Natural vs Artificial Intelligence

The reaction to AI-generated ideas through such applications as ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is no different from the reaction to the use of calculators in schools several decades ago.

Feb 24, 2023

By Bishop Pablo Virgilio David
The reaction to AI-generated ideas through such applications as ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is no different from the reaction to the use of calculators in schools several decades ago. Did it spoil human intelligence? Not really. It did make some people lazy, no doubt, but it sped up the calculation of complex equations that eventually paved the way for the age of computers.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is nothing but a bi-product of natural human intelligence. Will its use be detrimental to human civilisation? That really depends on us. As is the case with most other scientific and technological inventions of humankind, it’s really up to the user; but most of all, it depends on the technology’s owner.

We have actually been living with AI for quite a long time already. The manner in which our searches and views are monitored by Google, Safari, or any search engine, should not make us wonder why we are automatically flooded by more of the same stuff on our social media newsfeed.

AI notes the kind of photos or videos that you’ve viewed, how long you viewed them, how often, etc. It keeps track of the kind of news sites that you follow, the kind of information that you enjoy, the kind that you like, comment on and share, the kind of products you purchase, yes, most anything about you.

Military Intelligence work has never been made so easy. You can easily pose as a psychic, a mind-reader or a spiritual medium and actually sound very convincing by blurting out some pieces of information that you have researched about people. With just a good internet connection and easy access to people’s social media accounts, you can put up a booth and pretend to do fortune-telling, complete with a make-believe crystal ball and scam gullible people professionally. You can invent any fake news, make them go viral and get people to actually believe them. You can manipulate public opinion and get even morons elected into office.

The wealth of data stored up by the owners of these social media platforms easily translates into money for advertising agencies, or political power for troll agencies that flood the social media with disinformation. Like I’ve said, much depends on the owners. For instance, we don’t own our accounts in any of the social media platforms, like FB, Tiktok, Instagram, etc. It is the owners of these platforms who own our data and have a right to do with them as they please. You use them; they use you. That’s the symbiosis of modern digital technology.

Here’s what Wikipedia gives as definition of ChatGPT. It is “a chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched in November 2022. It is built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-3 family of large language models and has been fine-tuned (an approach to transfer learning) using both supervised and reinforcement learning techniques.”

One of my brothers asked ChatGPT to write a homily for the Mass on Valentine’s Day. Here’s what it generated:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we gather here today to celebrate the feast of St Valentine, we are reminded of the beauty and power of love. Love, after all, is at the very heart of our faith. In today’s first reading from 1 Corinthians, we hear St Paul’s famous words about love: ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.’”

“On this Valentine’s Day, we are called to reflect on the ways in which we can live out this kind of love in our own lives. So often, we associate this holiday with romantic love, but true love extends far beyond that. It is a love that embraces not only those closest to us, but all of humanity, especially those in need.”

“As Catholics, we are called to love as Christ loved, to love sacrificially and selflessly. This means putting the needs of others before our own, reaching out to those in need, and treating all people with dignity and respect.”

“Let us not forget that love is not just a feeling, but an action. It is not enough to simply say that we love someone. We must show that love through our words and actions. And as we show love to those around us, we will experience the joy and peace that come from living a life rooted in love.”

“So, on this Valentine’s Day, let us open our hearts to the love of God and let that love overflow into every aspect of our lives. May our love for one another reflect the love of God and bring joy and peace to all those around us.”

Here’s the exchange of conversation among my siblings about the ChatGPT-generated homily: “ChatGPT will render many people jobless. But note: even when it’s talking about love, its message lacks depth and texture that only human experience can furnish.”

Another brother replied, “I noticed that its writing style is based on systems approach. Very mechanical and predictable.”

I told them in jest, “I dread to see the day when priests will simply generate homilies through ChatGPT! Haha.”

(Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines)

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