Because of expected ice storm on Sunday January 9, only 8:30 worship will take place onsite.

March 23, 2023

A Pastoral Word. . .

Pastor Mark Adams

March 23, 2023
Like most of you we have an AI device in our home named ALEXA (the older version pictured here that looks like a hockey puck.) Our ALEXA “lives” on the top of my bureau on my side of the bed.  She wakes us up in the morning, tells us the weather, answers basic questions like, “How old is Mark Harmon?” (71).  Alexa also serves as a timer reminding us when to get something out of the oven or not to forget to reset our clocks for Daylight Saving Time. We can even have “conversations” with Alexa---but they always end up causing us to chuckle because “her” conversational skills are so limited.

Speaking of limits, in a recent Q&A with Christianity Today’s Emily Belz, veteran AI engineer Tom Kehler, talked about the limits of the popular ChatGPT, and the wonders of the human brain. Kehler has worked in artificial intelligence for more than 40 years, as a coder and a CEO. He grew up a preacher’s kid and got into mathematical linguistics in high school. After earning a PhD in physics, he wanted to do linguistics with Wycliffe Bible Translators, but “God kept closing that door,” he says. Instead, he found himself working with natural language processing in computing.

Belz asked, “Why is there an obsession with sentient AI?” Kehler replied, “If you are a person of nonbelief, you want to create something that gives you hope in the future---something that will allow you to have eternal life---knowing your consciousness is going to go into eternity because it’s in a machine.”

Belze also asked about Blake Lemoine, the Google engineer, who said in 2022 that his chatbot had become sentient and had a soul (Google fired him for this). He replied, “The way these systems work, we’ll say, ‘This is the number seven.’ We keep reinforcing until the neural network can recognize that seven. That correlation of events is the core way AI works now.

However, the way kids acquire language is truly mind-blowing. And not just language, but even if you go open the cupboard door. Kids see something once, and they figure out how to do it. The system that this Google engineer was talking about was given trillions of examples in order to get some sense of intelligence out of it. It consumed ridiculous amounts of energy, whereas a little kid’s brain requires the power of a flashlight, and it’s able to learn language. We’re not anywhere close to that kind of general AI.

AI is taking inputs to build its knowledge. It doesn’t check the truth value, or as it’s called, the data lineage. ‘Where did this data come from? Do we know it’s true?’ It’s translating input text to output text based on some objective.

If you think about how scientific knowledge or medical knowledge was developed, it’s by peer review. We as a human race have considered that trustworthy. It’s not perfect. But that’s how we normally build trust. If you have 12 of the world’s best cardiac surgeons say a certain procedure is good, you’re going to say, ‘Yeah, that’s probably good.’ If ChatGPT told you to do that procedure, you’d better have it reviewed by somebody, because it could be wrong.”

I would agree with Kehler. Our Alexa is often wrong. “She” will blurt out something we didn’t ask about or misunderstand a question or just go on talking nonsense until we say, “ALEXA STOP!”

All this goes to show that our brains are proof that we are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made.” They allow us to have a conscience, feel joy and regret, seek a purpose for our lives---and ultimately seek fellowship with our Creator---that all-powerful---all-loving Being Who created our brains in the first place. So, play with your ChatGPT---but TALK with God!

Keep the SON in your eyes!
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