"Should We Fear Artificial Intelligence?" with Dr. John Lennox

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

The Zacharias Institute is launching a new evening series called #trendingquestions. Several times each year, we will bring in a speaker for an evening of engagement with one of the many urgent questions facing our culture. The topics include questions like, “Is Christianity a white man’s religion?” “Am I just my brain?” “Is suicide an option?” “What does the Bible have to say to the #MeToo generation?” and more.

Oxford University Professor and RZIM adjunct John Lennox will kick-off this new series on October 9 by addressing the critical questions surrounding artificial intelligence and how the future of artificial intelligence bears on a Christian vision of reality.

Just as many will be attending the event live at the Zacharias Institute, we will host a conversation about the event in RZIM Connect!

To prepare for the event, whether you’ll be with us in person or joining us online, the Zacharias Institute team has prepared a study guide for you!

You can download the study guide here:
TrendingQ Self Study for Connect.docx (27.8 KB)

We’re also going to start a series of conversations on the questions in the study guide.

We believe that active engagement is a better learning experience than passive watching.

So that you can get the most out of this unique event with Dr. Lennox, we encourage you to ask your questions, share your insights, and learn from other participants.

RZIM Connect is a friendly, encouraging environment for learning and growth. If you have any questions about the ground rules, please check out our A Checklist For A Good Response and RZIM Connect: A Moderated Community posts.

You may also want to bookmark this post so it is easy for you to find.

Finally, you’ll be able to watch the livestream in RZIM Connect too! It is embedded right here and will start playing the night of the event. Set a reminder!

Schedule (all times EDT):

7:30-7:35 Introduction - Vince Vitale

7:35-7:50 Interview with John Lennox

7:50-8:40 “Should We Fear Artificial Intelligence?” – John Lennox

8:40-9:00 In-Studio Commentary with RZIM Apologists Jill Carattini and Cameron McAllister

9:00-9:30 Q&A

To Promote The Event:

Please share this video with your friends, neighbors, and church!

Are there going to be group chats?
Introduction: Stephen Wuest
(Carson Weitnauer) pinned #2

(Clarice Fong) #3

Hi @CarsonWeitnauer - are the times in GMT? :blush:

(Carson Weitnauer) #4

Hi Clarice, great question! I’ve edited the original post. All times are EDT - e.g., Atlanta / New York.

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #5

Are you going to post Lennox’s presentation and Q&A online for those who can’t watch it via livestream?

(Carson Weitnauer) #6

Hi Isaiah,

Good question! I believe the livestream will remain archived for viewing after the presentation. We are going to offer a series of discussion questions after the event to encourage deeper reflection.

(Rob Lundberg) #7

I think this is an important topic, not that we have anything to worry about. To supplement this with further resources, the folks at Barna and Impact360 have a link of a podcast with Jay Richards on this subject. Here is the link: https://embed.simplecast.com/931f9bf7

(Andrew) #8

Is it possible to have our questions forwarded to professor Lennox? If so, I want to know his thoughts on a new religion created by a former Google executive to have people worship “a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.”

"The new religion of artificial intelligence is called Way of the Future. It represents an unlikely next act for the Silicon Valley robotics wunderkind at the center of a high-stakes legal battle between Uber and Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous-vehicle company. Papers filed with the Internal Revenue Service in May name Levandowski as the leader (or “Dean”) of the new religion, as well as CEO of the nonprofit corporation formed to run it. The documents state that WOTF’s activities will focus on “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.” That includes funding research to help create the divine AI itself. The religion will seek to build working relationships with AI industry leaders and create a membership through community outreach, initially targeting AI professionals and “laypersons who are interested in the worship of a Godhead based on AI.” The filings also say that the church “plans to conduct workshops and educational programs throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area beginning this year.” (11.15.17)

But WOTF differs in one key way to established churches, says Levandowski: “There are many ways people think of God, and thousands of flavors of Christianity, Judaism, Islam…but they’re always looking at something that’s not measurable or you can’t really see or control. This time it’s different. This time you will be able to talk to God, literally, and know that it’s listening.” I ask if he worries that believers from more traditional faiths might find his project blasphemous. “There are probably going to be some people that will be upset,” he acknowledges. “It seems like everything I do, people get upset about, and I expect this to be no exception. This is a radical new idea that’s pretty scary, and evidence has shown that people who pursue radical ideas don’t always get received well. At some point, maybe there’s enough persecution that [WOTF] justifies having its own country.” (11.15.17)

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/anthony-levandowski-artificial-intelligence-religion/

(Carson Weitnauer) #9

Hi Andrew,

I know that the ZI team is following along with our conversation here, so it might be that elements of our discussion are picked up for the event. In the meantime, you may be interested in a discussion I had with Lisa Fields and Darin Jones on that exact article in Wired. You can find it here:

I recommend the audio version instead of the video.

(Andrew) #10

Thank you! :slight_smile:

(Neil Weaver) #11

I am the data and analytics director for a large transportation company. My team recently put together a high level presentation for our executives on AI, ML, and Big Data. It was interesting to look at the theoretical and moral issues. We didn’t spend much time in theory or morality, our focus was more on making it relevant to the business, it’s about profit.

I’m still focused on current technological limitations and misapplication of this technology. We have millions of dollars, our employees, and customers at stake when implementing AI. Being an RZIM member this talk hits home for me in many ways.

I’ll be at the event next week. Looking forward to meeting folks there and discussing the real life implications of AI.

(Carson Weitnauer) #12

Hi Neil,

That’s very interesting - would love to hear more of your perspective on the economic and social implications of AI.

I noted with interest this summary at CNBC of a recent World Economic Forum report:

Developments in automation technologies and artificial intelligence could see 75 million jobs displaced, according to the WEF report “The Future of Jobs 2018.” However, another 133 million new roles may emerge as companies shake up their division of labor between humans and machines, translating to 58 million net new jobs being created by 2022, it said.

At the same time, there would be “significant shifts” in the quality, location and format of new roles, according to the WEF report, which suggested that full-time, permanent employment may potentially fall.

That seems like a tremendous shift in employment in a very fast time period.

From the vantage point of your industry, does this seem realistic? How can the church help people navigate a period of significant economic disruption?

(Andrew) #13

A follow up question for professor Lennox. On a recent Sam Harris podcast, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari said that Artificial Intelligence will allow humanity to surpass God in creation. Quote:

"The one thing that is certain is that we are going to become far more powerful than ever before, far more powerful than we are now. We are really going to acquire divine abilities of creation. In some sense even greater abilities then what was traditionally ascribed to most gods from Zeus to Yahweh. If you look at, for instance, the creation story in the Bible, the only things that Yahweh managed to create are organic entities. And we are now on the verge of creating the first inorganic entities after 4 billion years of evolution. So in this sense, we are even on the verge of outperforming the Biblical God in creation.” (45:17-46:04)

How would you respond to Harari’s claims (cf. Gen 3:4-7)?

(Femi Moito) #14

I attended a conference at the Carlson Business School on ‘Leveraging AI.’ The discussion panelist were from Google, Philips, Optum and the UofM. Questions about AI replacing human jobs were asked and the consensus answer from the panelists was that ‘AI is predictive and not decisive, so decisions ultimately need to be made by humans.’ In summary, they said that while AI will increase efficiency and reduce some jobs, it will also create more jobs because people need to know how to use these AI systems to make their decisions. It will be interesting to hear how the future of artificial intelligence bears on a Christian vision of reality. I’ll be at the event next week.

(Neil Weaver) #15

We struggle to get the business and IT talent aligned on AI and Machine Learning initiatives. The folks involved usually have a rare mix of talents that we can’t find enough of. See the battle of Ven diagrams: https://www.kdnuggets.com/2016/10/battle-data-science-venn-diagrams.html

Many of these AI projects are less like traditional software projects, and more like rigorous application of the scientific method. The problem with that is business likes progress, % complete, time lines, capitalizing labor, etc. It’s a well defined thing when we write lines of code for an application. Less defined when data guys mess with algorithms, structures, and heuristics for 6 months to get a model we can deploy. So we need enough margin (spare cash) in the business to invest in this area and tolerate the difference in approach. This again is for practical approaches to optimizing business problems. Helping us do things better (sell, hire, market, deliver, etc.). We aren’t building robots that think.

Microsoft and other cloud providers are making this optimization easier with services like Azure Machine Learning. They help you select algorithms and deal with the whole cycle of model development, training, testing, deployment, etc. There is traction.

Back to robots that think - we are facing a large driver shortage in the US. People don’t want to drive trucks anymore. This is where technology and government need to work together to get us to the next step. Neither will do it alone. We need highly available 5G data networks, protocols for managing the autonomous network of trucks, redundant sensors arrays for localized control. All doable things if we decided it was a priority. We would see the shift of truck driving jobs turn into autonomous network control engineer jobs. That’s just one example.

It’s bit much to get done by 2032 with as much as we argue politically, let alone 2022.

I believe the battle for the church will be holding on to believers as they become folks with these skill sets in the future. If we do educate to meet the demand, we will have a bunch of high paid, highly educated, scientific individuals who likely haven’t had a lot of pain and suffering. Tough crowd.

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #16


I don’t understand his logic. If God created “mere” organic entities, the same entities that managed to create inorganic entities, how would that make Harari think that God is basically unable to create inorganic entities? God creates us; We create AI= we’re higher than God. That’s sound logic. Sorry for this crude illustration, but it’s kind of like: Dog creates dog poop, dog poop creates mushrooms= dog poop is greater than dog. Since when is the Created better than the Creator just because the Bible doesn’t begin with “in the beginning, God created robots” or AI or whatever you’d like to fill the blank with? You’ve probably heard this before, but i’ll risk quoting some famous lines by one of my favourite thinkers, Paul:

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23 NIV)

Why is the creation of organic entities an “only,” as Harari buts it? When you think of it, has humanity ever been on par with God, meaning that we’ve managed to create organic entities from scratch?

And aren’t we also the most devastated? Our culture is so lost, and we continue to hurt ourselves over and over and blame who? Us? Nah, its God’s fault.
I’d also like to question what the real purpose of AI is. Do we even know?

I’m not a very literate computer guy or anything, so please forgive my ignorance on some issues.

(Andrew) #17


Decisions will ultimately be made by humans until AI becomes sentient. In the meantime, a huge portion of the labor force will become irrelevant by 2033. Quote:

“In the 19th century the Industrial Revolution created a huge urban proletariat, and socialism spread because no other creed managed to answer the unprecedented needs, hopes and fears of this new working class. Liberalism eventually defeated socialism only by adopting the best parts of the socialist program. In the 21st century we might witness the creation of a massive new unworking class: people devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society. This “useless class” will not merely be unemployed — it will be unemployable. In September 2013, two Oxford researchers, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, published “The Future of Employment,” in which they surveyed the likelihood of different professions being taken over by computer algorithms within the next 20 years, and they estimated that 47 percent of US jobs are at high risk. For example, there is a 99 percent probability that by 2033 human telemarketers and insurance underwriters will lose their jobs to algorithms. There is a 98 percent probability that the same will happen to sports referees. Cashiers — 97 percent. Chefs — 96 percent. Waiters — 94 percent. Paralegals — 94 percent. Tour guides — 91 percent. Bakers — 89 percent. Bus drivers — 89 percent. Construction laborers — 88 percent. Veterinary assistants — 86 percent. Security guards — 84 percent. Sailors — 83 percent. Bartenders — 77 percent. Archivists — 76 percent. Carpenters — 72 percent. Lifeguards — 67 percent.” (Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, source: https://ideas.ted.com/the-rise-of-the-useless-class/)

A link to “The Future of Employment” Oxford paper: https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf

Another helpful video: https://youtu.be/Gn7uDObRtNc?t=85

(Lori Walker) #18

To be overly simplistic in my answer without knowing a huge amount about this topic, I feel I know enough to be very wary of A.I. as we honestly don’t always know how it works, what it really is, or what it really does, nor do it’s creators all the time. I believe there is just too much man doesn’t know yet. There is a difference between a search engine type of A.I. and sentience. Man should not try to play God when it comes to attempting to create something sentient and self-aware, but that’s my opinion. God bless.

(Brian Weeks) #19

Hi Andrew,

It seems Harris is guilty of a category error with his use of the word create. God created out of nothing physical (John 3:3, Hebrews 11:3, Revelation 4:11). Man does not and cannot create in this sense, we merely rearrange already existing matter.

Too, it doesn’t follow that just because God didn’t create inorganic entities that he’s incapable of creating them. He didn’t create a microwave either, but are we to conclude he’s unable?

(Joshua Spare) #20

To illustrate @Brian_Weeks’s response, I once heard a joke that went something like this:

A prominent atheist and God were having a discussion, and the atheist said, “Really? Are humans the best that you could do? You’re God!” And God replied, “You think you can do better? Have a go, then.”

The atheist bent down to pick up some dirt, but God stopped him and said, “No, no, no, go get your own dirt.”

I love it because it points to how anything that man creates is functionally a rearrangement of matter that already existed, whereas God created something out of absolutely nothing, ex nihilio, if you will.