AI feels like a tornado that has hit society: unpredictable, powerful, and out of our control. How do we as Christians respond to this force in the world? Curtis is joined by two friends who live and work at the intersection of AI and spiritual reflection: James Cham of Bloomberg Beta and John Kim of the Karamaan Group. Together, the three friends explore how Christians might flip the question from “Where is AI taking us spiritually?” to “Where should Christians take AI?”
This excerpt has been edited for length and clarity.
CURTIS CHANG: Speak to a Christian who wants to do redemptive work in this world and who is touching AI in some way. What would be your advice to them? How do they seize this Genesis moment, this moment to put creation on a path toward virtue. What does that look like?
JAMES CHAM: Okay, so I’d suggest that this is a time when the people who are building these systems are more open to hearing stories from the Bible than ever. A lot of tech circles are post-Christian enough that they are open to hearing these stories as if they are new. They are thinking to themselves, how do I think about jealousy? How do I think about the fact that we’re trying to create this organization that may or may not be good? What’s the equivalent of an idol?
And I think that the vast set of resources we have from the Bible and Christian theology is actually quite useful to the engineer and entrepreneur, right? People grasp onto the idea that we are bad but want to be good. They’re like, “Oh yes, what is that called?” It’s original sin! Or this idea that people become jealous of each other. Oh, how do I even think about that? There are many, many stories about that in the Bible.
And I think there’s a unique opportunity for these folks doing something fundamentally new to hear from things that are very old. Because they realize that the decisions they make have consequences. And for a variety of reasons, we as Christians have forgotten that the Bible is not just a way of understanding God, it’s also an accurate description of how we and the world really are. And we just don’t take advantage of that often enough. There’s a rich legacy over thousands of years of people making decisions by talking about the Bible.
CURTIS CHANG: That’s a great point because now you’re not only giving some pastoral instructions to the engineer, but I think you’re giving pastoral instruction to the theologian. Because really you’re saying to a theologian, “Here’s your task.”
I’ve been diving deep into this theology of institutions and I think I can contribute this line of thought to the AI conversation – not by becoming an expert on AI. And I think theologians who want to make their work relevant often think they need to become an expert on another topic, right? I know I can’t do that. And I think most theologians and pastors can’t do that. But you need to be conversant enough to know what are the big theological questions, not the technology itself or where it’s going, but the big possible questions that are being raised and the guiding stars that will be needed. And then really dive into that.
And the building of AI is fundamentally an institutional activity. You don’t do that as an individual. And it’s also a collective, it’s an extreme version of a collective reflection of God, God’s character, and God’s knowledge given to human beings.
JOHN KIM: Yes, yes. First 10,000 amens to James’ point. Nevermore has a technical development brought people with a biblical worldview and with a deep understanding of the creation story into the conversation. I think it was 10 years ago that, according to some Fortune or Forbes article, Elon Musk and Larry Page had that argument which led to some of the discord between them about whether or not AI should be endowed with rights. Larry Page called Elon like a humanist and said he values humans too much. And I think Elon was like, “Well of course I value humans more than created things.”
My point is that the conversation went public and became a central conversation piece for tons of people because it was asking the question, “What the heck does it mean to be human?” One of my favorite thinkers, Cornel West, says in almost every talk he gives, “The central question is, ‘What does it mean to be human?’” That’s the soil in which we’re operating.
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