By Jason Thacker
You’re using a new revolutionary piece of technology each day and might not even know it.
I’m not talking about your smartphone or even the newest wearable device. I’m not talking about the latest laptop computer or even the tablet you just purchased. One of the most revolutionary technologies you encounter each day is artificial intelligence, and it is changing everything about your life and family.
Let me explain.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a form of technology where a computer is programmed to accomplish a certain set of goals on its own. AI is commonly defined as the ability for a computer to process, evaluate, and even “think”.
AI can be programmed to perform a number of everyday tasks ranging from monitoring your home via smart home systems, like my family’s Nest thermostat, to an AI-empowered algorithm that determines what you see in your social media feeds each time you scroll down.
Artificial intelligence is especially helpful for marketers because it allows micro-targeting of ads and products. It drives the “what to watch next” feature on popular video platforms and also what shows up in the “just for you” sections on the websites of many online retailers.
AI is able to sift through massive amounts of data and recognizes patterns useful to companies that are often missed by the human eye. AI is everywhere and it’s driving our world.
You actually interact and use artificial intelligence every single day as you engage with your devices because almost everything we own these days is considered “smart” or artificially intelligent to some extent.
This technology is affecting your family. If we are to protect our families, we must learn about AI and the influence it has on our daily lives. Here are two ways artificial intelligence is changing your family and what to do about it.
Artificial intelligence allows us to be more inwardly focused on ourselves and less focused on others.
In Matthew 22, the Pharisees asked Jesus what He said was the greatest commandment. They thought they would trap Jesus and cause Him to neglect some of the Mosaic law, thus giving them reason to arrest him for blasphemy.
But Jesus used this test to expose their true motives as he answered their question in verses 37-40. He tells them that the second greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39, CSB)
God calls each of us to love our neighbors sacrificially. But if we are honest this is one of the most difficult commandments for us to follow.Every day, AI is being used in new ways that allow us to indulge our selfish and prideful hearts.Why? Because we are tempted to believe we are more important than our neighbors, and even our own families. Our pride and arrogance enable us to think we are more important than other people and that the world should revolve around us.
When was the last time you missed something your husband or wife said because you were lost in an artificial world of curated social media feeds or browsing the “you might like” section on your favorite online shopping site?
These tools are based on various forms of artificial intelligence and they are used to tempt you to focus on yourself rather than the people around you.
We live in curated and personalized world. All of our major social media platforms—including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook—use curated news feeds where an AI or algorithm shows you the content it thinks you are most likely to engage with and keep coming back to the platform for more.
Artificial intelligence is able to process massive amounts of data faster than any human could and can find connections or correlations many human researchers never would have seen. This enables a personalized world, built just for you.
Today is only the beginning. Every day, AI is being used in new ways that allow us to indulge our selfish and prideful hearts.
One way for us to combat this prevailing use of AI is to take regular breaks from our technology and focus on one another. This can be as simple as a no-technology dinner or even a family day that is not documented through tweets and photos posted to Instagram or Facebook.
You might even choose to shop in a brick and mortar store with your kids running around you grabbing things off the shelf just to mix things up a little bit. These small breaks from our curated worlds will allow us to connect with one another, learn things together without technology as a crutch, and also allow our kids to see us model together with them appropriate uses of technology.
Artificial intelligence can diminish our ability to teach hard work to our kids.
You’ve likely read numerous stories about a jobless future where AI-empowered robots take over our jobs. From automation to outsourcing, many fear a future where there aren’t enough jobs to go around.
Numerous studies have been done about how AI is affecting the workforce and each seem to show something different about what our future might look like, but one thing is for certain: AI is disrupting the workforce and could have a negative impact on our homes and families because it is changing how we view work from a fundamental level.
Growing up, I had more than enough to do around the house. From mowing our one-acre yard to cleaning our house each weekend, my sister and I were taught from a young age that our work is about more than just doing things that need to be done.
We were taught the value of work and how hard work forms character. A common misconception about work is that it is something we do because this world is broken.
But work was given to our first parents, Adam and Eve, before the fall. It was only through the fall that our work became so difficult and toilsome where the ground literally tries to fight back against us as we work.
Artificial intelligence is weakening our work ethic because many of the common tasks around the home are being automated or completed by machines. These tasks have historically been used to teach work ethic to children.Our homes and churches may become respites for those inundated by technology, away from a world curated and formed just for them.From automated Husqvarna robot lawn mowers and Roomba robot vacuums to AI-controlled security systems and automated appliances, our homes are becoming smarter each day.
Online delivery systems for household goods have replaced trudging out to the local grocery store when needs arise. These systems are increasingly used where it seems that there are few reasons to leave the house, much less do manual labor around the home.
What is this level of automation and artificial intelligence going to do to our kids? Will they learn the value of hard work in a home and world where the simplest of tasks are done by machines?
They will if we allow them. My advice to parents is to evaluate each time you install or use a new smart system in your home. This may mean you forego a new piece of technology that tells you who’s at your door so your kids learn how to interact with neighbors when they stop by.
It may mean you decide against the robot vacuum cleaner or mower so you can work alongside your children doing things “the old fashioned way” with sweat and grit.
Though these family decisions may seem simple or trite, they’ll go a long way in modeling a good use of technology in the home for your entire family.
As Christians, our homes and churches will increasingly be at odds with many of the prevailing trends in society. By employing simple nuggets of wisdom as we use technology in our families, we’ll be able to show the watching world that while artificial intelligence has many benefits for our families, it can also lead to unforeseen dangers.
Our homes and churches may become respites for those inundated by technology, away from a world curated and formed just for them.
Let our homes be a place where we teach our families we are not the center of our worlds and hard work shouldn’t be delegated to any machine.
Let them be places where the truths of the Scriptures are taught daily as we serve a great God at the center of the universe who calls us to lay down our own lives to love our neighbors as Christ laid down His life for us.
JASON THACKER (@jasonthacker) is creative director for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He writes regularly on technology, theology, and human dignity at jasonthacker.com.