Big Voice Guy: It’s the My Michelle Live podcast, My Michelle Live Sci Tech talk, taking the God’s story to a geeky place. Here’s Michelle.
Michelle Mendoza: Hey, Sci Tech talk today. We’re talking artificial intelligence. It is the next big thing. You remember the industrial revolution? This is the AI revolution and it’s happening fast. Every area of industry is going to be affected. They’re saying that some jobs will be lost as a result because you just won’t be needed anymore. A computer can take our place. Doesn’t that sound like the industrial revolution? Really? There was, so telephone operators are no more; there’s a lot of industries that had to change and that’s what’s happening now. Customer service representatives. Translators and interpreters, technical writers, copywriters, data entry clerks will all be a thing of the past, they say, and so will homework because you can just have an AI do it. We’re gonna take on AI, but we’re taking it on with a man with an imagination now, and that’s important. As we look at AI, what could it look like? Could artificial intelligence today lead to a sinister future? We’ve seen lots of sci-fi movies that have painted that picture, and one book that is absolutely outstanding that looks at the potential for science fiction horrificness is Breaking Yesterday. I have the author with me, Brent R. Baker, good friend of mine, and you recognize him as a commentator from the Sports Time Out show. Brent, glad to hang out with you today, my friend. It
Brent R. Baker: It’s always fun to hang out with you.
Michelle Mendoza: We do have I don’t know, maybe a trepidation, especially in the Gen X realm, we’ve seen a lot of changes. You have boomers and they say boomers and AI, they’re just like, yeah, not my problem, not my circus, not my monkey. You have Gen Xers who have gone, we’ve lived through some things. Let’s just be real careful. But then you have the next generations who are just going, yay, no more homework. We have some things to consider here, and that’s where history repeats itself. There has been technology and changes that have. Been have come with a warning, but maybe the warning hadn’t been heated. Do you have some examples?
Brent R. Baker: First when you mentioned not my circus, not my monkeys. What this feels like to me with artificial intelligence is that this is the circus, but somebody let the monkeys out to run off on their own.[00:03:00]
Michelle Mendoza: That’s funny. Yeah.
Brent R. Baker: Yeah, I think with me, first of all, when I look at technology largely the technology itself is going to be neutral. I don’t look at a piece of technology. I don’t look at a computer and say, the computer’s bad, or The computer’s good. I do think For those of us who are people of faith or who are Christians, that technology naturally has a worldly drift, where if you just kinda let it do its thing, it’s gonna take off down the current of whatever whim the world is chasing in the moment. So technology for Christians, I’m not Amish by any stretch, but I also think we need to be very careful in how we apply it. So with artificial intelligence, I mean I think there’s a whole lot that we’re just scrambling to figure out about it. My concern is it feels like things like chat, G P T, which you can go in and have [00:04:00] these, chat like conversations back and forth with a computer program that feel somewhat human that. There’s not enough controls in place. There’s not enough research done on the implications of this, and there’s not enough transparency about what’s actually going on with
Michelle Mendoza: them. That’s the way of the world though. We experience that during the Covid era that it doesn’t matter if we’ve researched, it doesn’t matter, we just jump right in. We see with artificial intelligence that there’s a lot that can be done and there’s some great things that you can imagine now with ai, even now you can. Type in information and all of your symptoms and you can get a fairly accurate diagnosis or some really good information on how to treat. That’s, that could level the playing field for a lot of people who can’t afford the healthcare, that people with great jobs and a lot of money can. So that could level the playing field. There are things that. AI can do to computer programmers, Brent. You don’t have to be able to write complicated code anymore with ai. You can just tell a program what you want it to do in layman’s terms and it can figure it out. Of course, As we’ve seen with other booms in technology and changes, there are some good, but there’s also some concerns, and one of my concerns is that we aren’t on pace more morally with technology’s advancements, so technology advances and morality’s going.
Brent R. Baker: What? There’s nothing new under the sun. There’s
Michelle Mendoza: nothing new under the sun. Yeah. And that’s,
Brent R. Baker: The technology may be new, but the way we behave when a new technology comes out is oh, look at this. This will be fun. Hey, look, we can split the atom. Let’s make a bomb.
Michelle Mendoza: Yay. We, just because you can, right? Doesn’t mean you should. And
Brent R. Baker: I think even the term artificial intelligence, it can be a little misleading because we’re maybe saying something about it with that name that isn’t there because it isn’t a sentient self-aware organism. It’s everything that it’s processing and telling you comes from information that it has access to so that it, that information obviously can be manipulated. So whoever programs, whatever intelligent, artificial intelligence you’re using, whether it be chatGPT, where you’re trying to write a paper or like you said medical inquiry site if if the programmers pick and choose what types of information are available, and obviously will have a major impact on what it tells you. So you could get really bad medical information. You could get
Michelle Mendoza: somebody’s AI if you are if the information is manipulated, for example, by big Pharma. Then what you’re going to get from AI Medical is we’ll take this pill and take that pill. And take this pill. So there is some concern there. If it was really utilizing. All pieces of data, which ideally it is, maybe we might see some changes. But there’s a built-in bias because what information is it being allowed to be fed into? There are some other concerns too. There was an AI bot ChaosGPT, that tweeted out plans to destroy humanity because someone tasked it too. Okay. Great job. Do you not have anything else to do with your time? I’m just thinking there was also about Google, that you had sent me this article. They were in a rush to win this AI race and they actually had some pretty serious ethical lapses that resulted. So as you said, it’s not so much that AI is nefarious, it’s how what we’re doing in order to try to get on top or what we’re able to do with it, that might be a concern. Do you wanna comment on either of those stories?
Brent R. Baker: Yeah, with Google it sounds like the ethical, they have a team of people who are designed to put up ethical guardrails in whatever Google’s doing, and you can debate about their effectiveness, but they basically had their concerns overridden because chatGPT, I don’t remember who puts that, who put that together, but Google was competing with, them, trying to catch up. And it was more important to them to get their chatbot out there than it was for them to listen to their own ethicists. That’s always a problem.
Michelle Mendoza: Yeah, vague. Yeah. What are some of the results,
Brent R. Baker: do you remember? I don’t remember specifically, but yeah, like on that, that the ChaosGPT, shoot I haven’t written about artificial intelligence in my novel, but it’s like you people have imaginations about what are the worst things that we could do with this technology. Actually building something that can float theories on how to destroy humanity and then have conversations about it. I. I’m not into censorship, but at the same time when you’re building something that can learn, cuz that’s what the hallmark of artificial intelligence is. It’s gonna start coming up with other ideas and start making plans. I don’t know. I’m sure that these things are self-contained. I’m not worried about chaosGPT, but if it’s possible to do something with a harmless chat program, it’s possible to do something with less harmless that actually has access to resources that could cause a lot of
Michelle Mendoza: damage. Of course you, your mind can wonder, and that’s, what your mind did here is thinking and in Breaking Yesterday you talk about some fairly nefarious things that wa and ethical lines that are crossed in horrific ways, the devaluation of life and such. But all of that centers around utilizing these things to advance technology. And one question that I had while reading your novel is for the people who were advancing this technology, did the ins justify the means and do? How often do we do? Have we seen that in history?
Brent R. Baker: Certainly for them, since their goal was to rid the world of Christianity since that was the end, the means. We’re extreme.
Michelle Mendoza: Okay, so let me stop you there cause that’s a bit of what we’re seeing in today’s world now we’re giving you a little bit of insight into Breaking Yesterday where there is, we’ll just say a technology that is developed to time travel back through time. To destroy the baby Jesus before he ever dies on the cross redeems humanity. And then we could just rid the world of these troublesome Christians like Brent and I. Come on. So this is the. The crux of this science fiction thriller that you wrote, Breaking Yesterday. But in researching it and developing this imaginative technology, there had to be lines that were crossed ethically, morally where life is concerned in order to achieve this great thing that they were trying to do. But that isn’t unlike what we do today on at times.
Brent R. Baker: In the book, in developing Time Travel this group didn’t really care about the consequences on the actual time travelers. What would happen to their bodies traveling into the past. Now again, time travel, there may be some hints that something like that might be possible, but in the world I created here well, in the real universe, matter cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be converted to energy. So I’ve always wondered if you went back in time in your body, what would happen if you end up in this time in the past where all of the atoms that compose your body already exist in some other form, some other person or some other. A rock, whatever, dirt. Because we all end up in the dirt and decompose and get, and the atoms get recycled and formed into different types of molecules. Anyway in the book, the Timed traveler, if you go back using this technology, your atomic structure will begin to disintegrate because it can’t coexist with right. With the atoms that are already there. Basically, if that were basically, it comes back one piece at a time. It’s
Michelle Mendoza: so fascinating because what would happen if you could, would you disintegrate? I don’t, would something else, disintegrate it,
Brent R. Baker: it gets you the point. The point was though, that when they sent. When they sent these, the first people back to do this, it was like, yeah, that might happen, but we have this mission to accomplish and we’re not going to tell them. They’ll figure it out when we get there. When they get there, and then they won’t go back
Michelle Mendoza: because the ends justify the means. Yeah. But not only that, but. The we won’t give away any secrets to the book or spoilers, but what empowers gives power to this great ability is dance around some pretty horrifying ethical things as well. Bringing it back to today and what we’re dealing with as I’ve often said, I g on, my biggest concern about technology is that technology is advancing and our ethics are failing in many ways. We care less about people. We care less about the value of human life. We outright lie to ourselves about what’s in the womb and what a woman is. We lie about science to ourselves for our convenience. So I guess the question is not only what could possibly go wrong, but what is the God’s story in all of this? Because you, you get to that as well, you present. Heroes and heroes of faith that make a moral and spiritual difference. Can they in Breaking Yesterday? Can we find those kind of people today and can we be those people?
Brent R. Baker: I think we first need to focus on being those people rather than finding those people. I think trying to find those people takes the onus off of us.
Michelle Mendoza: I could just say you should do it. Anyone second that nomination? That’s great. I’m gonna
Brent R. Baker: I think, yeah, it’s always. It may not be pleasant, but it’s always helpful to look in the mirror and say, as a Christian, am I living the life that Christ put forward for me? Am I using the gifts that I was given for furthering his kingdom, for loving other people? So that’s the first question. I think one of the things that I wrestle with in writing this and the sequel too is, what is life and what is the value we place on it. So of course there’s always, we talk about it with abortion. When does life begin? We deal with it all over the place. We have we have a society where we have an ever increasing number of people on the autism spectrum and they are I will say targets of abortion in a lot of cases. Or down syndrome babies, same sort of thing. You have some cultures where. You wanna eliminate those people before they’re even born.
Michelle Mendoza: pre, we could take some DNA tests and see if there are, people of the wrong kind of political leaning or the wrong faith. Really, like you had said earlier, there is nothing new under the sun. It’s just a different evil in the. Different packaging, but it’s evil, just the same. And I’m not, again saying e AI is evil, as you pointed out at the beginning of this interview. It’s a neutral thing. It’s just a tool. It’s how we use that tool that can be truly dangerous. AI is something, a bell that cannot be un rung. It will be part of our society. But here’s the kicker. AI did not take God by surprise. It’s not like he’s up there going, whoa, did you think you’ll like Gabriel? The angel was like God, you come here, come in. You gotta see what these humans did today. You gotta see what they created. It’s not like God’s sitting up there going, whoa, what do I do now?
Brent R. Baker: Oh, look what they did now. Yeah. I also think that’s question of life. I think people. One of the dangers of it to me is that people will begin interacting with AI as if. It is another, a living person.
Michelle Mendoza: And what will that do to the psyche? Think about that they have realistic what they call sex bots that people get into carnal and even emotional relationships with, and honestly, It leaves people so hollow. We see suicide at record levels because people aren’t having real connections the way we were created to connect. That seems really dark and sad, but don’t you think it opens the door for those of us who walk in a biblical worldview to say, Hey, there’s a better way to mirror that better way. Walk in that better way and offer hope to a hopeless world that whose best attempt at relationship is talking to a computer.
Brent R. Baker: Yeah, hopefully that’s not our best attempt. Actually it’s interesting here I’m wearing my Star Wars shirt with, which is C3PO
Michelle Mendoza: That is so cool. Thank you my friend.
Brent R. Baker: Thank you, mom. Yeah. You watch Star Wars and C3PO is a living character to, as far as how we. We view, I’ll say him. It just, it’s not C three PO is actually an, it is a robot, but the way the character is it’s a sentient being and that’s not what AI is. The question we will start running into is as AI becomes more sophisticated and. It becomes harder to discern whether we’re interacting with a human or an AI creation. Will we start regarding AI as a life form. Which opens up a whole lot of ethical issues because then you start protecting with them with laws and it actually makes it’s just one more way that we try to make humans into gods where it’s oh look, we created this life. And now we can program it. Now we can program it to do what we want. Yeah. Oh yeah. That it’s one of the geniuses I think of God creating us was allowing us freedom of choice. We can’t do whatever we want without consequences, but we have freedom to choose, do A, do B, this is gonna happen, that’s gonna happen, but you still get to pick. AI is, I think our, sorry, attempt to be God and create something that then we can control, which usually doesn’t end well. Usually things, that switch gets flipped. When you ignore the ethicists and. A computer program can take control of power systems or nuclear arsenals, and it decides like chaosGPT to lock you out. That doesn’t mean it’s alive, it just means that somebody programmed it to do what it wanted.
Michelle Mendoza: So let’s get back to the deeper God story, which is it didn’t take God by surprise. This is all part of his, not history, but His story. So God knows what he’s doing. It leads somewhere down the road. We have many prophecies and insights in the Bible that point to what may be taking place in the future regardless of what that fleshes out as. We know that God has a plan and his ultimate plan and even the allowance of differing things that happen around us is all centered around redemption.
Brent R. Baker: Yes. And as Christians we need to remember that the war has already been won. And so in this time that we live in that doesn’t mean that there aren’t like skirmishes still going on that can cause a lot of pain. But it’s … I think of living in this world is, like some of those Japanese soldiers that are living on islands in the Pacific after World War II ended, and they didn’t know that the war ended, and they’re still out there, looking for threats and fighting and all that kind of stuff. And I sometimes feel like that’s the world we live in here. It’s like battle preach out there in God’s creation, which goes beyond the space and time that we live in. It’s all been settled. But we don’t have a view of everything. We just need to trust that when we got that message that, hey, the war has been won. ou gotta be look out for what’s going on around you, but be confident in the final outcome
Michelle Mendoza: And that’s something that we can bank on. That is the God’s story. I wanna talk a little bit about now we delved into AI great, but Breaking Yesterday literally as a sci-fi thriller that. Delves into some pretty cool technology, some archeology. There’s just a layer upon layers and what it’s been liken to is if you are familiar with the Frank Peretti series Piercing the Darkness, This Present Darkness, incredible imaginative books they, this is in that kind of realm because you deal a bit with the spiritual realm, with the physical realm, but then you add in this crazy technology. It’s brilliantly written and it’s a fun read. The technology though makes it next level stuff. You also have, interestingly enough, you’re working on the sequel and the sequel right now. You sent me a picture of the cover that was created by AI, wasn’t it?
Brent R. Baker: It won’t be the final cover, but it’s as needed to stick something on my website. I’m I don’t wanna just have a blank book here. And yeah, I, it’s crazy. You can go on to, I did this on Microsoft Bing and you can go in and say blonde woman with a cross tattoo on her back, which is what the picture is. And, within two minutes, there it is.
Michelle Mendoza: Yeah. It’s astounding. And. Yet, I don’t think that AI could produce some of the pieces of literature, honestly, that like we’re looking at Breaking Yesterday and other things because it lacks a bit of soul. What? Has been the evolution of this book. I think that each one of us has a purpose. We have a calling that we have a reason that we’re here on this planet, right? And yours is one of your purposes. Your passions is telling. Stories. So for those who may have a story or a passion inside of them, whether they will write a book or start a ministry or it makes a difference in, in their lives as a teacher or preacher, whatever it is, how did that cultivate in you and how did it go from these imaginative ideas to a into black and white?
Brent R. Baker: I can tell you that if you’re in college, that studying being a novelist is not a path to financial success when you get outta college. And of course, that was my intent. But life got in the way. I got married, had a kid, and For, it was about eight, nine years. I found myself working in a rural Michigan manufacturing stamping plant.
Michelle Mendoza: that there’s a, there, there’s a Easter egg there, some of that to the book. So what were you like imagining what it was like, what could be, was it too boring?
Brent R. Baker: What could be underground here? Honestly, it was. It wasn’t fun, but it was like one of the best experiences that God placed in my life because I know at, in my mid twenties I walked in with a sense of arrogance. These people aren’t educated. I am, I quickly found out that some of these men and women who, this was in the nineties, so some of those people were older and hadn’t even finished high school or maybe even middle school. Wow, they’re actually really smart. They’re smarter than I am. They know this like the back of their hands. So it was very humbling from that perspective and I learned a lot. A lot of really bad things in the book happened surrounding a fictional manufacturing plant like that. And believe me, in my experience was nothing like what happened there, but it was like, this is a perfect setting for something like some of these things to happen. Interesting. So I so I did start as I started writing the story back in the. In the nineties, and then it’s interesting. Okay. Yeah, so it’s kinda why I accept
Michelle Mendoza: then about that is that w you like everybody else as you’re expressing your passion, you play off of, and you incorporate the experiences that you. Have had your real life experiences, the trials, the tribulations. So the more that you have the failures and the victories, the more of these that you have, the more relatable your message actually becomes as you develop your story and it’s encouragement. To other people because while this is, while Breaking Yesterday is a work of fiction, it does have a reign of reality, which is what really makes it fascinating to people. It’s what draws people in. And in our age, we are in strange, perilous, confusing times, but being able to reach people in a language that they can understand and sometimes by a work of fiction can get people thinking about the things that are truly most important and really isn’t that what we need in this age? We’re out of time, but what a fascinating look at artificial intelligence and the how the work of fiction can make a difference in your world. Breaking Yesterday will be linked on My Michelle Live and everywhere you’re listening, viewing, reading this interview. Thank you, Brent, for your time today.
Brent R. Baker: Thanks for having me.
Michelle Mendoza: Always fun to have you with us. God bless you.
A few more sources about AI:
ChatGPT, AI, and the future of privacy (Proton.me)
Cannot Compute (Salvo)
There is no A.I. (The New Yorker)