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Maybe the most important question is this: “Are humans becoming too much like computers?
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Checkmate! by Paul Lee

    The battle is over. The titanic struggle of man versus machine has come to an end. And as the smoke clears, we’re left to figure out what it all means…

    Deep Blue, IBM’s powerful chess-playing supercomputer, defeated the world’s greatest (human) chess player, Garry Kasparov, in a six game match. After splitting the first two games, the next three were draws. Sunday’s decisive victory by Deep Blue in just 19 moves stunned not only chess fans around the world, but many others interested in artificial intelligence or computers in general. Could it really be this powerful? Could it have learned so much since it was decisively beaten by Kasparov last year? The answer apparently is “Yes.”

    Many people seem concerned with the staggering developments in artificial intelligence going on right now. Are computers becoming too human? Maybe. A few—like some of the chat robots you find in Internet Relay Chat—are very, very good at mimicking human behavior. Others, like Deep Blue, have been programmed to analyze and solve complex problems like those in a chess match.

    But I’m not too worried...yet. After all, if you take Deep Blue out of its element—chess— it is helpless. Ask even the most well-programmed chat bot the right questions and it gets confused. They are still only machines—controlled by programs not of their own creation, they act out their instructions and perform their tasks.

    But what about us? Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe the most important question is this: “Are humans becoming too much like computers?”

    Are we becoming too mechanical, too artificial. Definitely.

    This isn’t about artificial hearts or limbs or the Six Million Dollar Man. I don’t fear bionic devices or advanced new medical technology. I don’t think man is capable of creating a device that will fundamentally alter his humanity. But we are perfectly capable of doing it on our own.

    Who needs flashy new technology? We’ve done an impressive job in the past several decades of progressively denying our humanity. From Pavlov and his dogs to psychologist B.F. Skinner’s “Behaviorism” to current pop psychology, we’ve begun to convince ourselves of our less-than-humanness.

    A machine is not responsible for its behavior. It merely reacts to stimuli in the way it was programmed. In the same way, many seek to convince us that the human is no more than a particularly complex machine. Either through the random tyranny of the genes given by our parents, or through countless other factors, like early childhood experiences and surroundings, the human machine is programmed. From then on we just run the program.

    “He’s not responsible for the murder because he was abused as a child.”

    “She can’t help it. It runs in the family.”

    “Just put a little sex in the ad, and they won’t be able to resist!”

    “I was just following orders. I didn’t question them.”

    Whether by instincts or DNA or environment or whatever, the human is portrayed as little more than an mechanical wind-up toy with preprogrammed emotional responses.

    There’s one major problem with this view: IT’S WRONG.

    I know it’s not popular sometimes to say things are wrong. But everything we read in the Bible screams out our humanness! Our stubborn wills, our ridiculous desires, our foolish self-reliance are all shown in vivid detail. The Bible shows us example after example of both humans struggling against evil, and others succumbing to it. Those who recognize the “rightness” of God’s way and those who don’t. Privileged children who go astray and the sons of the sinful who turn their lives around. A machine recognizes no right or wrong, but we know through God’s word that He clearly expects us to not only know righteousness exists, but to seek after it.

    I doubt Deep Blue or any other machine will ever love, but humans have an amazing capacity for love. We are, after all, created in the very image of God. His love, His holiness, His compassion, His mercy, and His creative spirit are all reflected in us. Even in our fallen condition His image glows faintly.

    Thank God I’m human. Sure it’s messy and dirty, sure it’s uncomfortable and frequently confusing. But I am the created image of the Holy and Righteous God. Loved and cherished and nurtured by an Almighty Creator. And you are too. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

    When Garry Kasparov resigned his last match with Deep Blue on Sunday, the commentators said he had been worn down. He had bent under the pressure. He had an “off” day. I guess he’s human, too. But I don't think I'd bet against him the next time he plays Deep Blue.


HEARTLIGHT(sm) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Article copyright © 1997, Paul Lee.
Design copyright © 1997, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
May be reprinted and reused for non-commercial purposes only if copyright credits are appropriately displayed.
HEARTLIGHT and the flared heart design are service marks of Heartlight, Inc.