Rise of the machines: I see ChatGPT everywhere

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I need to get this off my chest: ChatGPT is starting to give me “the ick”. It has even caused me to mute some friends on social media. There. I’ve said it. 

If you know someone and have talked to them in real life, you know what they sound like. If you’ve exchanged words with anyone, you know what normal speech sounds like. And it’s not exactly how ChatGPT sounds. Do you really use words such as unwavering, beacon of hope, delve, underscores, realm, etc, in your 21st century conversations?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should stop using ChatGPT. Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay and it’s beneficial to understand how to properly use it if we want to have a place in our future society. According to the Microsoft Work Trends Index 2023, 82 per cent of leaders say their employees will need new skills to be prepared for the growth of AI. 

I attended South By Southwest (SXSW) Sydney in October last year—if you’re not familiar with it, the event is basically “the world’s fair for creative content industries”. The event ran for a week and had industry specialists from all around the world speaking on many topics related to innovation, many focused on communication, media and the future of work. The most discussed topic? You guessed it! AI. 

One of the biggest concerns surrounding AI at that event was the question “Is AI coming for my job?” Good news: it’s not. But it’s definitely coming for your job description. 

AI—which, by the way, is not new; it has been around since the 1950s—is part of our reality now, and it WILL change how we live and work. But my biggest concern, and the reason for my ick, is whether it will also change the way we communicate. 

Yes, it is great to have ChatGPT to help tone down that email that would’ve sounded too passive-aggressive, or even to help those who don’t have English as their native language communicate better—it can do a pretty good job as a translator. But the indiscriminate use of this tool to craft social media posts, articles or even text message replies is starting to make us sound like robots. We run the risk of losing the ability to truly connect with people. And how does that help us in the great commission? 

This year my husband and I have started using the YouVersion Bible app daily devotional every morning. It features a verse of the day, a short video from a different guest diving into the meaning of that verse, followed by a written devotional. Recently, while watching one of those videos, the person presenting it started using words such as “unwavering”, “beacon of hope” and all the robotic ChatGPT vocabulary. A few seconds into the video, the person sharing the message had completely lost me. I can’t connect with a message that has been crafted by a robot. 

Maybe he wrote it himself and then asked ChatGPT to refine it? That’s a possibility. But if the message is not presented in a way that resonates with people, it won’t have meaning. It’s like when Paul advised the Corinthians about speaking in tongues. If we speak in a way that is not clear enough to be understood, we “will be speaking into the air” (1 Corinthians 14:9). At first glance, ChatGPT can sound like heavenly generated words, which seem amazing, but if we don’t interpret it, edit it, make it sound more human, we are missing the real benefit of inter-human connections.

The unanimous conclusion of the specialists at SXSW who discussed “The future of Journalism, publishing and truth in the age of AI”  and other “AI vs humans” panels I attended was that AI won’t and should never replace some specific professionals. AI is biased, has no concept of fairness and no objectivity. Someone actually said in those panels that we now need real journalists more than ever. 

As Seventh-day Adventists, I believe it applies to us as well. In a world where technology has the potential to make us lose our human touch, we need dedicated pastors, leaders and members; we need real Christians to share the Real—and True—God. Now more than ever.

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