Breakpoint: The Promises and Perils of Artificial Intelligence

In sci-fi and horror films, the “mad scientist” rarely begins as a villain. From Dr. Frankenstein to Spider-Man’s Dr. Oak, they often suffer from a combination of good intentions, unquenchable curiosity and a bit of hubris. Their plight is as familiar in real life as it is on screen, more recently with artificial intelligence.

According to the authors of “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” who borrowed heavily from the language of fantasy to predict a high-tech future, “We believe that artificial intelligence is our alchemy, our philosopher’s stone—we literally ..we believe that any lack of AI will result in loss of life. There is a shape.”

Ray Kurzweil is a scientist and futurist who has for years predicted possible developments in high technology, a helpful set of tools not only for humans to use, but for post-human evolution. is also necessary. By connecting our humanity with artificial intelligence, which he calls the “Singularity,” Kurzweil predicts a new era:

“And that singularity is not far off,” he says. “I set the date for the Singularity—which represents a profound and disruptive change in human potential—to be 2045. The non-biological intelligence created this year will be a billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.”

Kurzweil sees individualism as more than a possibility. He thinks it’s an absolute inevitability that human intelligence will be equaled, surpassed and eventually matched by our computerized tools.

While many predictions about AI are still more science fiction than reality, it is advancing faster than many expected. Even Kurzweil, when he was writing in the early 2000s, failed to see the ubiquity of smartphones and social media. Today, it is almost impossible to identify what is produced by programs like ChatGPT.

For years, Oxford mathematician and devotee Christian John Lennox has warned of some of the more negative effects of AI. In his book “2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity,” Lennox challenges more utopian predictions about AI and highlights its limitations. “A neural network,” Lennox wrote, “can pick out a cat on a YouTube video, but it has no idea what a cat is.” Here, Lennox is hinting at a deeper range of materialism. Indeed, only those who adhere to the idea that the human mind is a mere organic machine believe that a smart computer is, in any real sense, “alive.”

While AI may never be the golden ticket it’s supposed to be, Lennox suggests, its dangers to humanity remain. The title deliberately alludes to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984”. China’s current situation should be enough to show that it will not need a complete sense of unity to enslave millions of people. It will only take fallen humans with bad ideas and enough power to control some very powerful technologies.

And yet, the promises of AI are amazing. An algorithm can pick our music, movies and groceries with incredible accuracy, even if it’s a little creepy. AI’s labor and time-saving potential will save humanity hours of pointless tasks. And we haven’t even begun to imagine the possibilities of technological and medical advances.

However, the capabilities are not real, and history is littered with unintended uses and consequences of human technologies. The only way forward in these possible futures is to keep a clear eye on human exceptionalism and human decline. We must know the implications of both being created in God’s image and inheriting Adam’s sin.

Retrieved from Breakpoint, February 23, 2024; Reprinted with permission from the Colson Center, breakpoint.org.

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