I have said on occasion, “We’re living in the world of The Jetsons,” the 1960s cartoon that showed the benefits of possible modern technological advancements. But with these technological advancements there’s also the potential for the world we see in I, Robot to take shape instead. In that movie, highly intelligent robots are designed to make the lives of humans easier, yet they become dangerous and controlling.
There is little doubt that technology has made our lives more efficient, offering personal and professional benefits; however, these benefits have come with consequences. Some of the dangers of Facebook and Instagram, in particular, were brought to light by Frances Haugen, a former project manager for Facebook. In her opening statement to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, she said, “The choices being made inside of Facebook are disastrous—for our children, for our public safety, for our privacy and for our democracy.” (The transcript of her full opening statement is readily available online.)
To appropriately utilize the growing number of technological tools available to us, we need to have deeper conversations about the impact they are having on our relationships with others and God, and on our very souls.
While I have been introduced to many wonderful people through social media, the various platforms have collectively made us slothful in our pursuit of intimate human relationships. Instead of having a meal with friends, it is easier to “like” their most recent post. Instead of having a conversation, we “check in” on someone on social media. Instead of picking up the phone to call someone, it is easier to send a text.
This isolation is true in the church as well. Instead of consistently making disciples, serving, or doing Bible study through a local church, it is easier to watch a service via social media clips or to livestream preachers that we don’t know. We were created for community, but instead, we isolate ourselves and become lonelier.
The Illusion of Transcendence
Humans are the only creatures made in the image of God, and because of the sacrificial work of Jesus and empowering of the Holy Spirit, we can become more like God in character. This is a righteous aim when sought in humility for God’s glory.
The temptation of the Tower of Babel comes when humans use their God-given gifts and abilities to usurp God’s authority, to become gods unto themselves. With quick outputs and easy deliverables, this is a temptation of AI. It appears to remove our human limitations so we can accomplish a goal without developing patience or character. We don’t get the knowledge gained from the practice of doing the work, or the faith that comes from persevering in the work.
AI a human does not make. AI will never be filled with the Holy Spirit or seek the face of God. AI may allow someone to preach a sermon, but not shepherd people. AI can write a curriculum, but never disciple a church.
Let us not make an idol of technological tools. Consider how best to use them, yes, but do not take away from the spiritual work that God is doing in and through us, or God’s desire that we grow closer to him and each other.
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is an author, podcast host, president of T3 Leadership Solutions, Inc., and visionary founder of Leadership LINKS, Inc.