"A. I." Hill

(Originally published, February 28, 2023)

I kind of wish my middle name was Ichabod, instead of Joseph. You might not know that my first name is actually Andrew, shortened to Drew by my mother who needed to save a syllable whenever she could. Nothing wrong with Joseph, a good Bible name, and well-represented by the likes of Joseph Haydn, Joe Louis, Joe DiMaggio, and a local favorite, Joe Theismann. Lots of good old Joes. Even one in the White House. But if my middle name was Ichabod, my initials would be A.I. How cool would that be? 
Is there a hotter topic than AI? Of course, artificial intelligence has been suggesting our shopping patterns and picking out our playlists for quite a while, but now it’s getting serious. Are we ready to trust AI in the hospital, on the battlefield, and on the open road? Not so fast. 
Last week the New York Times ran an article by Shira Ovide entitled, “Why Are We So Afraid of AI?” The author compared a recent poll with a similar poll from 35 years ago. Surprisingly, more people had confidence in the positive potential of AI in 1987 (20%) than today (only 9%). That’s amazing, considering that back then, AI was science fiction and today it is a pending reality. But apparently, we’re just not ready for it. 
Why do you suppose that is? It’s one thing for a student to whip out a term paper on ChatGPT and we appreciate a little help with our parallel parking. But it’s something else to put our lives in the hands of a hard drive, to trust those we love into the care of a computer. Would you hop on a plane with no pilot? How about taking a cruise with a computerized captain? Would you let a machine, however sophisticated, go after your gall bladder? And, what parent is willing to trust their child’s health, safety, and well-being to a high-powered computer that’s really good at Jeopardy, but doesn’t know their child from Adam? Hard as it may be to trust human beings, it is more unnerving to remove our humanity from the whole equation.
Don’t get me wrong. I google as much as anybody. I use every tool I can find and every option I have as I go about my life and work. But I’m not ready to resign my roles and responsibilities, and I’ll bet you feel that way, too. This life and what we do with it is up to us. You and I are the ones calling the shots, and we’re the ones who will be held accountable. 
One of the things that troubles me about the whole AI movement, and why I’m not going to change my middle name after all, is how some people so eagerly pursue artificial intelligence while ignoring divine direction. Where do we ultimately place our trust? What is always reliable and eternally true? Where are the answers to the questions that matter most? AI can drive your car, but can it guide your life, help you find your way, not just to your address, but to your destiny? 
Maybe, just maybe, there’s an old familiar voice, still whispering the wisdom we need to those who are listening. 
“Whether you turn to the right or the left, you will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)


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