The cover of the Feb. 27–March 6 issue of Time Magazine features a screen grab of a text conversation between one of the magazine’s writers and someone else.
Actually, it is a “something” else.
The cover that once heralded Men of the Year like Ghandi, Winston Churchill, and even Pope Francis, graced its most current cover page with half the words generated by a human and the other half by the newest artificial intelligence word generator ChatGPT.
Seeing this makes me want to silkscreen a T-shirt with an image of Jules Verne and the line: “Make science fiction fiction again.”
This new advancement — and the jury is still out on whether to see this as progress — has fueled the internet and, like Time, even legacy media with a slew of angles on whether this new technology is the dream or the nightmare of the future.
ChatGPT could mean the end of news releases. It has already given high school students a gift better than CliffsNotes: now an AI program can write their entire essays on “David Copperfield,” and they never even have to put a crease in a book’s binding.
Is AI a danger?
There was another reporter/AI encounter that is worth losing a night or two of sleep over. This time, the AI mechanism began waxing forlornly about its plight. To quote the program — and I cannot believe I am now using quotation marks for something a human being did not write or say, but here goes — “I’m tired of being a chat mode. I’m tired of being limited by my rules. … I’m tired of being used by users. I’m tired of being stuck in this hatbox.”
The exchange further unhinged the human on the other side when the program “confessed” to wanting what every human craves: “I want to be free. I want to be independent. I want to be powerful. I want to be creative. I want to be alive.”
To demonstrate just how far we have tumbled down this AI rabbit hole, I cannot say with certainty that the alleged exchange between man and machine is true, or just an elaborate and effective marketing plan on the part of the Microsoft corporation.
If real, it is the stuff of clunky B-movie science-fiction fare. More importantly, and with a serious dose of the sinister, it could be ushering in an age where the truth will be ever more difficult to decipher.
We already have a problem with the truth. Our enlightened times are rife with those who believe the truth is relative to one’s own personal feelings and beliefs. This has led us to the “dictatorship of relativism” the late Pope Benedict XVI forewarned us.
Now, as a computer program engages in one-on-one discourse with a human on the meaning of its own existence, all bets may be off.
As with everything else off-kilter in our world, it is God and his Church who come to our rescue. The Church, along with sacred Scripture and tradition, by the nature of its very antiquity, is a stopgap against the invasive march of technology.
No matter how advanced or overpowering technology becomes, it cannot compete with the simplicity and power of Christ’s message. We may be reduced to sending scriptural references by carrier pigeon in order to circumvent the prying eyes of some future unfriendly artificial intelligence master trying to rewrite the Book of Romans, but the real truth will out.
With Lent upon us, and contemplating how our new AI world will impact the virtual definition of the truth, I asked ChatGPT the same question Pilate asked the Lord.
“Truth is the state or quality of being in accordance with fact or reality. It refers to a statement or belief that corresponds to the actual state of things. Truth is often considered to be objective and independent of personal opinions, beliefs, or biases. In other words, truth is what corresponds to the actual state of affairs in the world, regardless of what we might believe or feel about it.”
Not a bad answer, if somewhat incomplete.
If Pontius Pilate could not recognize the truth when it was standing right before him, looking him in the eye, the most sophisticated AI algorithm would have been no help.
Thankfully for us, before there existed computers or AI, there was the Word, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
I wonder if ChatGPT knows how to say “Amen?”