In 2002, Steven Spielberg directed a movie staring Tom Cruise called “The Minority Report.” I remember watching it and seeing aspects of technology that was so mind-blowing to me at the time. Tom Cruise, for crying out loud, would use this hands to move files around on a large touch screen computer. Absolutely Insane.
And now we’re doing all of this and so much more with our devices.
Fast forward to June 29, 2007, which is the day that Apple Computers (Steve Jobs) released the 1st Gen. iPhone. Game changer. A few years prior, in 2004, Pastor Jack Hayford became the fourth president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, serving a four year term that concluded in 2008. Nearing the end of this presidency, Pastor Jack issued a lengthy “missive” to all credentialed ministers regarding the dangers of the iPhone and other such digital devices. He warned of the prevalent accessibility of pornography within each device, especially for that of minors. Myself, and a number of my peers, jokingly shrugged off Pastor Jack’s letter as the meanderings of a slightly out-of-touch elder leader.
But, oh, how right he was. Just a few weeks ago, I gave a message at my local church regarding sexual immorality and referenced the immediate accessibility of “porn in our pockets.” I may also have made a passing joke that our young people today have “no idea how hard previous generations had to work to get their porn! We used to have to go convenience stores and have the attendant hand us a magazine from behind the counter…and now you “young people” just type a few key words into your phone.”
A few people awkwardly giggled, while the majority stared intently at the sanctuary carpet.
Ah, the majority. What used to be the minority, is now becoming the majority. Whereas previously, a minority had a personal computer, a fancy smartphone, or access to the internet (thank you Al Gore!), now the majority is moving files around with our hands or eyes (in the case of VR).
And now we have OpenAI. Midway through the COVID-19 pandemic my kids informed me of a thing called “ChatGPT.” I am pretty culturally aware, but I literally had no idea of its existence. Hello 52 years old. The revelation came when our entire family (spread out across the US) came together on a ZOOM call. One of our sons mentioned ChatGPT, and to illustrate its power, we “wrote” a worship song in less than 4 seconds. He then grabbed his guitar and we proceeded to sing it together over ZOOM. Ah, technology. The worship song was entirely generated by ChatGPT (except for our given key word prompts), and, I will say, it just might rival anything put out by Chris Tomlin or Brandon Lake. Look out KLOVE.
I recently received an email from The Barna research group asking a series of questions of pastoral leaders: Could delegating certain processes to new technologies such as AI free up time for more hands-on forms of ministry? What are the moral and ethical implications of incorporating more AI tech into church leadership? As more congregants personally turn to AI, particularly young Christians, what guidance can I give to support their holistic flourishing?
This is the kind of stuff I did NOT learn in Bible College.
Yet, here we are. We’re no longer in 2002, or 2004, or 2007. Or, to go back even further, and quote the landmark Apple Computer commercial from 1984…”On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” This is a subtle (not-so-subtle to many) reference to George Orwell’s 1949 novel, 1984, which describes a dystopian future – one that we are clearly living in and rapidly “zooming” through! Time is moving forward, and technology will stop for no thing or no one. OpenAI, which is still in its “minority” phase, will soon move into majority status, and make way for other technology iterations. This has profound implications, good and bad, for ministry and education, to name a few fields of learning. What are dangers, limitations and possibilities? I don’t know. I really don’t. The dangers, limitations and possibilities are changing moment by moment. The articles and videos provided for this week’s learning are most likely now out-of-date and approaching irrelevancy. Information is increasing as I type. And type I did…I asked ChatGPT only 5 minutes ago to define the acronym “GPT” for me. Here is the answer:
“GPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer.” It’s a type of artificial intelligence model that belongs to the transformer architecture and is designed for various natural language processing tasks, such as text generation, translation, summarization, and more. GPT models are pre-trained on massive amounts of text data and can then be fine-tuned for specific tasks or used as-is for generating human-like text.”
That’s not bad. That seems like a really comprehensive response, worthy of being included in this blog post. So I did. Just now.
But that brings up so many questions, especially within the context of ministry and upper education. Can I (should I) write my blogs with ChatGPT? What about the eight weekly blog interactions with peers? As a pastor should I let ChatGPT write my sermons? As a doctoral student, can OpenAI assist me with research? And if AI research is not properly acknowledged and/or cited is it breach of academic integrity?
So. Many. Questions. If only there were a place that I could post these questions in order to gather possible answers in a casual voice, with proper citation and varied paragraph length.