I've been a lover of books ever since first learning to read. Growing up, my favorite places were school and the public libraries. Today, my large collection of books reflects my need to have them readily accessible. At any time, I have to be able to pull one from a shelf or stack to read a random page or chapter.
My love of books is one of those things I took for granted, never considering how much it would mean to not have it in my future or present. Physical books are one of the things that I have missed most over the past couple of years since my diagnosis of low vision.
In the same way that I’m finding new ways to write, I’m also still reading. Both loves remain constant and are intimately related to my life purpose and calling. I stay in practice by going daily to one of my shelves of books, standing before it, and stretching my arms across it. I lean my head on the shelf in an awkward embrace. “I’ll be back,” I tell the books, in my Terminator voice. The practice and the promise make me smile.
My belief is real. So is my gratitude for advancement in technology, even the controversial AI (artificial intelligence). Last summer, Son #2 called to tell us about Seeing AI. He works in the tech sector and keeps us as informed as he can, given the speed at which this train is moving. He explained how he thought the app could help me stay connected to my love of reading. Hubby downloaded the app. He walked me through how to use it. I didn’t waste any time grabbing a book from one of the shelves, opening it to a random page, and pointing my phone at the words on the page. I felt a sense of overwhelming gratitude and a knowing that God was looking out for me. Seeing AI actually sees the words and reads them from the page. The app can read cursive handwriting as well. So, for the first time in two years, I've been able to skim through my journals and notes. Call it unspeakable joy, brought to you by AI. I shed tears of joy hearing entries that I wrote years ago. Hearing the words read to me was like reconnecting with a childhood friend that I missed every day.
Over the years, I've seen mostly dystopian movies about AI and only a couple that promise anything close to a utopian theme. With the launch of Chat GPT, an AI program that generates dialogue, and the controversial uses and abuses of our information and attention that have already been revealed, all eyes are on AI. I’m torn, too. I’ve heard enough, and experienced enough through this app and others, to know that AI has the potential for great good and great harm.
I find myself answering Siri and Alexa as if they are sentient and have to check my attitude with them at times (it can be quite annoying). I've watched enough lectures and heard enough from Son #2 to know that conventional computing is quickly becoming eclipsed by AI. AI can see better than humans. AI holds the world championships in chess, checkers, Go, and Jeopardy!
Some companies are already using AI to collect medical and health information and combine it in a way that results in levels of knowledge that humans alone could not reach. Those in cryogenics are looking at it or investigating how it can be used to bring their clients back to life. AI is everywhere, increasingly determining the direction of humanity. How does it play into the grand plan of our evolution? Is it a blessing that moves us to our next levels of learning, growth, and evolution? I recall hearing that we only utilize a small portion or capacity of our brain's power. I have heard that claim disputed, but I wonder if AI is a way to increase our intelligence beyond what is possible biologically and in a way that speeds up humanity's timeline.
I’m not aware of anything that includes God in the equation of what AI will become. But I know AI has not escaped God’s awareness. Just as we have been endowed by our Creator with the ability to create, we have also endowed AI with the ability to create. So, technology gives and technology takes away; it empowers and disempowers.
I think we are in for a challenging journey with the potential to move humanity in a positive direction, but it is going to be a rough ride. While writing this, I learned about this open letter from tech and corporate leaders. I recommend reading it and, most importantly, remembering that it's still up to us humans to collectively decide how far AI goes. Once we can reach agreement on what constitutes a mistake or harm to society, then perhaps the tech industry can follow.
Right now, it seems to be the attention economy driving at all costs.