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Babel, AI, and the End

I recently had an epiphany about God’s actions at the tower of Babel. Remember the account from Genesis 11? After the Flood, instead of spreading out and filling the earth as God had commanded, people decided to “build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

God looked at this and said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

I used to think that God was … well … perhaps a bit of a killjoy here. After all, why would it be a bad thing that “nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them”? Why had God intentionally hindered people’s ability to accomplish things?

I would have understood if God had said, “They are not obeying my command to spread out and fill the earth.” Or if he had said, “They are building a city and tower to rebel against Me.” Or, “They are engaging in idolatrous worship in their tower.”

But God did not specify any of those things, although they are all true and undoubtedly were part of God’s decision to confuse the languages of the people. What God specifically stated was “this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” Why did he say this?

Well, here is food for thought. I now think that Babel was a blessing. God knew that if “nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them,” then people would use that ability for unfathomable evil. And, because the people were determined to stay together, that evil would affect everyone. To delay that torrent of all-encompassing evil, God scattered the people. For the rest of history up to this present day, evil would have geographic and linguistic boundaries. For example, the utter depravity of the Canaanites was limited to Canaan. The people who lived in China or Europe during that time period, for instance, were not affected by the Canaanites wicked practices. They had their own issues, of course, but the point is that separation prevented the spread of unified, worldwide forms of evil. That has been a tremendous blessing for the past 4000 years.

So, what about today? I have been pondering the perspective that you could say we have reversed Babel in our time. (I hasten to add that this is simply an idea to chew over and dialogue about; it is not something I consider definitive.) You could make the case that we now have a universal language again: the language of ones and zeros. This is the basis for all computing, and therefore the basis for artificial intelligence, or AI.

Now, like all tools, AI is neither good nor evil in and of itself. But, like all tools, it can be used for good or evil. And, like all tools, the more powerful the tool, the greater the good or evil it can be used for.

AI is an incredibly powerful tool. It is being used for incredibly good things in countless areas of life. But it is also being used for incredibly evil things. The more it advances (and it is advancing unbelievably quickly), the greater the evil it can be turned to. Consider just three ways it is currently being used today:

  • AI is being used in surveillance technologies in places like North Korea and China to control people

  • People are relying on AI-generated “girlfriends” and “boyfriends” to meet their emotional needs

  • Social manipulation is getting more and more sophisticated and effective with complex algorithms, deep fakes, voice cloning, and the like

Many warnings are being sounded about the potential for AI to do harm at unprecedented scale. For instance, consider the ramifications of autonomous weapons powered by AI, misinformation campaigns that sway decisions and events on a national or global level, and automation that takes so many jobs that it results in pervasive economic instability.

Then, what if we go further? These are just possibilities based on my imagination, but consider these words from Revelation 13 …

“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.” WHAT IF this beast was an expert in AI?

“He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence.” WHAT IF he is the “right-hand man” for the Antichrist?

“And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.” WHAT IF he leverages the communication, deep-fake deception, and social and emotional manipulation powers of AI to convince people around the world to worship the Antichrist?

“He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast…” WHAT IF he uses AI-driven technologies and capabilities to impress and sway humankind?

“…telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.” WHAT IF he uses AI technology to “resurrect” the Antichrist?

“And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” WHAT IF he creates a robot in the likeness of the Antichrist that can speak and act and kill with apparent or perhaps real sentience?

“And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.” WHAT IF he uses AI to identify every person on planet Earth and control their financial transactions?

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.” WHAT IF “nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them”?

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