AI vs. BI: beautifully imperfect


A buddy of mine in public relations tested an artificial intelligence program by asking it to write a newspaper editorial for him about an obscure ruling in environmental law. He said the program wrote a brilliant column! Chuckling, he said this was not good for his business.

But is this technology really a laughing matter?

Rosemerry Trommer begins a poem, “The day I start to freak out about AI.” I’ve started to worry about the consequences for my own work. What about this weekly column for the News + Record? Will Bill Horner replace me with a robot?

How about my weekly sermon? What if the congregation thought that AI could give a better message?

The same friend informed me that there are technologies designed to detect authorship by AI programs, whether academic papers or news articles. (I assume sermons as well.) The giveaway is that AI work is just too polished. Imperfections, however slight, distinguish the human, and this actually gives me hope.

There are times for the exact precision of computers, such as launching a rocket into outer space or repairing a human heart. Yet, imprecision and even our flaws not only make us human but are also inspiring. To be human is to be flawed, to be beautifully imperfect.

The other day my 5-year-old daughter chalked a self-portrait on the sidewalk (pictured below). She drew a stick figure in a triangle dress with a huge red heart at least three times the size of her head. A dozen passersby commented on it, and I like to think they carried something of the message with them. I know I’ve continued to reflect upon her art.

What if I thought of myself as more simple than sophisticated, leading with my heart, not my head? Would I be more generous to others and more forgiving of myself? Expect less perfection, appreciate more honesty? See more beauty in the world, in others and in myself?

In the same poem, Trommer gives thanks that she has the ability “to love beyond what any algorithm could predict, my heart breaking every rule-based parameter.” Maybe that’s a call to chalk outside the lines. To trust myself despite the uncertain future.

At the very least, I can write a newspaper column about it — however imperfectly.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”


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