Implications of Deep Learning   Leave a comment

I read this highly supportive article on AI and “deep learning” that enthuses about how machines are going to replace human beings in pretty much every job, so we ought to restructure our societies so that people have an income without needing to work … and that’s a good thing.

I beg to differ.

So what else is new, right?

I’m not saying this future won’t come to pass, but I don’t foresee a utopia growing from it. I foresee a dystopia and wish Ray Bradbury were still around to write about it.

Human beings without work are hopeless and troublemakers.

This is more than my opinion. In Genesis, we read God’s creation of human beings and what He tasked His creation with.

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in. Eden to care for it and to maintain it. Genesis 2:15

We human beings were made in the image of God and God works. He creates, He tends, He has tasks and concerns and plans for our future. God Himself exists outside of time and the material world, so He doesn’t need an income. He does apparently enjoy work, else He wouldn’t do it.

It’s not surprising then that He tasked the creation made in His image with a job. Adam and Eve lived in idyllic garden where food was easy to get, but they still had to tend the garden and gather the food. When they disobeyed, God disciplined them by making their work harder. Why? Because He knew they were made in His image, that work was part of their DNA and that making it harder would be a true cost for their disobedience.

So now we’re told that we won’t need to work. We can sit around and contemplate our navels and not have to worry about feeding ourselves. Won’t that be lovely?

No, it won’t be. Maybe it will be workable for people like me who would still create (which is work), but the vast majority of humankind are not able to do that and no matter how much time they have on their hands, they won’t become creatives.Ever been bored?

Ever been bored? Ever had time on your hands and no way to distract yourself? Has that ever lasted for months?

In 2 Samuel 11, we read that King David (a man after God’s own heart) was bored. He didn’t go out with the army to fight the Philistines. He stayed in the city and rested. And while he was enjoying the benefits of not having to work, he saw Bathsheba, lusted for her, had sex with her and got her pregnant with his child, which required a coverup that resulted in the murder of her husband. God disciplined him – first, Nathan confronted him and forced him to name his own punishment, then his child with Bathsheba died. In all, David would lose four children because of his disobedience. But my point actually can be found in 2 Samuel 13 when we see that David went back out into the field. He had apparently learned his lesson about the danger of boredom.

No widow should be put on the list unless she is at least sixty years old, was the wife of one husband,  and has a reputation for good works: as one who has raised childrenpracticed hospitality, washed the feet of the saints, helped those in distress – as one who has exhibited all kinds of good works. But do not accept younger widows on the list, because their passions may lead them away from Christ and they will desire to marryand so incur judgment for breaking their former pledge. And besides that, going around from house to house they learn to be lazyand they are not only lazy, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things they should not. So I want younger women to marry, raise children, and manage a household, in order to give the adversary no opportunity to vilify us. 1 Timothy 5:9-14

Paul had been a scholar, but in his day, scholars worked for a living. He offered advice to several churches about the dangers of idleness.

For you know yourselves how you must imitate us because we did not behave without discipline among you, and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead, in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you. 3:9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work,neither should he eat.” For we hear that some among you are living an undisciplined life,  not doing their own work but meddling in the work of others. Now, such people, we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ, to work quietly and so provide their own food to eat. But you,brothers and sistersdo not grow weary in doing what is right. But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed.Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thessalonians 3:8-15

Here in Alaska, winters are a time of idleness for many. Especially in the villages, there is no work. Between welfare and Native corporation dividends, many villagers do not have to work other than to haul water and fire wood and with diesel fired heaters, not even much of that anymore. Alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual assault, and child abuse are all endemic, as is suicide. Kids in the villages say they feel hopeless. There’s nowhere to go, there’s nothing to do. We try to blame it on poverty. If we just gave them more money, community power sources, running water, the Internet …. They already have those things and they are still killing themselves and the ones who survive say they have no hope for the future because ….

Work gives us purpose and structure to our lives, but also it is a creative process that even non-artists can participate in. Brad, my electrician husband, loves to drive by a building he helped wired. He gets the same feeling I do when I see my books in print. When he’s not working (and he really likes time off), he’s working around our house or out on our cabin site. We choose for him to do that for financial reasons, but when I told him the day was coming when AIs could do the work for him and he could just watch, he rejected the notion outright. “Do you think an AI could write a book as good as you do?” he asked.

I think an AI could be better at grammar than I am, but I seriously doubt the story would have the same depth and human content. I believe an AI could paint a painting that technically would be as good as anything a hman artist could paint, but the AI would miss something indefinably human, creating a banal painting rather than a work of art.

“I feel the same way about my work. Even as I grind my teeth about my mistakes, it is the imperfections that provde character to the cabin. You miss that in mass production and that is really what AI produces. Besides, I start drinking when I get bored, remember?”

If I were writing a fictional book about this utopian vision of a world without work, I would write a dystopian where gangs of people would use their idleness to destroy and subjugate the creatives and where a shadow economy would grow up where people who were tired of idleness began to engage in business and attracted the ire of the government.

Yeah, that might need to be a development project.


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