Listen: John Lennox speaks to Laura Bennett
By Laura BennettWednesday 15 Jul 2020Hope Afternoons
It’s as small as your ‘smart’ wristwatch, and as big as an engineered race of robotic super-humans.
That’s the future we’re headed for, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) enters mainstream society at a rapid pace, pushing us into an era where science fiction becomes fact.
And it’s a double-edged sword, according to John Lennox, mathematician, philosopher of science and Christian apologist, who has just released his new book, 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity.
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With its title playing on George Orwell’s futuristic, dystopian novel 1984, Lennox’s book considers the deep ethical implications of AI technology through a Christian worldview.
Ethical tensions around technology are nothing new; issues like convenience versus human cost, and progress versus social degradation, have been hotly debated for centuries—probably since the invention of the wheel. But what’s new about AI, says Lennox, is the push to use it to upscale humanity into territory that’s not ours for the taking.
“The idea [of some AI is] to upgrade humans into gods,” Lennox told Hope 103.2 “… and that is of course a challenge for Christians like myself who believe that ‘Humans 1.0’ – made in the image of God, are defined by God. And we meddle with that definition at our peril.”
In Debates Over Artificial Intelligence, The Christian Voice is Vital
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The intention of Lennox’s latest book is help educate Christians on the technological changes taking place, and invite them to contribute to debates surrounding them.
“Any revolution in thinking… raises ethical questions,” said Lennox. “They cannot be avoided… I liken Artificial Intelligence to a knife: a knife can be used for surgery or it can be used for murder.
“The technology outpaces the ethics at a tremendous speed, and that’s where I think Christian input is really necessary… These developments are not ‘world-view neutral’.”
“We’ve got to develop a reaction [to AI] that makes sense of the positive things – and in AI there are hugely positive things, especially in medical diagnostics. But there are negative things in terms of surveillance and human privacy.
“What’s obvious to anyone that reads or thinks about this stuff is that the technology outpaces the ethics at a tremendous speed, and that’s where I think Christian input is really necessary… All these developments are not ‘world-view neutral’.”
When Man Tries to Become Like God
In the development of AI, Lennox also sees an inherent desire to immortalise humanity, and overcome issues of death and our infallibility. Which Lennox says, Christianity’s already overcome:
“The central Christian message is not men becoming god’s – it’s God becoming human,” said Lennox, “in order to provide a basis through the life, death, resurrection, ascension and return of Jesus that we should receive the very life of God.
“There’s the answer to this quest for eternal life and immortality. And for something that transcends death and transcends COVID 19 – and it’s not humans becoming gods, it’s God becoming human.”
2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity is available now in print and online.
Listen to John’s full interview with Laura Bennett above.