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Reform Magazine | July 15, 2024

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Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘One day these AI programmes might scan everything I’ve ever written and decide if I’m friend or foe’ - Reform Magazine

Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘One day these AI programmes might scan everything I’ve ever written and decide if I’m friend or foe’

Paul Kerensa takes on the bots

From text to pictures, and to moving pictures, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. You may have ignored it until now, but you can’t ignore it for long.

If you’ve not used an AI chatbot like ChatGPT, well done you. Continue to treat them like the job-stealing plagiarists that they are.

Sorry, too harsh? I’d better be nice – one day these AI programmes might scan everything I’ve ever written and decide if I’m friend or foe. So, er, I mean, please allow me to voice some very minor concerns, thank you all the same.

Firstly, the written word. I’ve been lecturing at Winchester University for a couple of years now, and there are concerns over students using chatbots for their assignments. Equally, some novelists have started asking ChatGPT to write the first draft of a story, while some journalists have used AI to map out articles. In many cases, AI is just to get things under way. Once the bot has told them the bare bones, the human writer can then reword or enhance it, to make it their own.

One or two preachers, too, have admitted to using ChatGPT to outline their talks. Ask it to write an all-age sermon based on the lost sheep that’s suitable for a baptism service, it’ll probably do a fair job.
It may be basic for now, contain errors, or lack the personal touch. But crucially, these AI programmes are constantly learning, by combing the internet to develop. ChatGPT was only launched in November – already its results are impressive. Too impressive.

AI pictures are fooling us too. If you saw a recent ‘photo’ of the Pope wearing a white Kanye West-style puffer jacket, you’ll know what I mean. He never wore such a thing; you can no longer believe your eyes.
I’m starting to wonder if the ‘fake news’ crises of the past few years were just preparation for AI, to make us question more than ever what we read and see.

Bizarre news stories lately have included the actor Jared Leto going to the Met Gala dressed as a giant cat, Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney visiting Wrexham to cheer on their football club, and the South Korean President, Yoon Suk Yeol, singing ‘American Pie’ at the White House. I’m pretty confident that all are true – they’re from reputable news outlets – but could these have been faked? The papal fashion photo fooled millions. It’s becoming easier to do so.

I don’t know if Jesus will return to Earth in our lifetime – but AI could a) make it look like he has, and b) make us all doubt it if he did. The unlikely becomes possible, and the improbable becomes doubtful. More seriously, an apparent drone attack on the Kremlin – true, or propaganda?

We must then rely on witnesses. Stories can be backed up by reliable human beings with beating hearts, just as the disciples of Jesus did 2,000 years ago.

As for AI in our writing, I think we need to ensure that we stay creative, relatable and human in every way possible. From the heart, write stories that matter to us, our bugbears and passion projects. I don’t want to hear an AI sermon (well maybe just one); I want to hear the personal truth of a real person.

Those of us in a church know that people crave community. That is something AI can’t give us.

So let’s keep turning up, keep leaning on each other, staying genuine and inquisitive. Ask questions of what we see. For example, did I even write this article? I wouldn’t outsource this to an AI bot… would I?

Paul Kerensa is a comedian, writer and broadcaster. His website is paulkerensa.com

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