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Who Is Our ‘Neighbor’ in an AI-Enabled World?

By James Spencer, D.L. Moody Center

Artificial intelligence has promised to enrich our lives and make daily tasks easier. However, as we enter the age of AI, there are some things we can’t outsource to machines.

While there are many different ways we can describe what it means to be human in theological or philosophical terms, stories often provide us with pictures necessary to guide us as we navigate the complexities of everyday life. Jesus, for instance, spoke in parables.

In Luke 10:25-37 (NKJV), a lawyer seeks to test Jesus and asks him, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with a question about what is written in the law, to which the lawyer responds, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus affirms this answer, but the lawyer desires clarification, asking, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

As we consider what it means to be human in the age of AI, it may be helpful to alter this parable in a way that illustrates the distance this technology can create between people. We cannot outsource neighborliness. Consider the following retelling of Jesus’s parable situated within a potential, distant future where humans rely on computational systems and outsource aspects of our lives to embodied AI-enabled machines and devices:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance, a Christian podcaster was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side and posted an episode about the rise of public nudity and the silence of Christian celebrities on the matter. So likewise, a celebrity pastor, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side, yet went on to teach his congregation to pursue their purpose and live life to the fullest. The man lay in the ditch…

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