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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

We are reversing into an AI jungle


I was totally flummoxed.  No way could I work it out. Why do I have a moving image from about five metres above my car?


This Tuesday I took our Honda Jazz for a scheduled service – it had been nagging me for the previous two weeks until I could take its beeps no more.  And so we wouldn’t be without wheels for an entire day, Honda Southport kindly allowed me the free use of a demonstrator car. 


Surprisingly they entrusted me with an up-market electric car, their latest SUV.   Essentially it was the same car as our Jazz hybrid except somewhat scaled up with a much larger display screen.


So far, so good – until I reversed out of the parking bay at Edge Hill.  The screen displayed two images.  On the left a rear view, in colour of course, with helpful guidelines, obviously from a rear-view camera.  Nothing special there. 


But there was a second image, showing a live display from a viewpoint above the car, about five metres.  And as three students walked past, I could see from the screen the top of their heads.  Yes, the top of their heads! 


To all intents and purposes there was a camera five metres hovering over the car, showing all the lane markings and activity to the rear of the car.  And for the life of me I couldn’t understand how this was possible.


Heading this blog is my photo of the phenomena. 


Surely Honda are not using satellites, I thought – the image is too clear and anyway, it’s cloudy.  I felt like a medieval peasant trying to work out how a Benz patent motor car could move without being pulled by horses.  “Surely it can’t be the wind or a hidden slope?”


So I had to ask the salesperson.  He patiently explained that there are a series of cameras around the car and the onboard computer works out from the various images the view from above, with the facility to work out what passers-by look like from above. 


Amazing! We are already in the Brave New World, which is increasingly becoming the world of AI.


This morning’s Guardian contained a piece on how television soaps could potentially be created by AI within the next three to five years.  Director James Hawes told parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee that digitally made scripts will soon be upon us – particularly for soaps. 


We are nearly there when AI will create the scripts and the footage, potentially removing the need for writers, actors and lots of other people whose names appear at length at the end of most films. . 


For as the pace of technology changes we are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up.  There are going to be winners – those who love watching their favourite soaps with new programmes every few moments.  And losers - those who used to earn their livelihood in television and film.  Here we enter Luddite territory as the recent Hollywood strike bears witness. 


I’m now halfway through my blog and I’m tempted to ask ChatGPT to finish it. And you will have no way of knowing whether I succumbed.  So here goes. 


One Christian who has thought through the implications of AI is John Lennox, who before he retired was Professor of Mathematics at Oxford. There he specialised in group theory (which is a handy discipline to have) as well as having public debates with militant atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. 


And Lennox is wary of developments in IT. He writes: “While primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have proved very useful, I fear the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans.”He continues: “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded. And in the future AI could develop a will of its own, a will that is in conflict with ours.”And his conclusion is sobering:  “The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence. A super-intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours we’re in trouble.”


As ever Jesus urges vigilance: we need to be entirely alert to any work of evil that would demean or even destroy us.  We are reversing into an AI jungle in which the Department of Defense and pornographers rule supreme.  As the apostle Peter warns” “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).


For we are now at the stage when AI is rapidly integrating into our daily lives, and as Lennox argues: “The big question to be faced is: How can an ethical dimension be built into an algorithm that is itself devoid of heart, soul, and mind?”


No way can we subcontract our thinking to the world, as ever we need to avoid  being swept along by contemporary thinking.  We refuse to let the world squeeze us into its mould.


A concluding quote from Lennox:  “We shall need all the wisdom from above that God can give us in this AI age in order to fulfil Christ’s directive that we should be salt and light in our society.”

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