Navigating the AI Landscape

Navigating the AI Landscape: Embrace or Fear?- Ben Jones, Missional Generation

I’d like to begin this blog by emphasising that, according to Scripture, Jesus doesn’t change – yesterday, today, tomorrow; he’s always totally himself (MGS). With this scripture, we see the truth and authenticity of the existence of Jesus. He is the Alpha and Omega.

The essence of this scripture signifies that nothing, whether it be life, circumstances, or digital innovation, can alter the truth, character, and reality of Jesus. As a dyslexic Christian, I have navigated life with dyslexia, finding aspects of dialogue, information gathering, and communication challenging. Artificial intelligence serves me as an aide in condensing content into an understandable form.

The question we need to ask is:

Should we use technological developments like AI to help deepen our relationship and awareness of the truth we find in a personal relationship with Jesus? As our passage tells us, Jesus’ truth remains clear, regardless of external factors.

AI lacks the ability to redefine or adjust Jesus. It is not a living being but a digital concept presenting a simulation of human intelligence. AI can utilise language processing, speech recognition, and machine vision but can only convey historical and current information. AI has no personality or spirituality regardless of how human it may give the perception; it is nothing compared to Jesus being omnipresent and uncontainable, and working through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Waking up to the narrative of AI

In our rapidly evolving world, AI has become a daily topic of conversation. The remarkable influence of AI is undeniable, shaping the way we live, work, and connect with unprecedented speed. This seamless connectivity provides us with instant access to a wealth of information, creativity, and communication, an experience that would have been inconceivable during the days of pen pals. AI’s transformative impact is everywhere, from smartphones to smart speakers, redefining our lives in ways we could scarcely imagine. While this technological progress is undeniably helpful, it raises concerns when AI enters our world with the potential to think autonomously.

The amalgamation of human and AI capabilities has stirred a sense of apprehension, both in general society and the local church. At a convention in Germany, an unprecedented church service was conducted, almost entirely generated by AI. The AI was represented through various avatars which led over 300 attendees through 40 minutes of prayer, music, sermons, and blessings.

The fascination generated by this experiment was immense, offering people a rare opportunity to witness AI’s capacity to think independently, provide spiritual insights, and share biblical wisdom. This simultaneously raises concerns and underscores the necessity for the church to engage in thoughtful conversation. The prospect of AI offering a high degree of spiritual connectivity, transmitting a wealth of information, creates a critical juncture in the way we think and process data and faith.

AI has begun to infiltrate industries and replace jobs, prompting humanity’s reliance on this technology. The global community assembled, with world leaders, educators, and industry professionals converging at the AI Safety Summit November 2023 where they addressed a myriad of critical issues surrounding the ever-expanding domain of AI and how we need to establish basic-level regulations, safeguards, and risk assessments, ensuring safe use of AI.

AI…tool or a concern?

AI can be perceived as either a tool or a concern. It has the ability to assist and empower and also promises to bring about massive changes in the coming years, offering unprecedented opportunities to reshape the workforce of the future in ways we can’t even yet imagine, just like the Internet did a generation ago.

According to a new survey by Youth Music, 63% of young creatives aged 16-24 years old are using AI in various ways. AI was recently used on the unfinished demo of “Now and Then” made by John Lennon in 1977; in 1995, the 3 remaining band members tried to finish the track but it was abandoned as they didn’t have the technology to bring John’s voice through. After 3 decades with the use of AI, the remaining two members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, managed to use the original recordings of John’s voice and the recorded elements of George Harrison to create the track. The use of AI gave us the last-ever single of arguably the world’s greatest band. Paul reflected on the emotion of hearing John’s voice and making this final single: “There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear,” McCartney said in a statement. “It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it; it’s a genuine Beatles recording.

AI, when wielded effectively, can enhance various tasks, like administrative functions. However, AI should not supplant our capacity for critical theological thinking.

This is why Missional Generation is working on creating a regulated and safeguarding youth and children’s leaders AI assistant called Aice. Aice is an artificial intelligence youth and children assistant app designed to help leaders plan, create, and innovate weekly sessions. Aice will accelerate leaders’ admin tasks, freeing them to have time to innovate and disciple more children and young people around the local church. This will be released 2024.

In conclusion

Initiating discussions on AI is vital to be able to have an open mind to the possibilities of new technologies. Understanding how to appropriately regulate AI fosters confidence in acknowledging its potential risks. Once individuals grasp the potential dangers of AI, they can explore strategies to mitigate and reduce them, ultimately establishing a safe framework for its use.

I would like to suggest that you have an open conversation within your churches and leadership teams about what AI is, how people are using AI, and what are the opportunities and concerns in regulating and risk assessing the why, how, and should we use AI.