Roger Marsh: Hello there, I'm Roger Marsh. And if you joined us yesterday on Family Talk, you heard co-host Dr. Tim Clinton and author Jason Thacker have a riveting conversation on the topic of artificial intelligence and the future of humanity. They talked about how Christians should approach new technology not with debilitating fear, or on the other hand, unbridled excitement about potential. Rather, we should look at each new tech with sober mindedness through the lens of a biblical worldview. By the way, to hear their conversation from yesterday, just visit drjamesdobson.org/broadcast. Okay, let's go to the conclusion of this two-part broadcast right now.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Jason, as we get going here, you can see how technology, artificial intelligence, and the world and this thing just lightning speed in the future. It's the Jetsons cartoon that we watched back in the day coming to real life. A lot of people, when they begin to think about it, they get afraid. In the pandemic people started thinking, "Boy, I'll tell you what. The future of warfare is going to change." It could be that what they'll do is they'll just try to wipe out the human race using disease, or what have you. And people begin to get anxious and nervous. Are you seeing a level of stress or anxiety, Jason, surging? Not only as a result of the pandemic, but just the concern about where we're going and what's happening online and people overdosing in the news, and everything's coming at them 100 mile an hour. We're just getting pounded.
Jason Thacker: You're exactly right. I always joke that 2020 and now 2021 have felt like a decade because of how many things we've been hit with about different ... Whether it's the pandemic or tensions abroad or changes here in America or the polarization that we're seeing in our nation.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Sure.
Jason Thacker: And we're constantly hit with the news cycle of every 10 minutes it's, "And now this, and now this, and now this." I totally hear what you say is like, "Oh, that's kind of fearful. It elicits this fear." And the reason is is because what's really happened in the pandemic is that we've had about 10 years of progress speed up within about 12 months. So in terms of our dependence upon technology, and this isn't just limited to our work and warfare.
Dr. Tim Clinton: It's changed radically.
Jason Thacker: This has changed even the nature of our church gatherings.
Dr. Tim Clinton: It has.
Jason Thacker: So many of our church gatherings have moved to digital environments, even if it was temporarily, and then back to person, but those types of things they change and they affect not only how we do ministry and how we live life with our family and community with others in our neighborhood but it also changes the way that we think about going to church or going to work. I know for myself, I've been able to have the opportunity to work at home. My wife has a lot of health issues with her chemotherapy treatments and cancer, going through a long period in a long season of that. We were quarantining before it was cool, we always joke, because of the type of things, challenges that she's had. But I've been able to work at home, and that's been a big blessing. It's kind of shifted and changed the way that even I go about doing work. I have my children with me a lot. More so, and this is kind of a sweet season in some sense that I get to have my children and they get to watch daddy work and see what daddy does every day, instead of just going to the office and coming back. But it's also changed the nature of our church gatherings even.
And so, in some ways there's some benefits to these remote gatherings, but it also some of the dangers of that is a loss of connectivity, a loss of community. And so in the book, that's what I try to do is not only talk about some of the big questions that we talked about yesterday on the broadcast about what does it mean to be human? If there's a God, if so, what is He like? And what's the nature of technology and how do we view ourselves? But getting into issues of the family, getting in issues of work, getting into issues of data and privacy that we touched on. Issues of warfare that you were talking about, and ultimately saying, "Where is our hope and how are we to think through these really pressing concerns in a way that, ultimately as Jesus talks about in Matthew 22, is the greatest commandment's to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second is this. To love your neighbor as yourself.
That's the summation of the Christian biblical ethic. And what I mean by that is ultimately discipleship. Is that when we're discipling, not only our families or those in our churches, that we want to disciple them to love God and love our neighbor. So how do we do that in a technologically rich society? And that's what I really try to hammer and kind of give some ultimate framework to how to navigate that. Not only individually in our families, but even in our churches and an increasingly technological society. And when you lose a Christian worldview, and this understanding of who God is and how He created us, you encounter a whole lot of really difficult questions about ethics and morality, about the nature of humanity, about the value and worth of human beings.
Even ultimately, what is the foundation or source of right and wrong. If you don't have a transcendent type worldview, which ultimately means that a God spoke to us, he transcended in became man and told us how to live in this ultimate reality. And so I think that's where it's helpful to kind of peel back and to understand that we use a lot of human like language for these tools, even though that's not really what they're doing.
Dr. Tim Clinton: And we want to humanize it. By the way, it's fascinating. What's happening in brain research that's going on. In mental health and relationships, we're now talking about interpersonal neuroscience and we're learning the mind, brain, body relationship connection, Jason. And in all that, it's stunning what we're beginning to understand. But when you step back and look at this and the intelligence piece, and you begin to see these machines work, you tend to get enamored by it all, and you can get lost in it.
You quoted in your book philosopher Jay Richards. I want to give this statement for a moment. I want you to help us to understand it. "The greatest delusion of our age is the paradoxical chant to deny our own agency, while attributing agency to the machines we create." You mentioned it yesterday, that word agency. Tell us again, Jason, why that becomes important to understand, because this is where I think we get lost.
Jason Thacker: Yeah. And I think you're exactly right. Ultimately agency is kind of derived as saying that there's an agent. That there's a person. And that's where we talk about with humanity is that we are an agent. We are a moral agent. We are accountable. We are responsible for the decisions that we make and the decisions of the taking care of our family and the work that we're called to do. And we're ultimately accountable as agents to God. But when you take God out of the equation and you see us as moral agents, it's easy to say, well, if we were created from some random evolutionary type process and came from nothing and there is no God, that materialistic worldview, it's really easy to say, well, we could probably do that with machines. If we can figure it out. We can get into science. We can figure out how the brain is like a computer. And if that's true, then we can mimic that and we can do it instead of being organic and biological, it becomes inorganic. It becomes artificial.
And so that's where I think Dr. Richards talks about is that we want to attribute agency to say, "These machines did this. They are accountable. We're not." And I think that's where we get into this real danger, as from a Christian moral perspective, we have agency, we have personhood. These machines don't. And so when we're talking about not only how do we use these, but who's responsible and how do we use these type of tools, is to realize that when we're using these tools, especially even in warfare, is to say we are ultimately responsible for these machines and how they function. And to know that they're actually flawed machines. We learn new things every day that sometimes contradicts what we thought was true, and what we proclaim to be true. And that's kind of the way that science goes about. And as Christians, we don't have to be fearful of science, because science, the world itself was created by God himself.
Dr. Tim Clinton: If it's true, then it's true. Right.
Jason Thacker: All truth is God's truth. It's going to point back to God. And the thing is, is often when we have the science that's telling us things contrary, it's because we might not actually understand what's really going on, or we might have flawed data. And so that kind of changes then how we go about navigating issues from public health crisis to content moderation, to use in artificial intelligence and warfare, is that these things become incredibly complex. And when we approach these things, we need to do so full of truth and with grace. Not only because there's fellow human beings, image bearers created in God's image, just like us, but also because these tools have real world impact. They have real world influences and consequences to their use. So it's important for us to slow down and to think wisely about these tools before we use them.
Dr. Tim Clinton: You said this. Technology is woven into every aspect of our lives, and it will naturally revolutionize how we see ourselves and the things around us. And that liberation by the way, which we think is bringing so much to us, can also bring unforeseen consequences to our lives. And one of those is we lose ourselves. When we talk about our kids, our kids are lost in technology, but mom and dad are too. Everybody's getting lost in this and loneliness is going off the charts. We're losing our capacity to do relationships well. We're more comfortable locked in these little cocoons. Talk to us about how this is exploding. I saw where you referenced one study. I think it was Emily Smith in her book The Power of Meaning, stating that one out of five Americans say that loneliness is a major source of unhappiness. And this was stunning to me, that one in three, over the age of 45, say they're lonely. With all this stuff in our life.
Jason Thacker: Yeah. The majority of people, in some sense, say they're lonely because we're isolated. We are able to connect still, but we're not connecting in the same way. We don't have the depth. We don't have the realness. Because often, especially through digital means of communication like social media, we form our identities. We curate, we put up, we edit our photos and we try to act like we're a certain type of person, or we think about certain things. And we're creating these identities that are in many ways false identities. And so I think that's really helpful for us when we're talking about loneliness and isolation is the promise of technology was that we can connect and we're going to have a richer community and we're going to be connected across distances. And there are some of those benefits, but I think the overall way that technology is shaping us is in many ways negative. It's creating these ideas of these bubbles or these echo chambers, or it's creating isolation where we think that we're connecting with people, but we're not really doing it.
And that's the revolutionary nature of the Christian church. We're not tied to our devices. We're tied to one another, ultimately as the body of Christ. And we need one another. We were created for community. Not digital community. We were created for in-person physical community with one another. And so I think coming on out of the heels off of the pandemic and all of the changes that have happened in our society, it's important for us to realize that a lot of the technological change, as we said earlier, sped up within this pandemic year, year and a half. And so it's helpful for us to say, "Let's slow down, let's step back." Let's think about the ways we utilize these technologies, because ultimately is we hear the gospel we gather together on Sunday mornings as God's people. Maybe we meet a couple of times throughout the week, but our devices are with us all the time. They're at our bedside table. They're with us within a foot of us probably our entire day.
So, if we think in terms of discipleship, Christian discipleship, I would argue that you're probably being discipled more by your technology and by these tools than in many ways we are God's word. And being in Christian community with one another, just simply because of the time that we use. To realize that might cause us to reevaluate some of the tools and some of the technologies that we use in our own personal lives, that in our families and even that in our churches.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah. You're listening to Family Talk, a division of the James Dobson Family Institute. I'm Dr. Tim Clinton, your host talking with Jason Thacker today about the age of AI. That's artificial intelligence and the future of humanity. A fascinating discussion. Jason, I want to come back to a lot of the areas of our lives that it impacts. You had mentioned the family earlier. What? 40, 50 plus million, probably a lot more than that since the pandemic hit, have these devices. You say they're always listening. Again, pulling us into those kind of ecosystems and stuff.
Jason, tell us what you learned about the impact of artificial intelligence and the family. What keeps you up at night when you're really thinking about it, especially about your family?
Jason Thacker: Yeah, I grew up surrounded by technology. I'm a little old to say that, but my dad worked for a Fortune 500 tech company most of my life. So I was always around technology, but I remember a day before the internet. My children don't even remember a day before Siri because of how young they are. And so for them, they're growing up with these technologies. For us, it was introduced maybe later in life, and maybe we have a little bit better perspective or maybe we don't have as healthy of a perspective on technology as we thought. I think one of the most important things we can do as parents is to model good behaviors for our children. And so what does that mean is that they're watching, they're seeing how we interact, not only with one another, interact with them, interact with our coworkers and people in our church, but they're also seeing how I interact and model good healthy habits, hopefully, with technology in our home.
And so, I think that's one of the most important things is to know that our children are watching us. They're seeing the things we do. And so if we slow down and if we are more thoughtful and approach these things from a more biblical and Christian lens, that can naturally kind of rub off on them. But then the other flip side of it too is to learn alongside our kids. As I said, as our children grew up, they're growing up with these technologies, they will be exposed to them at some point. So how do we model good habits and teach them, use these things as teachable moments from a new VR headset to a robotic device. So then how do I not only teach them how to use these tools to love God and love our neighbor, and to model that for them, but also to teach them to respect what God has given us, the things that he has blessed us with to take care of these tools, these technologies, to teach them about, and kind of pointing them ultimately back to the gospel of Christ.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Jason, let's say someone's struggling with loneliness and they're looking up online for some type of connectivity. Next thing you know, there's some porn site that's chasing after you. And here's some lover who's readily available and wants to say hello to you and more. Everybody gets concerned about porn, but loneliness, you start thinking about your kids. Kids are dabbling often coming across pornography innocently. Now they're being tracked. This stuff's now being targeted at them. You see where I'm going here for a second, Jason? Help us understand what's taking place right there, and then I want to talk to you about Harmony X, what you shared in the book.
Jason Thacker: We do have in many ways a pandemic of loneliness going on. This was before the coronavirus pandemic, as we talked about earlier, that loneliness was a defining factor for so many people. And in many ways, that's what, in some ways, kind of drives the pornography industry is that ability to isolate. Where you take a man or a woman and you isolate them in the darkness by themselves, whether it's a device or a magazine, or now becoming as we'll get to later, some more invasive type of pornography in terms of virtual reality and other things, is that isolation. And so in many ways, that's what technology does by default is it does isolate us. We're looking down at our phone and not looking around. We're not interacting with our children or our spouse because we're looking at Twitter and Facebook updates.
And so, we were already isolated. And when you have increased isolation, you have increased loneliness. And when you have increased loneliness, you naturally have these vices that people go to to find fulfillment, because ultimately we want to be fulfilled. We want to be known, we want to be loved. And so we believe, in terms of, especially with pornography, that these things are going to fulfill us. That they're going to meet that hole in our hearts, that they're going to make us feel better. They're going to help us get out of this pattern of loneliness, or it's going to meet this desire we have. And maybe they do in some temporary limited sense, but it's never fulfilling, and it's never enough. And so you continually get into this pattern and this habit. And I think especially with our children, we need to be thoughtful about that.
In terms of social media, the isolating effect of social media is in some ways it's ironic because it promises to connect with all sorts of people all around the world, but it actually isolates you behind a screen. And it's forming you and teaching you that if you do X you get another light. Or if you say it this way, you'll get an extra retweet, or you'll get a little extra reach. You're curating the photos and editing to make them look perfect to make them look like you're living a life you're really not.
And the Christian, the gospel steps back and says your identity is not in the things you do. It's not in the people you connect with or the achievements you unlock or anything like that. Your ultimate identity is found in Jesus, and the body of Christ. And so in that sense, it kind of revolutionizes the way that we approach all of life, obviously, but specifically with the roles of technology, knowing these things are never going to fulfill. They're never going to meet the desires that they promise to fulfill or to meet. And if we take that aspect, it helps us to think, I think more biblically, more ethically about these technologies.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Well what they're doing in technology though, Jason, is they're taking us now into that virtual reality world, creating an alternate, if you will. And then stay with the pornography industry, Harmony X, the first AI powered sex doll hits the market. And you can see people getting lost in this. Jason, explained to us virtual reality and that trend and what you see in terms of the future.
Jason Thacker: Yeah. In the chapter on the family, I included a section on sex robots. And people ... I remember my editor first getting it and was like, "What is this? Why are you including this?" And I was like, "Just stick with me and read it, because I think it actually does make a lot of sense," especially as we're talking about with increased loneliness and isolation from these technologies, and the way that the pornography industry specifically has grown on the back of technological developments. From the magazine, and then getting into virtual reality. And then ultimately, as you said earlier, getting into Harmony X is it really does ... This is kind of the natural next step for pornography is the use of sex robots, which most people probably, and rightfully turn their noses up and go like, "What in the world? Why is that ... I would never struggle with that." And I hope that's the case, but these things are there and people are becoming addicted to these things. They are becoming engrossed in these technologies.
And I think it's helpful for us to realize what's actually going on there. They're looking for fulfillment. They're looking for love. They're looking for connection and relationship. And these things are never going to fulfill. Even my wife is unable to fulfill my ultimate longings and my ultimate desires, because they're found in Christ. And that's what ultimately makes me, as a man of God, someone who loves God and loves my neighbor and helps me to live out my new identity so that I can love my wife well. So that we can have a rich relationship.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Jason, so much that we've talked about, and so many other areas such as work. You can see how those who control the data and those who control weapons and more, how that has to factor together. And at the core of it, it really comes down to ethics and morality, and more. But backing up, ultimately, it's about fearing God and anchoring ourselves in Him. And as the psalmist cried out, "Your years have no end." And in the end he reigns supreme. Bring us home, Jason.
Jason Thacker: Yeah. And I think you're exactly right. I think often we give in to these kinds of dooms day dystopian scenarios that we see in Hollywood thrillers. That's kind of what the picture and the mindset, the viewpoint that we have on a lot of the future of technology. And that's what I wanted to do in that chapter, that very last chapter of the book is say, "Where are we going?" But ultimately, where's our hope? And I think that's the better question to be asking is we don't have to fear the future because we know the one who created it all. We know the one who's currently in Jesus Christ reigning and ruling, and will be coming back.
We as Christians live in between the times. You often hear this said in the terms of the already but not yet. That kingdom has been inaugurated. The kingdom is live. The king is sitting on his throne, but it's not yet as Christ is coming back. He's going to wipe away every tear, He is going to right every wrong, He's going to get rid of disease and death, ultimately. And so that's where you start to see in Revelation, especially 20 and 21. Revelation was written in the midst of chaotic times. It was written in a time where people were fearful. It was written a time where people were overwhelmed, where they were disconnected, where they felt fear. They didn't know what was coming next. That sounds a lot like today, doesn't it? We live in this chaos. We live in this fear. We live in this division and this polarization, but as Christians, our hope is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the God man Himself, who is sitting on the throne right now.
The future is already written. The future is already secure. And so for us, we can live in between the times as gospel people. The ultimate commandment, the greatest commandment that God gave us is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbors yourself. That's the heart of Christian ethics. That's really the heart of Christian discipleship. That's what discipleship is in many ways. It's ethics, it's morality. It's how do we live in light of what God has done? And so in terms of technology, I think that's where we have to root our mind. That's where we have to fix our eyes is fix them on Jesus and the hope and peace and comfort that we have in Him so we don't fear the times, but we're not just passively accepting them. Is that we have to be thoughtful, we have to be wise, and we have to be discerning about the types of tools that we use, the types of tools that we incorporate into our lives and that of our children, and ultimately pointing them back to Jesus Christ Himself.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Keeping ourselves anchored in Christ. Jason, what a fascinating discussion. Congratulations on your new book, The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity. On behalf of Dr. Dobson, his wife Shirley, their family, the entire Family Talk team, we thank you for joining us and quite an amazing work you've got going here on artificial intelligence. And by the way, we offer up our prayers to you and your wife as she's battling this cancer and going through treatment. May God bring great healing to her and to your family. Thank you for joining us.
Jason Thacker: Well, thank you so much. It was a joy to be with you, Tim, and thankful for Family Talk.
Roger Marsh: Well, we hope that you found this two day discussion on the topic of artificial intelligence and the future of humanity helpful and encouraging. New technology can be intimidating. And for good reason. An unknown future is so often the cause of much anxiety. But as Christians, we are called to engage culture from a biblical perspective, to fight for truth, all the while knowing that our God is faithful and truly in control. There is nothing that has happened or will happen that He doesn't know about or have dominion over.
By the way, if you want to learn more about Jason Thacker, his book called The Age of AI, or even to request a CD copy of this two-day program, you can find all of that information and more on our broadcast page. Visit drjamesdobson.org/broadcast. That's drjamesdobson.org/broadcast. And of course, do not hesitate to call us. Our number is (877) 732-6825. And we are here around the clock to answer your questions and to pray with you as well. Again, that number (877) 732-6825.
Well, that's all the time we have for today. Be sure to join us again tomorrow for another edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.