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Call Me a Dinosaur, I Won’t Use ChatGPT

Deidre Braley

Sep 1, 2023

"The fact of the matter is, we will never be like God, nor will we ever be able to create a system that knows everything, is capable of anything, and controls all things."

“Have you heard about ChatGPT?” my husband asked one night as we ate pad thai from our laps on the couch.


“No.” I rolled my eyes. “Is that something you heard about on your talk radio?” I wiggled my fingers for emphasis on that last bit. He’s always bringing home hot takes on the latest news.


“Well yeah, but it’s everywhere. Everyone’s talking about it. It’s gonna be the next big thing. It writes anything you want for you. You just put in a few keywords and bam! You’ve got your newsletter, your sermon, your website content, whatever.”


As someone who writes content for a living, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with this new development.


“Yes, and I’m sure it’s generic and basic and boring, too.” I took a giant, disinterested bite from my chopsticks.


“Let’s try it.” Before I could finish chewing and object, he had ChatGPT pulled up, cursor waiting. “What do you want it to write?”


“Maybe it can do basic copy, but I doubt it can write a speech. Tell it to write a sermon or something. I’m sure it’s got its theology all wrong.”


He entered a few keywords: ‘sermon on John 15.’ Instantly, a message materialized. I peered over the edge of his phone. “Read it to me.”


In truth, it wasn’t bad. But it did lack any personal elements, and I pointed that out. “The power behind any good speaking is the ability to relate with the audience on a human level. AI simply can’t do that.”


My husband entered, ‘add personal story,’ to the keyword bank. In a matter of moments, the sermon had been adjusted to include a personal story of overcoming addiction that somehow tied to the central themes of the message. I grimaced. Well, there’s the beginning of the end of my writing career, I sighed. I ate more noodles.


Since then, ChatGPT has been popping up everywhere. In my inbox, in personal conversations, in the articles I read and the content that I follow, people are, in general, here for it. They say it’s inevitable, that it’s helpful, that it can cut time and costs, and we might as well use it for good. That this evolution of technology is a tale as old as time, and that only dinosaurs would bother to resist it.


But in our home, it’s boycotted. Call me a dinosaur.


See, there’s this personal element that makes ChatGPT so offensive. It’s as though it has taken all eighteen years of my schooling, every ounce of constructive feedback I’ve ever received and grown from, and the sum of the hundreds of thousands of hours I’ve spent reading and writing to develop my craft, and laughed and said, “You can’t possibly compete with my efficiency and breadth of knowledge. Your humanity is a handicap. Go find a new day job. That is, until I find a way to do that better, too.”


But there’s something deeper that rubs uncomfortably against my humanity, and it’s the way that AI seems to be moving steadily toward the goal of omniscience. Not only is the very technology that we’re creating moving on a gleeful path to render us obsolete, it is also beginning to seem like an unfortunate reenactment of the scene in the garden of Eden, except with robots.


“No! You (your humanity, your jobs, your creativity) will not die,” the tech gurus assure society. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it (partake in it, accept it, rely on it), your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (see Genesis 3:4-5, parenthetical phrases mine).


"You’re being so dramatic!" the AI proponents will cry. But just as the serpent was so eager to point out the fun points of being like God and failed to mention the rest—being expelled from the garden, being cursed with weary toil and painful labor, facing death—those who push the propaganda that AI is for the betterment of the human race are being irresponsible when they omit the possibility for any negative implications.


The fact of the matter is, we will never be like God, nor will we ever be able to create a system that knows everything, is capable of anything, and controls all things. Our efforts to do that only result in a separation from what makes being human worthwhile: a dependence on Someone greater, an interdependence on one another and the giftings he has given each of us, and the spark of the Holy Spirit that reveals mysterious things that this world can neither see nor understand (1 Corinthians 2:10).


Dependence as a Gift


Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. How tempting it is—to see the possibility of creating systems that will make everything streamlined, instant, accessible, and unlimited—and want to lunge toward it, to bring humanity to a new level of efficiency and ease. To make a name for ourselves and to usher in an era of increased self-reliance.


These were the people who brought us AI, people will say. Can you even imagine the world without it?


It’s not a new temptation. Think of the Tower of Babel; the people who settled in Shinar realized one day that they could make bricks and mortar, and suddenly they began to take “the sky’s the limit” with shocking literalism:  “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4 NIV).


I used to be a little miffed by God’s response. He saw what they were doing, realized that if they kept working together like this nothing would be impossible for them, and then confused them by giving them different languages and spreading them all over the earth (Genesis 11:5-9).


Let the people have this! I’d think. Teamwork makes the dream work! And if they wanted to work together to build a really tall tower, well, where was the real harm in that?


But God can see the implications of our actions far past our own nearsightedness. The people saw a tower, God saw their hubris destroying them. The people saw security in self-reliance, God saw them forgetting that security comes from him alone. The people saw a magnificent plan, but God saw the holes shot all through it and saw it fit to humble them.


In his omniscient goodness, God scattered the people all over the earth before they could live out the lie that glory and self-sufficiency are superior to his love and security. While it’s unlikely they were thrilled with this outcome, they lacked the foresight and understanding to acknowledge that their forced dependence on God was a gift—he was protecting them from being destroyed by their own humanity.


I haven’t a single doubt that ChatGPT will continue to grow and be refined. People will spend their entire lives working to perfect it, and they will be applauded for it. The tower will reach higher, the fortress of AI will be strengthened—but to what end? Will our own nearsightedness lead us into something we haven’t bargained for?


The Value of Interdependence


Speaking of nearsightedness, the self-checkout line at Target makes me sad. And the self-order kiosks at restaurants strike me as miniature tragedies—proof of a regression for humanity, rather than progress. They seem to be evidence that our society has moved away from valuing people as living, human beings to thinking of them instead as expensive roadblocks to growth.


Of course, people are costly in every sense of the word: they cost money and time and emotional investment. From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense to eliminate as many as possible. In terms of ChatGPT, for example, why take the time to sit down with a content creator and discuss the unique needs of your business when you can enter a handful of keywords into a website and have your content generated instantaneously? Plus, how can you compete with free? Human minds are expensive, unpredictable, and limited. They have feelings and opinions. OpenAI removes the need to deal with any of that.


But come now. We aren’t so naive as to believe that there’s no cost to making decisions to cut expenses. When we decide to eliminate human interaction—whether in designing content for our websites or ordering french fries at Applebee’s—we are saying, in effect, that we can do it ourselves. That we’ve got our own talents and abilities, and whatever we haven’t got, our technology will make up for it. We’ve got this.


I often think of an anecdote I once heard about a small village in Africa. Every day, the women of the village would go to the river to wash their laundry. They would talk and share and laugh and cry together while laboring over their wash. Over time, the women began to get washing machines in their houses, and they didn’t have to go down to the river anymore. They could push a button and move on with their days, right from the comfort of their homes. But, as the months and years progressed, something unexpected happened: the women realized they did not feel that their lives were enhanced by the efficiency and ease the laundry machines had brought, but rather noticed that they felt more melancholy, more anxious, and more alone. The new technology had eliminated the necessity of coming together each day at the river and, unintentionally, had unraveled the fabric of their community.


We do the same every time we welcome new technology that allows us to keep our time, energy, and money to ourselves at the expense of human interaction. Just as Paul wrote, “The eye can’t say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ we cannot, in good faith, look at our fellow humans and say, “I’ve reached a point where I don’t need you anymore. I can do it all myself” (1 Corinthians 12:21). In doing so, we’re rejecting the inalienable truth that we’ve been designed for community, that we are, in fact, limited, and that it is when our giftings work in interdependence that we’ll feel most satisfied, supported, and successful.


The Holy Spirit as Creative Genius


Finally—and this is my coup de grâce—there is one thing that ChatGPT will never be able to replicate or harness, and that is the creative genius of the Holy Spirit. While AI might be more efficient, more expansive, and more cost-effective than the human mind, it will never be able to tap into this one superpower that is only accessible to humanity.


And not for a moment should this power be mocked or dismissed. In a world where content is oozing out of our phones and televisions and radios and watches, information feels cheap. Much of it is formulaic, and even if the information is new, it is palpably devoid of any real spark or magic. The Holy Spirit can offer that magic.


God says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). God—the creator of the universe, who is a well of deep mystery and creative brilliance—invites his people to ask him anything, and then promises to answer.


And answer, he will. As a writer, I can attest to this wild and wonderful mystery. The level of originality and truth in my work is directly related to the amount of Holy Spirit it is infused with. And the level of connection it makes with my audience is a powerful indicator of how well I was able to tune into His whispers while I wrote.


Work without the Holy Spirit falls flat. Work with it, however, rings magical and fascinating and unique and true.


In this way, the human spirit wins. ChatGPT is a robot, and its lack of soul will forever be its downfall.


I have this dream that one day society will step back from its advancements, look up and look around, and realize that its deepest and truest needs are not actually more knowledge, efficiency, or ease, but rather connection, thoughtfulness, and its ability to depend on God and others for nourishment.


At the end of the day, the question of AI isn’t about the usefulness of ChatGPT or self-help kiosks; their value is easy to see. The real question is: Just because we can do it, does it mean we should?


Is it worth it to eat the fruit, if it means we will lose the Garden?


Deidre Braley is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Maine with her husband and two children, and most days can be found savoring an overly cheesy bagel or drinking a second cup of coffee while working on her weekly newsletter, The Second Cup. She is a strong believer in the power of poetry, picking roadside flowers, and blowing past small talk at all costs. Follow her on Instagram @deidresecondcup or on Facebookshe loves meeting new friends.


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