by Henry Raison
What is A.I. (artificial intelligence) and is it a benefit or a threat? A.I. is so-called “intelligence” that emanates from and within man made technology and machines. The beginning: John McCarthy is one of the “founding fathers” of artificial intelligence, together with Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell, and Herbert A. Simon. McCarthy coined the term “artificial intelligence” in 1955 and organized the famous Dartmouth conference in Summer 1956. This conference started AI as a field. But Alan Turin also heralded much interest, work and development in this embryonic area.
I am old enough to recall attending one of the first talks on computers in the city of Portsmouth as a schoolboy – there were a few businessmen there and no other students but together little did we realise at the time how the humble microchip, (invented in 1961 by two American electrical engineers, Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce) would literally develop exponentially in power and acceptance to literally change the world in which we live and then as I will postulate, threaten the world as we know it.
Very briefly and basically a computer chip (or CPU) works using the binary code by recognising 0 and 1 inputs. However over time computer chips have developed so much more computing power (the ability to speedily process information) that they now have multi-cores and can perform many, many, billions of calculations simultaneously – computer chips are getting faster, more powerful and smaller and now today the most powerful chips run at something like 8.43 GHz and have 28 cores. A measurement of just 1 GHz represents the chip being able to perform 1 billion cycles (calculations) per second.!
“My…. how we have grown!” I am sure you have heard the story that a modern “smart” phones ~ (and what is “smart” by the way..? it is defined as “having or showing a quick-witted intelligence” But today’s definition of “smart” seems to have been dumbed down and be merely the ability to link to the Internet) ~ have many, many, times the computing power of the early computers that NASA used in mission control to help the astronauts reach, land and return from the moon in Apollo 11 (1969).. https://www.zmescience.com/research/technology/smartphone-power-compared-to-apollo-432/
Such is the rate of change and progress –So isn’t this wonderful and haven’t computers help mankind reach into the universe and released men and women from a life of drudgery and menial tasks?
Yes they have – but there is more than a word of caution needed so read on:
I remember being shown around the Southampton production plant that once upon a time existed and produced Ford transit vans and I was amazed to see that it was so highly mechanised with robotic arms dashing back and forth and there was hardly a person to be seen on the production line also let us be aware that computers and robots (computers on wheels) allow safe operations in hazardous environments such as nuclear power stations….all well and good but of course since they are programmed and operated by mankind, dreadful failures can and do cause terrible accidents.
The most recent of which are the Boeing 737-MAX 8 tragedies where it appears faults in “smart” technology actually caused the planes to crash despite the tragic and best efforts of the pilots to override the software programme and keep the plane flying.
Early CPUs were stupid /smart initially:- being able only to recognise programs based on 0 and 1 but now I understand they can work to “fuzzy” logic which means they can work out and recognise an intermediate state whereby a third option is available to the computer and it is no longer either / or but also “and.”
I recall in 1996 a computer was produced by IBM called “Deep Blue” that could take on and beat the world’s best chess masters (Garry Kasparof) – and recently a super-computer managed to teach itself one of the most complex games called “GO” and then go on to beat the world’s master champion of this game. (Why GO is harder than chess. … After the first two moves of a Chess game, there are 400 possible next moves. In Go, there are close to 130,000. “The search space in Go is vast… a number greater than there are atoms in the universe,”)
Tellingly two supercomputers were recently linked up – given basic instructions on communication and allowed and programmed to commence communicating with each other ~ after a short period of time they had developed a “common language” that was only able to be read and understood by the other computer. I.e. machine to machine communication based on A.I.
Present benefit to future threat?
It seems the world is so caught up in technology that we not only embrace “smart” technology but also begin to worship it.!
It’s already possible to buy “smart” fridges, lighting systems, and there is even available a “smart” mattress which records and interprets sleep patterns! And we should all take warning by so-called “smart” televisions that were actually pre-programmed to record household conversations and activity even when on off (on Standby).
This acceptance and reliance on A.I. has been legitimised by “Alexa” developed in 2014 by Amazon which listens and monitors all the time conversations going on around it and is therefore able to collect and transmit information to various third parties.
The driving force to this trend to “smartness” is data. Data is the new “gold” and data mining and selling is what large companies are about. This is how they (Big business) make their money – this data is often mined by intrusive and undercover spying.
Fortunately, there has recently been a user and political backlash about Facebook and other Internet giants and their platforms selling on indiscriminately information they have gleaned from their user activity, and also allowing (or at least preventing in a timely manner) to be posted socially unacceptable comments and videos.
Hopefully there will be more accountability on this through intended impending legislation – legislation that has only been made necessary by the previously abysmal response to security concerns around these platforms and the lack of privacy and accountability for and by the users.
You may have noticed when you watch particular videos on You Tube after a short period other “similar” topics are “suggested” to you – how very thoughtful and convenient you may think but what is happening is that behind the scenes is that “smart” algorithms (small computer programs) are running in the background, collecting and mining data and automatically feeding in to A.I sources that reacts and respond to such information by so-called “personalisation of your browsing experience”.
The information collected does not rest here with the browser utility or platform necessarily. It is often packaged up and sold on to other “interested” parties.
Imagine what can happen in a Brave New World scenario when governments then have your complete information and data profile and award you credits or not according to your belief system and activities. How fanciful and futuristic you may think but in fact this is already happening in China where smart A. I. based technology and facial recognition software is used to monitor the population whereby I understand “credits” are awarded or not and according to the credit score internal mobility, job progression, political security and even freedom and international travel have been withheld. !
The world obsession with futuristic and “convenient” living has even led to certain individuals willingly having “chips” implanted under their skin on hands and elsewhere which they can then use to buy and sell, withdraw money, past security devices and so forth.
This scenario may sound familiar to you and indeed it should be because we read about it in the book of Revelation Ch 13 whereby the “mark of the beast” is necessary to buy and sell and individuals cannot trade without it.
Even on a very practical note there should be increasing concern about the enormous amount of energy that is now required to enable and run the Internet. Just, for example, think about the pictures, files and videos you may have been tempted to store online in the so-called “cloud”.
Now multiply these data inputs by not just hundreds of thousand but by millions…. In America for example there are now huge expanses and many acres of land set aside to house the hardware and hard drives necessary for all this data to be stored and retrieved and this data storage need is expanding almost exponentially as more and more people use the cloud storage for their files.
So what do we do?
As Christians and individuals bestowed by God-given common sense and hopefully wisdom, we should be very careful on how we use smart phones – turning them off whenever possible and not using the position tracking applications. I was shocked recently when I took my phone with me to Costa without disabling this application and without any activity on my behalf after a short period of time I received a text from who knows where, telling me “they” noted I was in Costa at a certain branch and would I like other people to know my whereabouts so we could all meet up and it share a jolly friendly chat and cup of coffee! I soon learned my lesson on this!
The underlying threats:
A/ Health. So how does this information that is generated collected and stored move around? Early mobile phones started on 2G(generation) microwave signals and then moved to 3G and now we are on the 4th generation of mobile signal transmission. Now, to further enable AI and all that it brings such as driverless cars, high-speed information sharing and so forth, the move is towards 5G however 5G requires far more powerful microwave signals than its predecessors and there is research being done and has already been completed that indicates that a superabundance of these very strong microwave signals can trigger cancers within the brain. Big business would deny there is any link or any real danger from these powerful 5G signals but suffice it to say that brain cancer rates (currently around 2%) continue to increase year on year.
We already know that microwave cookers have a shielding on the glass door that prevents these waves escaping so we know that exposure to microwaves can never be deemed a good thing. But it seems we already turn a blind eye to the ever increasing numbers of Wifi towers and booster antennas that we have but 5G will require so many more.
I also understand that many churches are now being approached by big business to carry these repeater masts and antennas which considering the mission of churches is somewhat ironical.
As mentioned not only are some individuals embracing A.I. and all that goes with it (5G) but there is even a church established in America dedicated to worshiping it. Its called “The First Church of A.I.” Here is a link… https://www.wired.com/story/anthony-levandowski-artificial-intelligence-religion/
Again, Christians will probably (hopefully) view this as man turning to and actually worshipping a golden calf but also a false God created by man for man.
This is frightening stuff indeed!
Hollywood has done its part to normalise the integration of AI into society –perhaps starting with Metropolis in 1927 and more recently remember the film Terminator in 1984, Robo cop in 1987, AI. Artificial Intelligence by Steven Spielberg in 2001 The film “Robots” in 2005, Ex Machina 2014 and so on….nor is this a new thing Even when I was watching television as a child there was series entitled “Lost in Space” 1965-1968 there was a helpful robot called Robbie. This series and notion has been recreated recently and made into a film for TV series in 2018 and who can forget the malevolent computer HAL in the 1968 epic “2001 A Space Odyssey”
Also books have for a long time embraced this theme such as “I Robot” by Isaac Asimov and too many others to mention.
And where are we today?
It is no longer science fiction to have A.I. robots integrating with society: For example in Saudi Arabia they have even given Citizenship status to a human – like robot called Sophie . (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8Ox6H64yu8)
B/ Control. There is a strong move to ensure all the worlds population is connected to the internet and thus will be easier to monitor, influence and control. There exists in the shadows a source know as “Providence” (which used to be the word for:-the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power. ) that will link up and monitor ALL of the worlds smart technology.
Some Dangers of A.I. dependency. • Depends on and creates a dependency and relationship with the Internet and we know from previous experience that the Internet is itself corrupt with many hackers creating and sending viruses, Trojans and other malevolent software – remember how even our own National Health Service hospitals as well as other organisations throughout the world were brought to a standstill over a bit-coin ransom -ware attack.
• The insatiable demand for power not only to run the Internet but also to recharge millions and millions of mobile phones throughout the world, is counter productive to living sustainably on the planet and being economical with scarce resources.
• The Internet itself is fragile and vulnerable to natural effects such as solar flares reaching out from the sun to the earth and causing power surges and outages
• Modern warfare is developing ways to bring down technology and thus reduce a country to its knees by developing Electro Magnetic Pulse technology whereby a bomb could be exploded over certain cities without causing damage but immense scales as cars and any electrical based infrastructure was unable to function
• A.I. elevates man into position where he relies more and more on the “self” rather than putting faith and trust in God and gives him/her a false sense of confidence and security and his ability to “control” the situation and obtain all the knowledge needed to navigate the way through a dark and difficult world.
Christians need not be Luddites but we do need to be wise in viewing IT/ AI trends and using modern technology so as not to be caught up in this age. We must learn to be resilient and adaptable to a fast-changing time where technology is on the rise and being worshipped for its own sake.