The buzz over artificial intelligence, a topic that until recently only ultra-techies cared about, has hit the mainstream media big time! The buzz is actually well-deserved. Once the stuff of science fiction (e.g.- HAL, the computer in 2001: A Space Odysey; C3PO and R2D2, the droids in Star Wars; Ava in Ex Machina; Sonny in I, Robot: and Wall-E in, well, Wall-E), artificial intelligence (AI) is entering our everyday lives in breathtaking ways and at breathtaking speeds. Examples include self-driving cars, machines that can do everything from performing surgeries to building cars, drones that can deliver packages, and on-line assistance for just about anything you need (think Siri). We are no longer surprised by what computers and machines can do. Even the sky seems not to be the limit.
In spite of the impressiveness of these developments, some experts would say that they are not examples of AI at all, but instead are software running comprehensive “if/then” programs. Computers are capable of amazing feats when enough if/then commands at their disposal, even driving a car. Universities like Stanford and MIT, funded by huge grants, are in pursuit of true artificial intelligence, yet no breakthroughs have happened yet. “While there has been progress on autonomic functions,” one expert admits, “real artificial intelligence progress has been disappointing and limited.” None-the-less the lure of AI is so strong that newcomers are jumping on the bandwagon on a regular basis. Just this month Toyota announced a five year, $1 billion dollar AI research and development effort headquartered in Silicon Valley.
With so much attention being given to artificial intelligence, though, it is interesting how little we talk about real intelligence. If A.I. is more and more impressive the closer it gets to R.I., why aren’t we just as impressed, if not more impressed, with the real thing? We’re all abuzz about the artificial, the “fake”, when the real is all around us, in fact, inside of us!
Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.
It is incredible when you think about the attributes of real intelligence – individuality, the power to think and not merely reflect, to create, to weigh evidence, the power to choose, and even the power to yield or withhold obedience – that God actually created us with this amazing level of freedom! Whether creating us with intelligence and freedom in the first place or dying to preserve our freedom on the Cross, God has always been about freedom.
It would have been simpler for Him to create robots with “if/then” programs designed to respond to external circumstances. But such a design would not accurately reflect His character. The little book Steps to Christ explains that –
The government of God is not, as Satan would make it appear, founded upon a blind submission, an unreasoning control. It appeals to the intellect and conscience. “Come now, and let us reason together” is the Creator’s invitation to the beings He has made. Isaiah 1:18 God does not force the will of His creatures. He cannot accept a homage that is not willingly and intelligently given. A mere forced submission would prevent all real development of mind or character; it would make man a mere automaton. p. 27
I cannot claim that choice theory is a perfect explanation of how God designed us. I can say that choice theory is the best explanation of human behavior that I have come upon to this point in my life. And while choice theory was not developed with God in mind, it loses none of its clarity when studied through the lens of Scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy.
Whether from a secular perspective and current therapeutic theories and research studies, or from a moral perspective and the character of God, choice theory offers insights into what makes us tick and why we do what we do. Ultimately, for me, choice theory underscores the importance of choice and freedom. On both a personal and professional level I want to do better and better at living in alignment with those values.
Even though artificial intelligence is artificial it is still pretty cool. It’s impressive what programmed machines can do. Let’s not let being enamored with the artificial, though, distract us from being amazed and appreciative of the REAL.
It was so good to spend time this past week with the educational administrators of the Lake Union Conference of SDA’s in Berrien Springs, Michigan, just down the road from Andrews University. Welcome to those of you who signed up to be a part of The Better Plan blog!
If you have read and enjoyed Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators, why not take a moment and write a review on Amazon. Such testimonies go a long way toward alerting others to the book’s message. Thanks.