Gongol.com Archives: April 2024

Brian Gongol

April 26, 2024

Computers and the Internet A priesthood of electronics

Few reactions are more reliable about flying right in the face of the evidence than the assumption that technological progress will lead to widespread and chronic unemployment for human beings. Technology will always bring about employment changes at the margins, but it also invariably scratches new itches and reveals brand-new preferences. ■ When tractors displaced horses, some losses were felt among oat farmers and farriers, but a great deal of work was created in factories, service and repair shops, implement dealerships, and countless other directly related industries, not to mention vast numbers of second-order industries. ■ Despite its many intriguing promises, artificial intelligence has no hope of permanently displacing as many jobs as it will ultimately create. Take, for instance, the case of "Justin", the "virtual Catholic apologist". ■ As an experiment in artificial intelligence, it's an interesting one: A chatbot programmed to answer questions about religious faith. After some initial missteps in how it was rolled out, the "Justin" persona has been changed from that of a priest to a lay theologian. ■ Aside from the many questions that might be asked about theology delivered by artificial intelligence, it should be noted that the technology itself probably reveals or even generates more questions than it could begin to answer. Can an artificial intelligence engine have a soul? Is it permissible to represent the thoughts of a real person using an artificial technology? If a novel claim is pronounced by an artificial intelligence, what would signal whether it was divinely inspired? Is there a literal deus ex machina? ■ The questions are certain to become vastly more numerous than they were before the technology existed: In effect, a make-work program for theologians. No matter how technology reconfigures human work, there will always be new puzzles to solve -- many of them generated by the new technologies being used, ostensibly, to save labor. From those puzzles alone, we can be assured that humans will never be made obsolete.

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