AI and the Preacher
I am not what you would call an early adopter in terms of technology. I do have a Facebook Page and a blog – neither of which could be called new technology any more – and I have never Tweeted (I do know Twitter it is not called that now), and I can send a text if I absolutely have to. In effect, I can get by in the electronic age when push comes to shove, but that is about all.
All this said, I have recently become a stranger in the strange land of Artificial Intelligence (AI). With the encouragement of a friend, last summer, I signed up for ChatGPT. In case you are not aware of this popular manifestation of AI, it is a system which can answer many complex and detailed questions and requests almost immediately. Interestingly, I asked ChatGPT for the number of users and it wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me, “I don't have access to real-time data or specific user statistics, including the number of people who have signed up for the service.” This is likely because I haven’t signed up for the paid service that is up to date. The one, I signed up for, which is free, is limited to data from a few years ago. I used the now old-fashioned way of finding out, and googled the question. I was told that there are 180.5 million users of ChatGPT, “according to the latest available data.” It is a real time example of why you shouldn’t blindly accept the information on social media. It should be treated with care.
However, with that caveat, my exploration of this strange new land has given me results which are quite impressive. There has been much speculation about the future impact of AI will be. It may bring about a new revolution as earth shattering as the invention of the printing press or the development of the assembly line. The industrial revolution of the 20th Century eliminated many manual labour jobs. The impact of AI is going to be revolutionary according to most experts. AI is predicted to eliminate many professional and white-collar jobs with mind numbing speed.
What inspired me to write about this topic today specifically was the potential from ChatGPT to be used for composing sermons. It is a temptation which I believe will be hard to resist by at least some many of my fellow clergy. It likely has been used for this purpose already. I tested out the potential for ChatGPT to produce a sermon – no, I didn’t use it. I asked my new friend Chat (for short) to give me a one-thousand-word sermon on John 11:32-44 – the account of the resurrection of Lazarus. The results were what I would call competent but not inspired or inspiring. I won’t reproduce it here given the limitations I have placed on the length of these missives. I can supply the results to anyone that requests it.
To give you a taste of what it can do, here is a short introduction to one of the readings from last Sunday, 1 John 3:1-3. I asked Chat for 20-25 word summary of the passage. In our parish there is an introduction to each of the readings. Here is what Chat gave me almost instantaneously:
In 1 John 3:1-3, the apostle emphasizes God's incredible love, portraying believers as His children. Despite worldly confusion, the promise of transformation into Christ's likeness offers hope and purifies hearts.
This use is just a small example of the ways AI can be used. Perhaps if Jesus was to be tempted by Satan today, this would be one of the temptations. There is no doubt what we are facing is a wilderness of potential uncertainly and possibly chaos, about a future which includes AI. It is something we need to be concerned about and pray for guidance and wisdom on our journey into that strange land.