there are ways Christians can speak into this conversation, but we need to be careful that our posture is one of faith and hope, not of worry. Ultimately, we know that the fear and struggles that we face in this life are temporary, and we look forward to the day of a new heaven and a new earth, where all of God’s creation works perfectly as it was designed to, and where we are free from harm.
Creativity and stewardship
As we engage in conversations around AI, we can celebrate that God made humans to be creative, and in our creativity, we are able to advance technology. We can use AI and other forms of technology to point towards a creator God, but we also need to know where to draw the line. Just like other forms of technology, or other goods that we consume, we can enjoy AI in moderation, whilst staying vigilant of it crossing a threshold that no longer honours God and His design for creation.
Just as I believe God’s instruction in Genesis 1:28 to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”, is His call for humans to steward the environment well; I believe He also asks us to steward the things that humans create well. To protect the order that God created, we must make sure that AI is never given dominion over humans. We must also ensure that AI does not lead to more people being out of work, and increased levels of deprivation and inequality. And we must not allow ourselves to become lazy, using AI to negate the need for humans to work (remembering that humans were given work even before the fall).
Calling for regulation
In his visit to Washington last week, Rishi Sunak made clear his intention to make the UK a global centre for AI regulation. It is my hope that this government, and the next government in power following the general election, will make the regulation of AI a priority. As Christians, one way that we can seek to have influence in this situation is by calling on all parties to make a manifesto pledge to put measured regulations in place. While it is good to celebrate creativity, it is vital that we place human life and wellbeing over developments in technology and wealth.
As we engage with AI, let’s be people that encourage policymaking that sustains life and protects wellbeing, but may we also put the eternal hope that we have in Jesus at the centre of our discussions.
For further learning on how Christians can engage well with AI debate why not visit the Evangelical Alliance's Being Human project or have a listen to our discussion with lawyer and data ethics advisor Patricia Shaw?