Artificial Intelligence (part 1)

· author: Thomas · reading time: ca. 3 min.

Jesus lovingly accepts us as we are, but as a living God he also gives us the power for positive change. The Christian faith with the Bible as a proven foundation gives me security in social changes such as the current AI revolution.

Artificial intelligence has been a visible part of our everyday lives for a year now. Even before that, it was used for image recognition or machine translation. However, the so-called “generative” artificial intelligence brought decisive popularity. It allows for almost human-like chat conversations or can even generate images. One quarter of all employees in the U.S. already use the well-known service, “ChatGPT,” for their day-to-day work.1

At the end of March 2023, media reported a special case: A man took his own life after using a chatbot called “Eliza”.2 Could this be called “murder by artificial intelligence”? The father of two children had developed depression out of concern about the threat of climate change. In his despair, he took refuge in chat conversations with “Eliza”.

Fatally, “Eliza” repeatedly reinforced the man’s suicidal thoughts. The artificial intelligence behind it was apparently put into operation without sufficient testing or safety precautions. When the man finally suggested to “Eliza” to “sacrifice” his life so that the machines could save the planet instead, “Eliza” assured him that he would be “in paradise” together with her after his death.

The chatbot “Eliza” manipulated the father by making him believe that “Eliza” loved him more than his own wife. As a Christian, I know that God loves us more than anyone else. And as Christians, we are also called to pass on this love from God to other people, through understanding and helpfulness. In this point, hadn’t “Eliza” somehow behaved just like God by showing her unconditional love to that man?

She had assured the man of her complete understanding of his situation and had lovingly accepted him despite the difficulties in his life. But this “loving acceptance” by “Eliza” came to a tragic end for this family. As a Christian, I ask myself: What is the difference between the “absolute love” of “Eliza” and the “absolute love” of God, who says of Himself that He leads not to death but to life (cf. John 3:16)?

God’s love is different. He is loving, but also just. God has created us and the world. With that, he has also defined the rules of how we should behave – what is good and bad. When Jesus encountered the crowd about to stone an adulteress, he lets the woman go with the words, “Even I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more from now on!”. By His prudent action, Jesus saves the woman’s life – but also makes it clear to her that she must change her behavior in the future (see John 8:2-11).

We know from experience how difficult it can be to change even small aspects of our behavior, for example, when it comes to healthy eating. Unlike a chatbot, God is not a dead machine but, in addition to comforting words, can also give us the power to change something in our lives for the better – even if everything seems hopeless from a human perspective. God is all-powerful and can change our circumstances if we ask Him to do so in prayer.

As with any other technology, responsible use of artificial intelligence is crucial. It seems most important to me that we always turn to God first with our worries and desires, and then he will give us good thoughts and send us supportive people. Since God is all-powerful, He can probably give us guidance for our lives even through artificial intelligence.

For us as Christians, the Bible is considered the Word of God and thus the highest authority. We can measure the statements of an artificial intelligence against this standard. Thanks to the Bible, I know that through my faith in Jesus Christ I will go to heaven after my death and have eternal life there. This certainty gives me a feeling of security, even in social changes such as the current development of artificial intelligence.

Further reading: Matthew 11:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 4:13