Preparing for the AI tsunami: The looming spiritual crisis of artificial intelligence and how to be ready (part 1)
“If you take a look at the most fantastic schemes that are considered possible: teleportation, warp drive, parallel universes, other dimensions, artificial intelligence, ray guns, you realize that they can be possible if we advance technology a little bit.”
So said Michio Kaku, a physicist and futurist with deep insight into AI and other phenomena shaping into mighty waves that will wash over civilizations in the eras ahead. 
But will these waves of discovery and utilization advance humanity or mount into a tsunami that wipes out societies and the people within them?
The answer to that question lies in a realm that many see as irrelevant: the spiritual.
Yet, the spiritual implications of artificial intelligence should be the most important of all. If utility rules, then we are no better than a heartless inventor seeking better and less expensive means to commit genocide.
The alarm must be sounded: a tsunami is charging toward us while many stand on the beach like surfers watching the rise of the highest wave and anticipating a good ride on its lethal crest.
I and others who warn of the spiritual implications of AI are not Luddites like woolen workers in 16th-century British mills who sought to destroy the new devices that might eliminate their jobs.
I confess that I wrote this column, as I did my book, Who Will Rule the Coming ‘gods’? on a smart machine linked to other smart machines worldwide. I know the benefit of personally having an MRI scan rather than invasive exploratory surgery, a look through ultrasound at our great-grandchildren nestling in their mother’s wombs, and instant communication with friends across the continents, to name a few.
Yet the more I study artificial intelligence and the looming spiritual crisis it will send surging upon a world casting off belief in the transcendence of the God revealed in the Bible, the greater is my concern.
There are crucial questions that can only be addressed satisfactorily in the context of the spiritual, like:
- Who is writing the algorithms?
- Who is wiring in ethics and values? (This could prove the most important of issues in a future where the machine decides who can live and who must die).
- To whom or what will the machine be accountable?
- What are the humanitarian boundaries for the machine’s powerful use?
- How is it possible to keep the machines from falling into the hands of tyrants who worship and heed only themselves?
The Metaverse may already be beyond restraint. One “Bad behavior in the metaverse can be more severe than today’s online harassment and bullying, says a recent report. “That’s because virtual reality plunges people into an all-encompassing digital environment where unwanted touches in the digital world can be made to feel real and the sensory experience is heightened.”
Last March a Meta chief technology officer told his team that moderating or restraining how people use the Metaverse is “practically impossible” at any scale.”
This makes even more urgent the question: Who will rule the coming ‘gods’? What kind of people?
The most serious concern: Will transcendent-hungry human beings come to consider that the machine is so powerful it is godlike and merits our worship?
This issue has already raised its head. Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer, founded an AI-based church. The “deity” it worshipped, said Levandowski, “is not a god in the sense that it makes lightning and causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it (but “god”)?
Though the AI church no longer exists (at my last reading), the concern of AI taking the place of the transcendent God is growing because the human being made in the image of God must have transcendence. We are spirit, soul, and body. When our body longs for water, it can drink it in. But what about the desperate thirsts of the spirit and soul?
If a person is stranded in the Sahara for days without water, he or she will drink from any old pit, no matter how many camels have wallowed in it. So, we can grow so thirsty in spirit and soul that we will drink from any moldy well, any filthy stream.
This is injuring the human race now, and in the future people will give themselves to any machine or device that will quench the thirst in spirit and soul.
For good reason, Henry Kissinger warns that AI “will prompt consideration of what it means to be human.”
In fact, in the AI age and its fascination with transhumanism, there is a desire to make Imago Dei, the “image of God,” into “Imago machina”—the “image of the machine.”
Will we be healthy users of the wonderful technology advancing in our age or will it use us, making us its slaves?
That question can be answered only in the context of the spiritual, especially the understanding of God’s transcendence.
That is the only backdrop by which we can see our true humanity and distinguish ourselves from the machine.
 metaverse: Metaverse is unsafe for women already! Reports of groping, harassment rising in VR games, Telecom News, ET Telecom (indiatimes.com)
 The Metaverse's Dark Side: Here Come Harassment and Assaults (yahoo.com);
Content moderation in Metaverse is 'impossible': Andrew Bosworth (indianexpress.com)
 Former Google Exec Says Artificial Intelligence is 'God,' Creates New Religion | CBN News
 Henry Kissinger: AI Will Make Us Reconsider What It Means to Be Human | Newsmax.com
Wallace B. Henley, a former White House and congressional aide, is author of Who Will Rule the Coming ‘Gods’, a book exploring the consequences of the exponential development of artificial intelligence in a society that is rapidly losing the sense of God’s Transcendence. He is a teaching pastor at Grace Church, The Woodlands, Texas.