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An AI Musing

One of the things that I admit very readily about myself is that I am a geek. Recently because I am a geek, I have been playing with artificial intelligence software that is now in wide use worldwide. This software is literally changing how some companies do business. It's going to change politics and education, and so many other facets of life. You may have even interacted with artificial intelligence and not even known it.

It's both incredible and scary. Like any new technology or tool, it will be used for both good and bad. Because of the life-changing nature of this technology, Congress has even held hearings on it—though I doubt many of our representatives have any idea how it works!

I have mostly been using it and studying about it for its impacts on education. There is potential for it to help the lives of teachers and students when used properly and ethically. It really is fascinating how it could improve our educational system. And while there are some in education who fear it may be the end of the world as we know it, I do not hold that same view. I believe AI, like the invention of the automobile, which replaced horse-drawn carriages, will significantly shift how we think and act. With AI, one of the significant shifts is in the asking of questions.

You might wonder what I mean by that statement. I have discovered in my limited experience with this technology that artificial intelligence will only answer or create responses based on questions, and the better the question, the better the possibility of a good or even great response. It then becomes crucial that one write a good question that seeks to answer very specific problems or create very specific responses. And then, the one asking the question has to wait for the answer to appear.

I have also discovered that sometimes we have to ask questions several times, in numerous ways, and rephrase what we initially thought we wanted to know. While this has saved me time in one sense, it has also made me think much more deeply as  I  pose questions.

I'll give you an example.  If I ask the AI software to create me a diet and exercise plan, it will find the most popular plans out there that have been proven to show success as a response. However, as someone who is not in the best shape, over the age of 50, on a medication or two, and has had back surgery, that might not be the best plan for me. I need to be specific in my request for what I want the AI software to generate.

You might wonder what this has to do with our faith. Well, first, while I have used AI to help research passages, they cannot write sermons. At least sermons that I can preach. Some things, thank goodness, will always require human authenticity.

However, one particular thing I think we can take from working with AI is that when we talk to God, we need to be specific. I don't think it's because God doesn't know what we need or what God wants for us. Instead, the more specific our question, the better we can focus on hearing the answers.

This is the work of prayer and is the process of discernment. And yes, it is work. Prayer and discernment are not easy, but done well; they help lead our lives on what the Biblical poets describe as Paths of Righteousness.

So may we all engage in this work knowing the answers we receive are not from some supercomputer but from a loving God who only wants to be in a relationship with us so that our Lord might share the grace and peace our God has to offer.

Clay Gunter


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