In 1977 we were introduced to C-3PO and R2-D2, the two robots who stole the Star Wars show from Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Hans Solo. They were early Hollywood sci-fi examples of where computer-generated “thought” might go. Actually, the term AI, or Artificial Intelligence, goes way back to a 1956 conference at Dartmouth University, and much of the research leading up to it was based on the work of English scientist Alan Turing, known for breaking Nazi codes during World War II. AI is almost as old as I am. 

In the past decade, AI research has escalated into more sophisticated levels of “deep learning,” by which computer-generated reasoning can mimic human thought in more and more alarming ways. This has led to warnings by some scientists about going too far and giving machines power over their human inventors. It has also resulted in practical fears in some industries that AI is becoming a threat to human jobs. The recent labor dispute between The Screenwriters’ Guild and the Hollywood production industry is an example. The writers are protesting that AI might be on the verge of producing movie or TV scripts without their input, and that this shouldn’t be allowed. 

The screenwriters’ concerns made me think. Why should they feel so threatened? If AI can produce a script as good as theirs, then so be it! That’s competition. When Ford’s assembly lines began to put together Model Ts more efficiently than skilled workers with hand tools could, the people’s jobs went away, and the machines took over. The people had to find new jobs, but the assembly line made Fords affordable (Get it?) for them to own. What’s the difference in the issue of AI replacing some screenwriters’ jobs? 

Then the true difference came to me like a flash of lightening: It’s Creativity! A writer, an artist, even a preacher (sometimes) adds creativity to the AI mix, and that creativity is an expression of the Image of God in every individual human person. A climactic passage in the Bible’s Creation Account is Genesis 1:27:

God created humans in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.* 

Throughout most of Church history, the Image of God in every human person has been known by its Latin form, Imago Dei, or ID for short. So, the Bible’s contribution to the modern debate is, No matter how far scientists go with AI, they cannot reproduce ID. 

And ID is really what separates human beings from the rest of God’s Creation. Our Intelligence advantage over monkeys, chimps, C-3PO and R2-D2, as well as our superiority to AI itself, is all relative. In fact, we may be surpassed. But our ID (Imago Dei) is really our true and unique ID (Identity) as human. Scientists may not know about this, but Believers do! 

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, some antagonistic leaders tried to trap him on a controversial issue: should Jewish citizen willingly pay taxes to their Roman oppressors? 

Knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a coin and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose image is on this coin?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him. (Mark 12:15-17) 

Every follower of Jesus should remember that his ID image is on them, and they should lead a life worthy of something far greater than AI.

– – Pastor George Van Alstine

* See also Genesis 5:1-3, 9:6; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:13-15, 3:10; Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:4-7.