Millions of our global neighbors live under authoritarian and autocratic governments where the power of artificial intelligence (AI) is abused to retain a sense of control over others. Nations, such as China, use these tools, created for the common good, to diminish dignity in minority groups. Religious freedom and the pursuit of justice are threatened by the implementation of these tools each day.
This is why a group of over 60 evangelical leaders, including Russell Moore, Jackie Hill Perry, J. D. Greear, and Richard Mouw, have signed a new statement of principles on AI this week in Washington, DC. The project was organized by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention to help the church navigate the issues surrounding AI with wisdom and hope proactively rather than responding to them after the effects are widespread.
AI tools and their limitless potential can be at odds with a belief in human dignity based in the image of God. To be clear, these tools lack a moral sense. However, individuals can use and develop them in ways that demean and oppress other human beings.
Furthermore, the use of technology doesn’t always lead to a dystopian future as some futurists predict. These same tools can be used in righteous ways that can give a voice to the voiceless and help set captives free. As Christians living in a fallen and broken world, how are we to navigate these tensions in a way that parallels how our Savior taught us to live in the world? (Matt. 22:37–39)
The Pursuit of Power
Every human being desires power and control over their lives. At its core, sin is a desire for autonomy and power outside the design of God. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that technology is often used in ways to exert this desire. Autocratic and authoritarian rulers are not new. The Bible is filled with rulers such as Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Herod who sought to control their people through military might or forced labor.
In our own time, authoritarian regimes like those of China and North Korea commit some of the most blatant violations of human dignity and deny many of their people basic God-given rights enjoyed by many of us in the West. Other countries like Russia and Egypt are not far behind in deploying these AI tools like facial recognition.
Along with other nations, China has been involved in controversial uses of technology and artificial intelligence for many years, such as the use of a massive surveillance network to control what their people can see and share online.
In one blatant example of technology being exploited, the Chinese government forced its citizens to download an application called Xuexi Qiangguo, which roughly translates “study to make China strong,” to their phones. The Chinese multinational corporation Alibaba developed the app for the government. The app is filled with Communist propaganda and some claim that the app also tracks citizens.
As sociologist Michael K. Spencer explains, “The internet is legitimizing a dark use of technology that’s now going way beyond privacy invasion and censorship [and] getting into social credit ranking and conformity punishments.”
As Spencer alluded to, the government assigns social scores, which rank individuals and their loyalty to the state. This system is used to stamp out any political dissidents.
Chinese officials use technology to reinforce power over minority groups, like Christians and the Uighur people, who are ethnically Turkic Muslims living in western China.
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Source: Christianity Today